5 Must Do Things in Montrose

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Photo: Urban Houstonian

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. 

Originally imagined as a planned community and streetcar hub, this largely residential neighborhood has morphed into the heart of Houston. Today, its eccentricity shines through a mosaic of century-old bungalows and sky-scraping townhomes, award-winning restaurants and eclectic hole-in-the-walls, offbeat bars and music dives, awe-inspiring art galleries and theaters, and funky shops and businesses with plenty of local soul.

Note: For the purposes of this list, Montrose is defined by this map.

5 Must Do Things in Montrose

  1. Experience the arts – This exciting neighborhood is bursting with artsy and cultural experiences. Catch live theatrical performances at the two-story Stages Repertory Theatre, discover the hilariousness of “Grown-up Storytime,” check out open mic standup and live rock at Rudyard’s British Pub, or broaden your cinematic horizons with artist-made, non-commercial film and video at Aurora Picture Show. At Art League Houston, you’ll encounter diverse and dynamic contemporary visual art that will make you think. Of course, you can’t miss the mecca of all things artistic, Menil Campus, where you’ll have the chance to view the prized Menil Collection, visit the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, and get zen at the spiritual Rothko Chapel.
  2. Go on a lower Westheimer bar crawl – Not many areas of this city are walkable, but lower Westheimer is one that is (though we admit the sidewalks leave something to be desired). So it’s no wonder the street is lined with some of the hottest watering holes around, making it perfectly primed for a DIY bar hop. Start at The Hay Merchant, the fan favorite craft beer bar from the sultan of suds Kevin Floyd. Head west and make your way to the cool, no-frills jazz bar Catbirds, and next, the king of all cocktail bars, Anvil Bar and Refuge. Don’t miss their 100-list, a library of the bar’s 100 most noteworthy classic cocktails to make your way through. Just a stone’s throw away, you’ll find Stone’s Throw, a vintage speakeasy with high-class cocktails and punches, as well as the bourbon-soaked honky-tony, Goodnight Charlie’s. Finish up your crawl by experiencing patio life at La Grange, enjoying world-class wines at Camerata at Paulie’s, or by sipping a badass collection of American whiskeys at Poison Girl. Of course, if sitting around at an icehouse and eating some of the city’s best tacos without all of that walking involved sounds more your speed, you can always skip Westheimer and head straight to West Alabama Ice House.
  3. Eat, eat, and eat some more – If there was ever a neighborhood in which to stuff yourself silly from morning ‘til night, it’s Montrose. Start with a.m. delights at Christy’s Donuts Kolaches and Common Bond, get cheap and quite excellent breakfast tacos at La Guadalupana Bakery & Café and Tacos Tierra Caliente, indulge in Italian pastries and coffee at La Sicilia Bakery & Cafe, or get classic breakfast plates at Barnaby’sEmpire Cafe, and Brasil. For a full on brunch experience, loosen your belt and pony up to the legendary all-you-can-eat brunch buffet at Chef Hugo Ortega‘s famed Hugo’s, or check out heavy hitters like Max’s Wine Dive, Backstreet Cafe, and Snooze, an A.M. Eatery. What about burgers, you ask? There are plenty, but Lankford Grocery, The Hay Merchant, Buff Burger, and The Burger Joint may just have the greatest of them all. Hot dog fans should check out Good Dog Houston. And if you still need more reason to get out of the office during lunch, there’s Pizaro’s Pizza, Velvet Taco, East Hampton Sandwich Co., and Aladdin Mediterranean Cuisine. For a fantastic meal to start or end your night on the town, you’ll want to hit some of the best restaurants not only in Montrose but in the entire city. Some of the city’s finding dining destinations, including Pass & Provisions, Uchi, One Fifth Houston, UB Preserv, Aqui, Roost, Night Heron, Riel, Nobie’s, and Pax Americana, show off some serious culinary talent. Of course, there’s also Szechuan cuisine at Mala Sichuan and Pepper Twins, ramen at Ramen Tatsu-Ya, intoxicating pho at Les Noo’dle, Vietnamese classics at Lua Viet Kitchen, build-your-own poke at Ono Poke, locally-inspired Indian at Indika, authentic Mexico City fare at Cuchara, incredible pizzas and pastas at Dolce Vita and Cane Rosso, smoked meats and bbq tacos at The Pit Room, authentic Tex-Mex at El Tiempo Cantina and El Real, and excellent Italian at the fine-dining Da Marco and fast-casual Paulie’s (don’t miss Camerata next door for wine afterward). Hope you’re not too full, because late night po’ boys and a pile of gravy-smothered fries at BB’s Cafe are an absolute must.
  4. Peruse antiques, thrift, and boutique shops – Montrose is a damn near perfect ‘hood to go on a shopping spree. Head down Westheimer and you’ll practically be hit in the face with adorable boutiques, antique shops, and cheap thrift shops that won’t break the bank, offering everything from vintage furniture and handmade jewelry to this season’s hottest fashions. Space Montrose, Stag Provisions for Men, Mio Boutique, Montrose Shop, Emerson Rose, Leopard Lounge, and Tejas Custom Boots are just a few of the all-stars. Venture deeper into the ‘hood and you’ll find shops like The Guild Shop, Reeves Antiques and Wardrobe.
  5. Get your caffeine on – The concentration of seriously good coffee shops in this neighborhood is downright impressive. Start at Blacksmith, where you’ll find Greenway Coffee roasts alongside Vietnamese steak and eggs and what is probably the best sausage breakfast biscuit in town. Right down the street is Campesino Coffee House, a cozy Latin American-style spot on Waugh that serves a killer cortadito. For coffee that looks like it was brewed in a science lab, hit Siphon Coffee, where the unique siphon method adds some wonderfully interesting tasting notes to your brew. You also won’t want to miss the lattes from the effortlessly cool Inversion Coffee House, the sick latte art at Southside Espresso, the people watching and camaraderie at Black Hole, and capps and cabs from the café, wine shop, and market, Mercantile.
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Photo courtesy of Poison Girl