Now that the pandemic seems to be getting under a little better control and people are starting to travel more, us Floridians are looking to escape, too. Everyone’s been visiting here anyway, pandemic or not, but there are many of us that have taken to following good and sound pandemic practices.
During the dismal duration of remaining home and not traveling, my mind wandered to places I would rather be as soon as it was acceptable to pile into a plane and get away. One of those places I’ve been looking to visit to ease back into traveling is Houston, Texas. Here is a review of one of my trips to Houston, just before the pandemic. I’m looking forward to getting back and exploring more, but for now, here are some fond memories.
My first trip to Houston was just for a three-hour tour as I was nearby for a wedding and wanted to see what kind of nightlife the Texas city had to offer. The fun I had and the variety I saw, I knew then I would return. My sophomore visit was just last March (Our Quickie in the Biggest City in Texas Pleased Us on Many Levels. Hello Houston! see, I did escape) but unfortunately the total time dedicated to exploring Houston was cut short by a 6-hour flat tire ordeal.
What follows is a recap of my third visit Houston. I’ll share some of the food, lodging, nightlife, touristy places and items I enjoyed. Definitely check out the social links and learn more. My third trip would elaborate on the first two journeys to Houston and would truly seal the deal for keeping this Texas city at the top of my short list for quick get-aways from Florida to a gay friendly, phenomenal cuisine offering, architecturally stimulating city.
Lodging – C. BALDWIN
400 DALLAS STREET, HOUSTON, TX 77002
(713) 759-0202 @cbaldwinhotel
Visiting the city during the World Series between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals, the city had great energy and presence. Our hotel the C. Baldwin was right down town and just a mile from Minute Maid Park, home of the Astros. Being a Curio Collection hotel, we knew it would be well-appointed, yet keep some of its own charm and not feel like a chain hotel. Curio Collection by Hilton is an upscale hotel brand within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio. Curio Collection is a soft brand, meaning its hotels are supported by Hilton, but retain their own individual branding. Hilton selects independent hotels and resorts to be part of the Curio Collection
An anchor for The Allen Center at the gateway to Downtown , C. Baldwin honors the brash and fiercely independent Charlotte Baldwin Allen, The Mother of Houston. Convenient sky-bridges connect the hotel to the Allen Center buildings and Heritage Plaza. Also, the C. Baldwin Hotel is connected to downtown Houston’s 7-mile underground tunnel system. Boasting 354 guest rooms, a signature restaurant and abundant, activated green space in the heart of the city’s core business, sports, convention and entertainment district, the transformative property offers guests the opportunity to discover an authentically sophisticated and modern Houston experience.
1001 COMMERCE STREET| HOUSTON, TX 77002
When in Houston, people are often looking up to the skyline, admiring the architecture and height of the buildings. But one must look down to see what helped this city become what it is today.
Buffalo Bayou, the 52-mile slow-moving waterway that was the site of Houston’s founding in 1836, has become a destination for outdoor recreation near downtown Houston. It remains in its natural state and contains an incredibly diverse urban ecosystem supporting dozens of native species of flora and fauna.
This bayou boat journey showed me a side of Houston I had not seen before and I think one that many do not know exists. I was grateful for the opportunity to see some history and nature of the largest city in Texas.
Looking even further down, now underground, one can visit the Cistern. Built in 1926, an underground cistern was used for decades to hold a large portion of Houston’s public drinking water. After it sprang an irreparable leak, the 85,000 square-foot public reservoir was drained and sat unused and practically forgotten about … until the city was looking to build on the land the cistern occupies as they thought about turning it into a parking garage, but now is part of a great tour. You can actually go on to https://www.houstonperiscope.com/ and control a periscope that is in the cistern. Sorry, a little bit of a history guy and a geek. Check it out.
The Gene Landry Memorial Phoenix Room is a special place located upstairs inside the Houston Eagle. It’s a space dedicated to the preservation of Houston’s LGBT history through various displays and works depicting significant moments in time, which defines Gay Houston.
We were lucky enough to listen to historian and activist JD Doyle as he conveyed the history of the Houston LGBTQ community. If you ever get there, don’t forget to look up, for the mural installation is one that can teach you a great deal of what this city has gone through and accomplished.
Other hot spots y’all should check out are George’s Country Sport Bar, The Eagle, JR’s, South Beach, Crocker Bar, Mary’s Alibi, and Ripcord. They’re all within walking distance in Montrose so plan accordingly for there’s a great deal of men to see and many doors to open to find them. Montrose area is one of the more “I’m so happy I’m gay” areas in the nation for as you walk out the front door of one bar, you can see your next watering hole a small residential block away, if that.
Exploring the MUSEUM DISTRICT and MONTROSE
Two regions you should check out are the Museum District and Montrose. During the last two of my trips to Houston, I have enjoyed walking through both areas and viewing some of the great homes, stopping into some one-of-a-kind businesses and seeing other things one would not see if just Uber-ing around.
JAMES TURRELL SKYSPACE
6100 MAIN STREET | ADJACENT SHEPHERD SCHOOL OF MUSIC | HOUSTON, TX 77005
(713) 348-ARTS @themoodyarts
Rice University’s “Twilight Epiphany” takes the form of a grass-covered pyramid whose sides gently ascend to a flat top that is covered by a 72 square foot roof. The ceiling is illuminated by LED lights and acts as a frame to the square opening in the center that grants a view of the sky. The changing colors complement the natural light and allow for a reflective interaction with the natural world.
