Walkable Houston: Rice Village

walkable-houston-rice-village
Photo courtesy of Rice Village District

While Houstonians definitely love their cars, there are nooks and crannies of the city that are best explored by foot. In our Walkable Houston series, we traverse those districts to find the prettiest parks, hottest restaurants and bars, coolest local art and shops, and most visit-worthy hidden gems.

One of Houston’s most popular hopping districts, Rice Village offers the perfect blend of big name shops and local charm, with restaurants and cafes, boutiques, and plenty of bars to hop to and from. The main district is set between Kirby and Morningside between University and Dunstan, lined with beautiful trees and offering shopping, dining, and nightlife opportunities that appeal to both the young and the young at heart.

Play & Explore

  • Art in the Village – Above the sidewalk on Kelvin near BlueMercury, you’ll find a striking blue metal sculpture featuring an origami owl and four lifelike ones. The fun piece is from metal sculptor Nathan Mabry. Local aerosol artist Gonzo247 also brightened up the district, creating a colorful mural next to New York & Company. Stop by to read what it says.
  • Half Price Books – Peruse this local bookshop, sell back old books, music, movies, and games, and look out for in-store events, from children’s book giveaways to new release Tuesdays.
  • Hand & Stone – Treat yourself to a hot stone massage or detoxifying facial at Hand & Stone.
  • Main Street Theater – Since 1975, this professional theater has been enriching the city’s culture through intimate, theatrical performances that challenge its audience and its members to think and grow. The program includes thoughtful and passionate plays for both adults and children, offering a Main Stage and Theater for Youth and Education Department, which hosts classes and camps year-round. Check out the current season’s lineup, then sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
  • Rice University Farmers Market – Every Tuesday, rain or shine, dozens of vendors show up to the parking lot adjacent to Rice Stadium to show off locally-grown food and artisan goods. Head there to find everything from organic kombucha and handmade goat cheese to vegan tamales and heritage hogs.
  • Special Events – Look out for a lineup of special events hosted by the Rice Village District, from holiday fêtes and “pour & explore” shopping events to block parties and summer jam sessions on the plaza.

Eat & Drink

Restaurants, Cafes & Sweets

  • Benjy’s – Just north of the main district on Dunstan, Benjy’s is known for its seven-days-a-week brunch and poppin’ happy hour.
  • Café Rabelais – Head to this French café to nosh on country ham sandwiches, quiche du jour, salad niçoise and plates like boeuf bourguignon, cassoulet and local seafood bouillabaisse.
  • Cloud 10 Creamery – At this ice cream shop, the goods come in unexpected flavors like toasted rice, spicy dark chocolate, and the Vietnamese-iced-coffee-flavored café sua da.
  • Coppa Osteria – This popular Italian spot rocks a glass encased dough room, so you can watch the action as you chow down on salumi-topped pies, housemade rigatoni,  meatballs al forno and roasted chicken under a brick.
  • Cyclone Anaya’s – Hit this Mexican kitchen to enjoy giant margaritas alongside ceviche, quesadillas, tacos, and enchiladas.
  • D’Amico’s Italian Market Café – This casual café offers homemade pastas, paninis and pizzas, and house favorites like the cheese and spinach stuffed chicken Asiago, veal saltimbocca, and risotto di gamberi. You can also pick up Italian goods in the imported food market and grab some homemade gelato on your way out.
  • El Meson – Classic Spanish tapas mix with Cuban eats at this local hangout. Come with friends and dig into ropa vieja, Cuban-style bistec (steak), and saffron infused bomba rice, plump with chicken, chorizo Iberico, and sweet plantains.
  • Fellini Caffè – Linger over espresso and pastries as you transport yourself to an elegant Italian sidewalk café.
  • Helen Greek Food and Wine – Expand your palette with Hellenic wines from sommelier Evan Turner and some truly incredible fare from Chef William Wright at this handsome restaurant, which boasts the second largest all Hellenic wine list in the country and was a James Beard Award semi-finalist in the Best New Restaurant category in 2016. The menu features everything from mussels saganaki and feta-brined chicken to a game-changing, build-your-own pork gyro platter.
  • Hopdoddy Burger Bar – Burgers come juicy and topped with things like apple-smoked bacon, poblano peppers, goat cheese, and chipotle aioli at this cool burger bar. Get them along with local crafts, shakes, and green chile queso fries.
  • Hungry’s – Head down Rice Boulevard towards Greenbriar and you’ll find this striking spot nestled in the oaks. The casual restaurant and bar offers everything from housemade jalapeño hummus and both beef and organic quinoa burgers to wood-fired pizzas and breakfast wraps.
  • Island Grill – A local mini-chain, the Rice Village location of this Mediterranean American fast-casual concept is its biggest yet, with 4,000 square feet, 85 seats inside, and 25 on the covered patio. Enjoy items like kabobs, pitas, salads, burgers, and morning plates like migas, pancakes, and gyro breakfast pitas.
  • Istanbul Grill & Deli – On Morningside, this Turkish eatery rocks authentic dishes like lebne, falafel, kofte kebabs, and lahmacun (think of it like a Turkish pizza).
  • Local Foods – Just north of Dunstan, this sandwich and salad shop has a cult following thanks to favorites like the “crunchy” chicken sandwich, seasonal harvest salad, and truffled egg salad.
  • Mi Luna Tapas Restaurant & Bar – Head to this tapas bar located in the heart of the district to sip sangria and share a few small plates, from patatas bravas, croquettas, and empanadas to paella kissed with Gulf shrimp, black mussels, Spanish chorizo, and saffron.
  • Oh My Gogi – This Rice Village food truck offers Korean-Mexican fusion, with favorites like ramen burgers, kimchi quesadillas, Asian chicken fries, and pork fried dumplings.
  • Pasha – Get Turkish and Mediterranean fare in an elegant setting at this quaint area restaurant.
  • Pokeology – Step inside Doc Holliday’s bar on Morningside and you’ll find this poke counter, dishing out bowls filled with tuna, salmon, snowcrab, hamachi, yuzu, fish sauce and more.
  • Prego – This modern Italian spot has been a crowd favorite since 1983. Dine on burrata salad, braised rabbit pappardelle, lobster risotto, veal saltimbocca, and wood-grilled branzino.
  • Punk’s Simple Southern Food – This Southern charmer has plenty of soul, with house favorites including sweet corn hush puppies, crispy buttermilk fried chicken, shrimp & grits, and breakfast biscuits.
  • Salento Bistrot – With Latin American and European flavors, Salento is a choice spot for a morning croissant and espresso Cubano or a glass of wine and empanada platter.
  • Shiva Indian Restaurant – Go for traditional Indian fare, from tandoori-broiled shashlik to hot and tangy vindaloo.
  • Sud Italia – Southern Italian fare is the name of the game at this ultra charming Rice Village spot. That means you’re indulging in coastal dishes, from light and fresh zuppa di mare to robust tuna steak with green peppercorn sauce.
  • Sweet Paris Crêperie & Café – For sweet treats that are acceptable even in the morning, head to this cute café, where you’ll find an array of crepes stuffed with fresh berries and sweet cream, Nutella and marshmallow, and apple cinnamon crème brûlée. There are also savory numbers, packed with things like gruyere, smoked ham, and béchamel or all the fillings of a chicken enchilada.
  • Thai Village – Choose your spice level in dishes like tiger cry, pad ped, and Thai fried rice.
  • Torchy’s Tacos – This popular Austin import goes big and bold with its tacos, with both classic and fusion fillings including slow-roasted pork carnitas, cornmeal-crusted catfish, Jamaican jerk chicken, and hand-battered fried avocados.
  • YoYo’s Hot Dog – This late-night hot dog stand always draws a crowd. Order your dog “all the way” to get it loaded with cream cheese, spicy mustard, curry ketchup, grilled and fried onions, honey mayo, and a touch of Sriracha.

