5 Must Do Things in Rice Village & West University

Take to one of Houston's marquee districts for shopping, eats, a show and more | Courtesy of Rice Village

In our Must Do Things Around Greater Houston series, we take a look at Houston’s vast array of communities, neighborhoods and destinations to bring you five fun, tasty, surprising and enticing reasons you should give each one a visit.

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 Athleta, Le Creuset, Kendra Scott Jewelry, 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. After you’ve sufficiently shopped ‘til you dropped, treat yourself to a spa treatment at Hand & Stone or a facial at Face Haus. Get directions to Rice Village.
  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. 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. Gratify Neighborhood Bistro is another stunner, offering oysters and charcuterie, steak frites and handmade pastas, and more. Looking for burgers? Hopdoddy Burger Bar and Shake Shack have you well covered. You’ll also find killer tacos at Torchy’s and Velvet Taco and line-worthy franks at YoYo’s Hot Dogs. Local Foods Market offers seasonally and locally-sourced eats with full flavor, from chicken shwarma bowls with pomegranate and fresh dill yogurt to Korean steak bowls with apple kimchi and peanut-kale salad. Other must-haves include authentic Italian fare and fine wines at Roma, decadent pasta and from-scratch, thin-crust pies at Coppa Osteria; seasonal sandwiches and salads at Mendocino Farms; Korean-Mexican fusion at Oh My Gogi!; French bistro fare at Cafe Rabelais; wine country shareables and wines at Sixty Vines; Turkish fare at Istanbul Grill & Deli; casual cafe eats from salads and burgers to wood-stone pizzas at Hungry’s Cafe; and Mediterranean kabobs and more at Island Grill; and don’t miss the soon-to-come sibling establishment to Doris Metropolitan, Hamsa. Over in West University, you can grab fantastic Mexican street eats at El Topo, bistro eats and a damn good cookie at Tiny’s No. 5, and family-friendly bites and burgers at Little Matt’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. Get directions to Main Street Theater.
  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); and the perfect chocolate chip cookie can be found at Tiny’s Milk & Cookies bakery in West U. For unbelievable baked goods, custom cakes and pastries, Bādolina Bakery & Café is where you want to be; and ice cream fans should check out flavors from Black Cherry Chip to Honeycomb and vegan varietals at Van Leeuwen Ice Cream.
  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; and Simone on Sunset offers an artsy, summer-European feel. Sports fans can chill out at Little Woodrow’s; while beer fans will want to check out nearby Baileson Brewing Co. Wine fans can sip through grapes at Sixty Vines and Vinology; and the terrace at Upstairs is the perfect place to spend a breezy happy hour.
Catch a live production in the small-but-mighty Main Street Theater in Rice Village | Courtesy of Main Street Theater

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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 .