My Top 5: White Oak Music Hall’s Johnny So

Photo courtesy of White Oak Music Hall

Each week, our My Top 5 series highlights a Houstonian who is shaping the culture of the city and making an out-sized impact on its character. In turn, each shares their own favorite things to do in Houston when not hard at work. This week, we’re very pleased to feature Johnny So, managing partner at White Oak Music Hall, the five-acre, three-venue live music complex, which recently opened in Houston’s Near Northside, and The Raven Tower bar/venue, located next door to WOMH.

My Top 5 Things to Do in Houston

by Johnny So

  1. Fred Hartman Bridge – Houston has something of an understated architectural reputation, and the last place you expect to find anything of architectural significance is out by the industrial plants. Still, the Fred Hartman bridge, which joins La Porte and Baytown, is a beautiful feat of both architecture and engineering; try driving underneath it looking straight up through your sunroof for a unique perspective (hopefully in the passenger seat). They also let you cross this bridge by bike once a year as part of the annual Gator Ride, with going up a work-out and going down only slightly terrifying. Click here for directions.
  2. Juice Box – You can’t talk about Houston without mentioning Bellaire Chinatown, and the curiosities offered by Juice Box – mountains of shaved ice covered in fresh fruit, syrup, ice cream, and of course, copious amounts of sweetened condensed milk (amongst other things) somehow bring together all the diverse elements and populations of Houston together in one place. It’s not your conventional dessert, but Houstonians love a culinary adventure.  
  3. The 1940 Air Terminal Museum – Being part aviation geek and part historical architecture geek, the 1940 Air Terminal Museum is one of my favorite places in Houston –it really is a time warp to when Houston was serviced by the tiny, art-deco style “airport” off of Telephone Road. Display cases showing airport memorabilia spanning 70 years of Houston aviation really take you back to the days of rarefied air travel, and the garishly awesome ’60s flight attendant uniforms are possibly the best part.
  4. Seabrook Fish Markets – I grew up going to these fish markets as a child when their driveways were little more than dirt. People in Houston take their Gulf seafood seriously, and there’s just something fascinating about seeing yard after yard of glassy-eyed fish laid out on ice in what are basically concrete-floor warehouses. It’s not the manicured seafood case at Whole Foods, and the prominent salt-water fish smell is an acquired taste, but that’s what gives it its authenticity.
  5. The Mahatma Gandhi District, aka “Hillcroft” – Hillcroft is home to Darband Shishkabob, my go-to spot for fast, no-frills, cheap, and most importantly, delicious Persian food. I started going here in college because I was broke, but the food and the little things keep me coming back, even if it is the kabob plate isn’t $5.95 anymore. A stone’s throw away are two more gems, Kwality Ice Cream, a small ice cream franchise that features ice cream flavors you’ve probably never heard of, and Raja Sweets, pretty much a Houston institution for South Asian desserts such as gulab jamun.
About Johnny So
A native Houstonian, Johnny So grew up in Pasadena, Texas, attended Rice University, and later the University of Texas School of Law.  He began his career as an environmental attorney before switching to such entrepreneurial pursuits as bar, restaurant, and music venue ownership. Today, he is one of the managing partners at White Oak Music Hall, the new 5-acre, three venue live music complex, which recently opened in Houston’s Near Northside, and The Raven Tower bar/venue, located next door to WOMH.