Travel Thursday: The ABCs of Houston, TX – Art, Bruschetta, And Cowboys.

 

In my adult gay life, I’ve known Austin, Texas as the lonely liberal blue dot in all of the Lone Star State.  My vacations in Texas have been reserved to a birthday weekend and a weekend of pride, both in Austin, since that’s what us gays outside of Texas have been told.  When visiting, all we heard from Austinites was that there’s no other place we were welcome, besides their city.

Texas is a big state to check off the list as a DO NOT VISIT … except the blue dot with the slogan “keep it weird.” So this past March, I decided to go at Texas with my big gay self and drag along a companion to see what the 4 other major cities had to offer … clap clap clap clap … deep in the heart of Texas.  We traveled to San Antonio, Galveston, and Dallas, but our third stop was HOUSTON.

We did visit Houston for a hot 5 hours before a couple of years ago and it was one of those cities that … when you get a taste of a city and you immediately put it on your “I need to get back here” list? That is Houston, Texas.

Hotel Alessandra (photo from hotel’s website)

Hotel Alessandra

Our first goal was to treat ourselves to a great lodging in downtown Houston. We agreed upon Hotel Alessandra as it came highly recommended, was centrally located, and it was right on the Light Rail / METRORail.  The hotel is also part of the GreenStreet neighborhood.

Houston’s GreenStreet Keeps it Upscale and Green

Hotel Alessandra is in a prime place for enjoying the pleasures of GreenStreet. As part of its “Going Green” conservation efforts, the developer has made a point of including dynamic green space, wise-energy connectivity, engaging patios and synergistic events.

Upcoming events on GreenStreet:

All of the cosmopolitan touches from the lounge to the bar to the rooms to the hotel’s Maserati set this hotel apart from any hotel we stayed in while visiting Texas. 

Front desk of Hotel Alessandra. Located on the second floor. (Photo from hotel’s website)

Our room had these amazing accordion doors covered in mirrors.  When opened, the bath tub was visible from the sleeping quarters, “very romantical.” 

It was a little cool in March to enjoy the pool, but we’ll be back! (Photo from hotel’s website)

We had some great “best laid plans” for our time in Houston, but our car decided to get a flat tire on the 50-minute drive from Galveston, turning the commute into a 5.5-hour ordeal.  We had to edit the must-do list into the “what can we get done in two days” list.

The Eats

Goode Co. BBQ

What we did not skip on was the food, of course. For lunch we had our choice of the Goode Co. BBQ or the adjacent Armadillo Palace, both highly recommended locations on Kirby Drive, close proximity to the Museum District. Goode was the name of my college roommate so we went with that option. Any place that has jalapeño cheese bread, I’m in!

The Goode Co BBQ was much more rustic inside than the Armadillo Palace which was larger and more spread out and could hold larger parties.

Postino

We took it one notch higher for dinner and had some refined bruschetta at Postino. Yes, that’s right. My mind was soon to be blown.

Postino is currently located in The Heights, definitely a neighborhood you all will want to explore, and will soon be opening a second location in Montrose.

Postino Wine Café – the Phoenix-based restaurant that launched the runaway Heights Mercantile hit last spring – will soon open another Bayou City location at 805 Pacific Street in the former home of the Montrose Mining Company – Houston’s longest running gay bar.

“We’ve fallen in love with Houston,” said Co-Founder Lauren Bailey. “Since we first opened our doors in the Heights neighborhood, we found ourselves drawn to Montrose time and time again. Montrose checks every box that gets us excited: civic pride, a robust arts scene, diversity, authenticity, and an incredible history that speaks to our values. Walking into the old Montrose Mining Company – such a storied space that’s been a neighborhood gathering space since the 1970’s – gave us goosebumps. Something just felt right, and we’re thrilled to honor its historic legacy, the neighborhood, and the people who have come before us.”

Not only did the chopped up skateboards on the wall put a smile on my face for their creativity (people donated the boards and were given gift certificates to the restaurant), but the presentation of the food, the taste of the yummy goodness, and the teamwork that was very visibly present in making this fun environment made Postino a must visit again when I return to Houston.

There were multiple types of bruschetta one could order. We had as much as we could!

Le Colonial

Let’s dial it up one more notch for the next night out to dine.  Le Colonial in the River Oaks District was a definite tuck your button up shirt in and wear nice shoes evening.  The River Oaks area is a who’s who of upscale jewelry, women’s and men’s apparel, and the finer things in life. Arriving at the Le Colonial, we were welcomed into a relaxed and stylish environment.

The seductive, sophisticated spirit and sensuous flavors of 1920’s Southeast Asia come alive in the River Oaks District at Le Colonial.  Acclaimed restaurateurs Rick Wahlstedt and Joe King of famed eateries ranging from Le Bilboquet to Japonais are proud to introduce their first restaurant in Houston – a celebration of sharable and authentic, fine French-Vietnamese fare, gracious service, exquisite attention to detail and lush spaces meant for lingering and people watching. At the gateway to the district, a prime corner off Kettering Lane neighboring Harry Winston and Brunello Cucinelli, sets a unique backdrop for a charming “townhouse” with first level restaurant and sidewalk café plus second floor lounge, all-weather terraces and private dining.

We had to lighten this pic up a little. The decor and finishes were just as inspiring as the food.

