5 Must Do Things in Garden Oaks & Oak Forest

Cottonwood | Photo: 365 Houston

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.

Replete with oak, pecan, and pine trees, vintage bungalows, and ranches from the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, and top-rated schools, this duo of neighborhoods has drawn in a steady crowd of young families. But that doesn’t mean the ‘burbs don’t have any cool factor, as an infusion of hip restaurants and some stellar craft beer bars keep the once-sleepy district rather lively. See why you’ll want to check out the GOOF-area, after all.

Note: For the purposes of this list, Garden Oaks and Oak Forest is defined as the area covered by this map.

5 Must Do Things in Garden Oaks & Oak Forest

  1. Get your craft brew (and fun) on – Not only does this franken-neighborhood boast some of the city’s best craft beer bars, those craft beer bars also have some extra fun attached. At Cottonwood, you’ll find 40-plus taps of suds alongside a lineup of live music, corn hole, fire pits, special events like seasonal boils, and one of the most happening outdoor spaces in town. With an excellent roster of cherry-picked, hard to score brews, Petrol Station is another stunner. Every Saturday morning, the bar hosts a small farm stand from 9am to 1pm where you can enjoy a hot cup of coffee and breakfast taco while perusing farm-fresh eggs, artisan goods, and locally-grown produce. Over at Wakefield Crowbar, you’ll find 39 taps, trivia and steak nights, and three sand volleyball courts where you can unleash that competitive side.
  2. Brunch with the best of them – Local favorite Shepherd Park Draught House serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays until 3pm, when guests can feast on a Shipley’s glazed donut waffles, spicy sausage biscuits and gravy, and bloodys, bellinis, and mimosas served by the pint. At Slowpokes coffee house, you’ll find various roasts (both local and not), cold brew on tap, and grub from molletes and ham & brie croissants to salmon and cream cheese bagels, beginning at 7am on weekdays and 8am on weekends. Start off with orange-glazed cinnamon rolls or mini pancake sliders at The Union Kitchen on Ella, which hosts brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 2pm. Next, move onto eggs benedict with carnitas or Texas blue crab, omelets packed with char-grilled hangar steak and salsa or butter-poached lobster and dill crème fraiche, and house specialties like fried chicken and biscuits, breakfast tacos, and chilaquiles. The aforementioned Cottonwood also hosts brunch (Sundays, 11am to 3pm), complete with green migas, biscuits and gravy, and tres leches french toast.
  3. Picnic and play at T.C. Jester Park – Take your pup to this lush neighborhood park, where you’ll find a small dog park with plenty of other pups for yours to play with. You’ll want to hit up the 21-hole disc golf course, biking and jogging trails, sports fields, and a community pool and playground for the kiddos, too. And those looking for a nice long bike and running trail can connect to the White Oak Bayou Trail right from the park. Cozy up in a tree-shaded spot for a picnic before or after you play. Click here for directions.
  4. Get messy at Gatlin’s BBQ – Warning: You will get your hands (and face) dirty when you dive into the juice-dripping ribs at this all-star barbecue joint. After closing its doors in the original spot on 19th, Gatlin’s moved on up to this ‘hood in 2015. The new digs are quite bigger than the original (bumping from 700 square feet to 4,200), with more seating for you to sprawl out at while you go caveman on those aforementioned ribs. Choose from plump, meaty baby-back ribs; succulent, fatty St. Louis-style; or tender, dino-sized beef ribs. Then get some brisket, dirty rice and collards, and bread pudding, while you’re at it. Click here for directions.
  5. Wine & dine – There’s no better GOOF-area spot to unwind with a glass of vino than Plonk! Beer & Wine Bistro. Look out for wine tastings, happy hours, and special events posted on the bistro’s Facebook page; Or stop by anytime to sip wine on the patio and enjoy a rotating menu of dishes like a guanciale-topped burger, fried cauliflower, and Gulf shrimp and grits. For old-school Italian just like your nonna made, check out Doyle’s; the throwback restaurant has been serving the area bubbling lasagna and classic chicken parm since 1954. Popular Montrose haunt Aladdin Mediterranean has opened up shop in Garden Oaks, offering its signature kabobs, shanks, salads, hummus, and freshly baked pita. And another Montrose favorite, Les Ba’get, is expected to open as well. Those looking for vegetarian eats should check out Govinda’s Vegetarian Cuisine, which also offers vegan fare every day and all day on Wednesdays and Sundays.
White Oak Bayou Greenway | Photo courtesy of Houston Parks Board
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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 .