Our My Top 5 series showcases Houstonians who are creating the city’s culture and community and asks them to share their own local favorites. This week we’re delighted to feature Shion Aikawa of Ramen Tatsu-Ya. As director of operations for the Tatsu-Ya family of concepts, he’s always on-the-go bustling ramen shop in the heart of Montrose.
My Top 5 Things to Do in Houston
by Shion Aikawa
- Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern – This 87,500 square foot space is one of the only places where you’re able to see an underground concrete reservoir—it’s something unique to Houston, which I love. I recommend taking a 30-minute guided tour ($5, and free on Thursdays with reservation), always led by an educated and fun guide. You’ll learn about waterways and how the city grew out of those waterways, using the cistern. Click here to make a reservation or check out their website for art installation and special events information. Pro-tip: consider the cistern as a first stop for exploring the awesome Buffalo Bayou Park.
- Thien An Sandwiches (Midtown) – Matt Marcus from 8th Wonder Brewery and Eatsie Boys took me to Thien An to show me a taste of Houston, and now I like to share it with both newcomers and old-timers in the Bayou City. Head there for a casual, cafeteria-like spot that serves up Vietnamese favorites. It’s very approachable and it has two things I’m a huge fan of: a duck and shredded cabbage salad and Bánh xèo, a sizzling pancake made with rice flour and turmeric.
- Byzantine Fresco Chapel – I love the strange, sleek, futuristic architecture here, masterminded by architect Francois de Menil. It almost makes you feel like you’re inside a sci-fi movie. I recommend sitting there in the quiet space for a while, just taking it all in and perhaps even meditating. You can scope out limited-run installations on their website, as well as information about the great sister spots on the Menil Collection grounds.
- La Carafe – What’s not to love about an intimate, candle-lit dive bar situated in the oldest commercial building in the city? La Carafe is the first bar that I ever went to in Houston in the fall of 2016, so there’s definitely an element of nostalgia in how much I like this place. Take a date there to relax, sip on beer or wine and people-watch with a clear view of Market Square Park. No, it’s not a movie backdrop, even though it might feel like it; it dates back to the 1800s, after all.
- James Turrell’s “Twilight Epiphany” Skyscape – If you want to see a really cool, chill light show, check out the skyscape. When you walk into the pyramidal structure and raise your gaze, you’ll basically see two layers: an aperture in the building that lets you see the sky as well as a ceiling on which an LED light sequence is projected. As night falls and the sky is changing colors, the ceiling is changing too, creating somewhat of a frame around the sky. After viewing the cool light show, you can walk towards Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. With some luck, you may be able to casually observe some of the music practices there.
Bonus – I wanted to give a shout-out to both Bobby Heugel‘s Anvil Bar & Refuge and Tongue Cut Sparrow. Though I am usually drawn to dive bars, I really enjoy their high end, technical precision in craft cocktails and ambiance.
About Shion Aikawa
Japan-born and Texas-bred Shion Aikawa spent his childhood in Austin, after which he spent several years traveling the world and working at spots as diverse as a Fortune 500 company in Japan and an L.A. manufacturing company. In 2012, Shion returned to Austin to help open Ramen Tatsu-Ya, an authentic Japanese ramen shop co-founded by chef-deejays Tatsu Aikawa (his brother) and Takuya “Tako” Matsumoto. Ramen Tatsu-Ya rose quickly in popularity and national acclaim and Shion came to Houston as the restaurant expanded. Presently, Shion serves as director of operations for the growing hospitality company and is as passionate as ever about making Japanese food and drinks accessible to people of all walks of life.