5 Must Do Things in Rice Village & West University

Photo courtesy of Rice Village District

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 published in 2016, we are now refreshing, updating, and adding to this series, including new neighborhoods and destinations.

Though Rice Village is not exactly a neighborhood, but rather a mixed-use district, it is often treated as one along with the neighboring community of West University Place (aka West U). The West University moniker came from its proximity to Rice University, which has its very own set of neighborhood must dos. The beautiful, tree-lined area appeals to both the young and the young at heart, with plenty of shopping, dining, and nightlife opportunities for all to enjoy.

Note: For the purposes of this list, Rice Village/West University is defined as the area bound by 610 to the west, Greenbriar to the east, Bissonnet to the north, and Holcombe to the south.

5 Must Do Things in Rice Village & West University

  1. Get your shopping spree on at Rice Village District – This one should be fairly obvious, as the epicenter of the neighborhood is the massive Rice Village Shopping District. Set in the open-air, the expansive mall is the perfect place to spend the day in the nicer weather. From big name retail stores (including chic spots like Le Creuset, Kendra Scott Jewelry, VOM FASS and Sephora) to local shops, there is no shortage of opportunities to spend your hard-earned cash. At local boutique Lily Rain, cherry-picked fashion finds share the space with cute gifts and beauty treatments; the boutique shop from local designer Chloe Dao showcases her incredibly chic ready-to-wear and bridal collections alongside up-and-coming local designers; Dallas import The Impeccable Pig offers a trendy mix of casual and chic clothing; and Almaza Jewelers, founded in 1968, creates original pieces from precious metals and gemstones. On the super affordable end of things, don’t miss the second Saturday Rice Village Flea Market, held on Morningside Drive. After you’ve sufficiently shopped ‘til you dropped, treat yourself to a spa treatment at Hand & Stone. Click here for directions.
  2. Dine at the city’s best – This modern district plays home to a roster of seriously hot restaurants. You won’t want to miss expanding your palette with Hellenic wines and some truly incredible fare at Helen Greek Food and Wine. The handsome restaurant, which boasts the second largest all Hellenic wine list in the country, was a James Beard Award semi-finalist in the Best New Restaurant category in 2016. Get a game-changing pork gyro, addicting feta-brined chicken, and flaky greens and cheese pie, and be sure to ask the warm, knowledgeable staff to guide you to a proper bottle. Looking for burgers? Hopdoddy Burger Bar and Shake Shack have you well covered. You’ll also find killer tacos at Torchy’s and line-worthy franks at YoYo’s Hot Dogs. Sandwich fiends should head straight for Local Foods, a seasonally-inspired eatery that focuses on locally-sourced ingredients and full flavor (the Gulf shrimp and crab and crunchy chicken sandwiches are fan favorites); or the second outpost of New York delicatessen Kenny & Ziggy’s, which is just outside the hood’s border and serves corned beef and pastrami sandwiches bigger than your head. Other must-haves include decadent pasta and from-scratch, thin-crust pies at Coppa Osteria and killer brunch dishes at Benjy’s.
  3. Experience the arts at 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. Click here for directions.
  4. Hit the sweet spot – The sugary confections lining this neighborhood are as dreamy as ever. For sweet treats that are acceptable even in the morning, head to Sweet Paris Crêperie & Café, where you’ll find an array of crepes stuffed with fresh berries and sweet cream, Nutella and marshmallow, and apple cinnamon crème brûlée. The ultra-delicate delights are best enjoyed with a creamy latte or cappuccino.  If chocolate is your thing, you’ll adore the over-the-top cakes and gourmet chocolates at The Chocolate Bar (and the Texas Frito Brittle, you’ll want some of that, too). As for ice cream, the outside-the-box ice cream at Cloud 10 Creamery comes in flavors like toasted rice, spicy dark chocolate, and the Vietnamese-iced-coffee-flavored café sua da.
  5. Unwind with craft beers and cocktails  From the diviest dives to sports and beer bars, it’s no surprise some of the city’s coolest watering holes sit right in this lively neighborhood. Sip on frozen cocktails using fresh-squeezed ingredients at the quirky dive, Under the Volcano. It doesn’t get more laid-back than a night at The Big Easy, a live music and blues bar with cheap drinks; nor does it get cooler than enjoying a cold on in an old bank vault at Kelvin Arms Pub. Beer geeks should hit up The Ginger Man and sports fans can chill out at Little Woodrow’s. And you’ll want to hit Irish bar The Gorgeous Gael for drafts and bottles, whiskeys and cognacs, and pub grub like slow-cooked wings, Guinness onion rings, and shepherd’s pie.
Photo courtesy of Rice Village Flea
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Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .