5 Must Do Things in Independence Heights

Hands holding a bowl of gumbo
Savor Southern classics at Gatlin's Fins & Feathers on Crosstimbers | Courtesy of Gatlin's Fins & Feathers

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.

Located on the northwest side of 610, the neighborhood of Independence Heights may be small, but it packs a mighty punch.

Established at the turn of the 20th century, it is the first African American municipality in Texas and filled with Houston history.

Visit the old school hood to get a taste of the past with a stop at these five local favorites.

Note: For the purposes of this list, Independence Heights is covered by this map.

5 Must Do Things in Independence Heights

A plate of chicken fried chicken smothers in gravy with fries
For more than 50 years, Barbecue Inn has offered Southern delights | Courtesy of Barbecue Inn

Savor nostalgia at a longtime, family-run favorite

This family-owned local institution got its start in 1946.

Today, the famed Barbecue Inn offers Houstonians a taste of nostalgia via BBQ brisket dinners, finger-lickin’ Southern fried chicken, and crispy, craggly, and cream gravy-smothered chicken-fried steak.

Save some room, there’s pie for dessert.

A glass of beer in the foreground, with an Astral Brewing painting in the background
Astral Brewing on North Shepherd offers chill patio vibes with craft brews | Courtesy of Astral Brewing

Get a one-two punch of hops at local breweries

With a roster of the most epic beers in town (including some oh-so-tasty IPAs), spunky brewery Brash Brewing Company’s tasting room is worth a visit.

But it’s not just about the beer, the kid and dog-friendly brewery rocks old school arcade games, an all-metal jukebox, and a generally chill vibe. Get directions to Brash Brewing Company.

Newer to the scene, Astral Brewing on North Shepherd blends hoppy beers and spacious, dog-friendly digs with Houston style. Go for brews like the Psychonaut New England Hazy IPA or the crisp, refreshing Astral Pils.

Its taproom is open Tuesday to Sunday, and offers $2 off select beers during its weekday happy hour until 6pm. Get directions to Astral Brewing.

A plate of smothered fried catfish, with sides of collard greens and macaroni
Enjoy hearty Cajun and soul food plates at Esther’s on North Shepherd | Courtesy of Esther’s Soul Food

Feed the soul at Houston institutions 

Esther Lewis-Bernard wants to feed your soul. And she’ll do so via succulent oxtails, smothered pork chops, fried catfish, chicken & dumplings, and sides from black-eyed peas and cornbread dressing to mac n cheese and mustard greens at her eponymous eatery, Esther’s Cajun Cafe & Soul Food.

Finish your Southern meal with peach cobbler and old-fashioned banana pudding. Get directions to Esther’s Cajun Cafe & Soul Food.

Over at Gatlin’s Fins & Feathers, local pitmaster Greg Gatlin (who’s father and family grew up in Independence Heights) turns the focus to the comfort foods of the Third Coast.

Standout dishes include chargrilled oysters, New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp, and buttermilk brined, crisp, golden brown F&F Fried Chicken. Get direction to Gatlin’s Fins & Feathers.

A line of burgers in the process of being prepared in a kitchen
Miller’s Cafe serves up old-school burgers in Independence Heights | Courtesy of Miller’s Cafe

Smash old school burgers & fries

Sitting off Shepherd and family-owned and operated since 1980 (with its first location at Gessner and Westpark), Miller’s Cafe is known for its old-fashioned, All-American burgers.

Get the classic numbers on a poppy seed bun, made “all the way” with mayo, mustard, pickles, onions, lettuce, and tomato; and add on fixin’s from jalapeños and grilled onions to bacon and blue cheese.

Don’t miss other diner-style eats, including fries, onion rings, Frito pie, and chili dogs.

A line of people outside Flying Saucer Pie Co. in Independence Heights
Flying Sauce Pie Co. in Independence Heights is a Houston staple for fresh baked pies | Courtesy of Flying Sauce Pie Co.

End on a pie-fueled sweet note 

The family-owned Flying Saucer Pie Company has been slinging handmade pies since 1967.

Go for double-crusted apple, traditional pecan, cinnamon and nutmeg-spiced pumpkin, fresh banana cream, strawberry cheesecake, chocolate cream, and key lime pie, to name a few.

Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

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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 .