5 Must Do Things in Garden Oaks & Oak Forest

Cottonwood | Photo: 365 Houston

In our series of Must Do Things Around Greater Houston, we take a look at Houston’s vast array of neighborhoods to bring you five fun, tasty, and enticing reasons you should give each a visit. 

Replete with oak, pecan, and pine trees, vintage bungalows, and ranches from the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, and top-rated schools, this duo of neighborhoods has drawn in a steady crowd of young families. But that doesn’t mean the ‘burbs don’t have any cool factor, as an infusion of hip restaurants and some stellar craft beer bars keep the once-sleepy district rather lively. See why you’ll want to check out the GOOF-area, after all.

Note: For the purposes of this list, Garden Oaks and Oak Forest is defined as the area covered by this map.

5 Must Do Things in Garden Oaks & Oak Forest

  1. Get your craft brew (and fun) on Not only does this franken-neighborhood boast some of the city’s best craft beer bars, those craft beer bars also have some extra fun attached. At Cottonwood, you’ll find 40-plus taps of suds alongside a lineup of live music, corn hole, fire pits, and special events like seasonal boils. With an excellent roster of cherry-picked, hard to score brews, Petrol Station is another stunner. Every Saturday morning, the bar hosts a small farm stand from 9am to 1pm where you can enjoy a hot cup of coffee and breakfast taco while perusing farm-fresh eggs, artisan goods, and locally-grown produce. Over at Wakefield Crowbar, you’ll find 39 taps, trivia and steak nights, and three sand volleyball courts where you can unleash that competitive side.
  2. Brunch with the best of them – Houston brunch titan Liberty Kitchen opened up an outpost in Garden Oaks in June of 2016, and it’s no surprise the house has been packed ever since. Start with fried oyster-topped deviled eggs and mini cake donuts with Mexican coffee crème anglaise before moving onto stellar brunch plates, like the smoked salmon omelet or chicken-fried steak and eggs that’s bigger than your head. All of which goes swimmingly with bacon bloody marys and sparkling mimosas, of course. You’ll also want to check out lunch, dinner, happy hour, and all-day favorites including customized Hawaiian poke, seriously sloppy burgers, and a library of crazy good gumbos. Toasted Bagel Cafe is open daily, with Greenway Coffee and hot and fresh bagels that will make you rethink the ones you bought at the grocery store in the past. Get them with a cream cheese schmear or in sandwich form with eggs and porkstuffs. Another favorite is Shepherd Park Draught House, which serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays until 3pm. Feast on a Shipley’s glazed donut waffle, spicy sausage biscuits and gravy, and bloodys, bellinis, and mimosas served by the pint.
  3. Picnic and play at T.C. Jester Park – Take your pup to this lush neighborhood park, where you’ll find a small dog park with plenty of other pups for yours to play with. You’ll want to hit up the 21-hole disc golf course, biking and jogging trails, sports fields, and a community pool and playground for the kiddos, too. And those looking for a nice long bike and running trail can connect to the White Oak Bayou Trail right from the park. Cozy up in a tree-shaded spot for a picnic before or after you play. Click here for directions.
  4. Get messy at Gatlin’s BBQ Warning: You will get your hands (and face) dirty when you dive into the juice-dripping ribs at this all-star barbecue joint. After closing its doors in the original spot on 19th, Gatlin’s moved on up to this ‘hood in 2015. The new digs are quite bigger than the original (bumping from 700 square feet to 4,200), with more seating for you to sprawl out at while you go caveman on those aforementioned ribs. Choose from plump, meaty baby-back ribs; succulent, fatty St. Louis-style; or tender, dino-sized beef ribs. Then get some brisket, dirty rice and collards, and bread pudding, while you’re at it. Click here for directions.
  5. Wine & dine – There’s no better GOOF-area spot to unwind with a glass of vino than Plonk! Beer & Wine Bistro. Look out for wine tastings, happy hours, and special events posted on the bistro’s Facebook page; Or stop by anytime to sip wine on the patio and enjoy a rotating menu of dishes like a guanciale-topped burger, fried cauliflower, and Gulf shrimp and grits. For old-school Italian just like your nonna made, check out Doyle’s; the throwback restaurant has been serving the area bubbling lasagna and classic chicken parm since 1954.