Bars

  • Doc Holliday’s – Head to this unique cocktail bar with a Hawaiian poke counter inside.
  • The Ginger Man – Craft beer nerds can enjoy the vintage pub’s excellent lineup of suds, while everyone can enjoy its cozy backyard and friendly vibe.
  • The Gorgeous Gael – Hit this Irish bar for drafts and bottles, whiskeys and cognacs, and pub grub like slow-cooked wings, Guinness onion rings, and shepherd’s pie.
  • Little Woodrow’s – The Rice Village outpost of this laidback sports bar rocks a great happy hour.
  • Kelvin Arms Pub – Set in a former bank, this Scottish pub offers you the chance to drink inside a vault.

Shop & Support Local

  • Almaza Jewelers – Founded in 1968, this family-owned jewelry shop creates original pieces from precious metals and gemstones.
  • British Isles – This specialty shop zeros in on British and Irish goods, offering things like collectibles, tableware, toiletries, and imported foods and teas. Get biscuits, crisps, puddings, curries pies and more.
  • Chloe Dao – This boutique shop from local designer Chloe Dao showcases her incredibly chic ready-to-wear and bridal collections alongside up-and-coming local designers.
  • The Chocolate Bar – Stop by this local sweet shop for gourmet chocolate, dipped cookies and popcorn, fresh fruit, novelty sweets, and “Texas stuff” like the popular Texas Frito Brittle. You’ll also find an incredible lineup of cakes and ice cream.
  • The Impeccable Pig – Head to this Dallas import for a trendy mix of casual and trendy clothing and accessories.
  • La Taste – This quaint boutique channels the small boutiques in the towns and villages of Provence, featuring artisan products like French-milled soaps, bubble bath and shower gels, body and hand lotion, and the finest French fragrances from eau de toilete to perfume.
  • Lily Rain – This homegrown boutique rocks cherry-picked fashion alongside cute gifts, home décor, and beauty treatments.
  • Olivine Living – French flair meets function at this furniture boutique.
  • VomfassHead to Vomfass to find oils, vinegars, spices, and gourmet foods and spirits.
  • The Rice Village Mall – That’s just a taste of what you can find at the outdoor shopping mall, with other big-name spots including Banana Republic, Express, Kendra Scott, and Sephora.