It was a little dark in the restaurant to read the menu so we asked the waiter to direct us through the offerings. We mentioned what we liked, disliked, and what we were craving to the handsome, fun, and polite waiter. Our grins were from the top of our head to the tip of our toes as the plates and drinks arrived.  Everything was perfection.  I commend the staff for knowing the menu and flavors as well as they did. We were not worthy of the great service, but we’ll take it.

Our taste buds we re dancing all night with the plethora of french Vietnamese creations and flavors

Here’s where we ate:

Goode Co. BBQ
5109 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 77098

Postino
642 Yale St, Houston, TX

Le Colonial
4444 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77027

 

The Nightlife

A couple of years ago, we attended a wedding in The Woodlands area of Texas, a suburban/rural area just 30 minutes north of Houston.  It’s a great place to live and raise kids, but not a place to party.  We escaped the wedding festivities one night for just a small 6-hour period to dabble in the gay Houston nightlife.  We found there was a lot to dabble in.

 

Houston is home to the largest LGBTQ community in Texas and is also one of the largest communities in the Nation. Montrose is historically known as the gayborhood with multiple offerings. One local gave us these tips:

The best barhopping is along Fairview/Pacific in Montrose. Generally the boys will hit The Eagle for disco and very tame leather, Crocker Bar for a straight up sweaty dance party, George for a low key country bar vibe, Ripcord for a more aggressive leather night and some will end up at Rich’s for the stereotypical dance remixes and boys who love to pose and stay camera-ready or Barbarella which has a mixed crowd and caters to a more hipster scene. 

The bars are very small residential blocks away from each other in the Montrose Area of Houston.

We hit up George, a mix of sports and country bar with some games, pool and lots of wood and bears, Crocker, a converted/gutted home were the younger, fun, down to earth boys seem to hang, Houston Eagle or Eagle Houston, an easy going Eagle with multiple balconies, floors, and even has a gift shop, you’ll find all the varieties of gay men and boys here, and JR’s Bar and Grill, one of the more polished bars in Montrose area with drag performers, go-go boys and ample space inside and out for all the flavors of the LGBT family to attend. We didn’t get to all of the multiple gay hot spots, but we feel we saw some great offerings to realize that most anyone could find an option to keep them happy.

 

End Notes

Houston was a great stop on out Texas road trip.  We did park the car for our time there and used Ubers and Lyfts, which is needed as the only complaint I have about Houston is that it is BIG! There are so many areas, neighborhoods, sections of the city, that you either need to know public transit (the light rail was great!), have the apps, or have a vehicle. 

The food was great and a good surprise.  I do not know if Houston’s food scene has a reputation in Texas, but we were very pleased with our choices. 

Walking around the gayborhood of Montrose, it felt nice comfortable and loved that there were so many options to enjoy.  We didn’t make it to all of them so we will need to return. 

We gave you a quick taste of Houston, Texas. We wish it could have been longer (damn flat tire).  For more itinerary ideas, you can check out the Visit Houston page as well as CityPASSES and these other recommendations.

 

Project Row Houses

This is an incredible organization and for me a must-see for anyone visiting or living in Houston and it is off the beaten path. Project Row Houses is a community platform that enriches lives through art with an emphasis on cultural identity and its impact on the urban landscape. We engage neighbors, artists, and enterprises in collective creative action to help materialize sustainable opportunities in marginalized communities.

 

Texas Contemporary Art Fair 

This annual art fair is hosted in Houston (October 10-13, 2019) at the George R Brown Convention Center in Downtown. It brings galleries from all over the world to Houston and this year they are introducing design, adding a whole new element to the fair. It always draws a great crowd and also spotlights some of the most exciting local talent, in addition to prominent galleries from NY, LA, London, Paris, Mexico City, and more. 

Photo from the Texas Contemporary Website

 

Contemporary Art Museum Houston

CAMH is the most important non-collecting institution in Houston, dedicated to Contemporary Art.

 

Roka Akor 

Japanese cuisine near Highland Village 

Our Japanese fine dining restaurant offers the unparalleled combination of thoughtful design and contemporary Robata Japanese cuisine. The restaurant’s name is derived from two words: RO and KA. The meaning of the first word is hearth, a gathering place where people socialize and take in the ambience; the latter stands for a burning fire and projecting energy.

 

Poitin

https://www.poitinhouston.com/, which is located just outside of downtown in the First Ward Arts District.

Poitín is a bar, restaurant and event space located in the Washington Avenue Arts District of Houston TX. Just as the city of Houston opens its doors to immigrants from around the world, Poitín welcomes all-comers. Here we celebrate Houston’s diversity and its inclusive spirit. Our food and drink menus are an embodiment of that diversity, with a modern Irish cocktail bar, a modern Southern kitchen, and global influence throughout. Only in Texas.

 

Hotel Alessandra
https://www.hotelalessandra-houston.com/
1070 Dallas Street, Houston, Texas 77002 | 844.204.5851

Bar area of the Hotel Alessandra located on the second floor. Great place to have a beverage
Our room at Hotel Alessandra

Here are some other pics from the Houston trip. 

The Goode Co. BBQ was filling and the jalapeno cheese bread was a great new addition to my BBQ knowledge.
The Armadillo Palace mascot?
We’ll take this booth (those skate boards!), the food, the drinks, the service, everything all again just how we had it. Postino made the night great!

 

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