711 HEIGHTS BOULEVARD | HOUSTON, TX 77007
(713) 393-7578 @melangecreperie
Located in the cute Heights section of town, Melange Creperie offers some wonderful combinations of ingredients in their fresh-made crepes. From selling on the streets, at farmers markets, parties, and festivals, the creators of this crepe culinary option have set up in a “pink modern bungalow” where they can sling their sweet and savory options.
Inspired by their honeymoon in Paris, owner-operator “Buffalo” Sean Carroll and wife Tish Ochoa returned to Houston, ready to bring the classic French fare back home. Fans can expect simple and elegant options filled with either a “mélange a deux” (two ingredients) or “melange a trois” (three ingredients). The menu, which rotates weekly, showcases crepes using seasonal, fresh ingredients, as well as a mix of classic options like ham, egg, and cheese crepes and a banana and nutella version.
321 W 19TH ST | STE. B | HOUSTON, TX 77008
(713) 861-6618 @manreadymerc
You need to take in some great local shops when you visit another city. Experiencing local businesses and staying away from chains is a necessity when I travel. Support local for they strive harder to earn your business and keep it. Manready Mercantile is one of those Houston businesses. Immediately walking into the store, I knew I would like 80% of what they were offering. One thing I had going for me was that I had suitcases that were already full, but unfortunately, they of course ship anywhere. The store is located in the artistic and eclectic Heights region of Houston, Manready Mercantile offers clothing, shoes, accessories, home goods and more; mixing new items with vintage pieces purchased from many of the owners’ travels through Texas and beyond. the store definitely has a Texas flair about it and a great touch of Houston hospitality as they’ll make you an old fashioned whiskey drink as you browse the goods.
Boheme Drag Brunch
307 FAIRVIEW ST | HOUSTON, TX 77006
(713) 529-1099 @BohemeHouston @barboheme
Every fun town has a different spin on drag on Sundays. Houston’s place to be to see day drag and drink mimosas is Boheme Café & Wine Bar. The valet line and the seating outside before its opening let us know that Boheme had a good reputation and also put on a great show and had great food options. We found all to be true for ourselves. One suggestion is to make sure you don’t have to leave mid-brunch to catch your flight. I know next time I will plan accordingly.
Other Places If You Have The Time …
My first trip to Houston was 3 hours, the next was 36, and this last one was about 4 days. I was able to cover a great deal. The above probably could be done in a nice weekend, but if you find some more time in your schedule, here are some other rewarding experiences to try out. We’ll be back to do it all again and then some. And that’s another bonus of Houston. Sure, I’ll have the places I want to return to, but I know there is so much more to see and explore.
LE MERIDIEN HOTEL – HOGGBIRDS / Z on 23
1121 WALKER STREET, HOUSTON, TX 77002
Something else to pass the time and a great place to watch the sun dart between the buildings as it sets for the evening/night os atop Le Meridien Hotel. Depending on the time of year … oh heck, start as early as you can, maybe 4 and marvel at the drinks, architecture, and eye candy while taking in more of Houston.
Hoggbirds is not for the heights-averse. The rooftop lounge is located 23 stories above Downtown on the top of the Le Meridien hotel. With 360-degree views of the city skyline and craft cocktails, Hoggbirds is the perfect destination to catch an urban sunset.
The Laurenzo family is affectionately known as Houston’s First Family of Tex-Mex. Mama Ninfa Laurenzo, their matriarch, introduced sizzling fajitas to the world in 1977. The menu features classics like tacos, tamales, chalupas, enchiladas and combo plates while house specialties involve the mesquite wood fire grill for savory fajitas, quail, baby back ribs, jalapeño sausage, fresh fish and spicy bacon-wrapped shrimp. The full bar serves premium tequilas, fresh made margaritas and pitchers of brandy-laden sangria.
BRAVERY CHEF HALL
409 TRAVIS STREET | HOUSTON, TX 77002 @braverychefhall
Join us for dinner and sample from the array of concepts in the Secret Garden at Bravery Chef Hall. With six restaurant concepts in one 9,000 square-foot space, the food hall boasts being the first of its kind venue because they allow their chefs to experiment and create in the unique space.
Whether diners are in the mood for egg rolls, pork belly nachos, burgers, pasta, skewers or sushi, there is bound to be something for everyone under this roof. Restaurant titles include Atlas Diner, The Blind Goat, BOH Pasta & Pizza, Cherry Block Craft Butcher & Kitchen, Kokoro and Gaggenau Concept Kitchen.
For guests looking to quench a thirst rather than fill a belly, there is also a wine bar, cocktail bar, and a patio bar to keep visitors satiated. With plenty of seating among the different restaurant spaces, Bravery Chef Hall is a stellar option for the indecisive group of people who crave a variety of options.
805 PACIFIC ST | HOUSTON, TX 77006
(713) 388-6767 @postinowinecafe
I’ve been to both Postino restaurants in Houston and they would as well be where you would find me as much as I could get there. The feeling of community, the quality and caring of the staff, the relaxed yet exciting vibe, ad of course the amazing and unique food will always draw me back to Postino.
If these walls could talk… At the new Postino WineCafe in Montrose, they do. The neighborhood’s proud gay past – Montrose has long been the center for gay culture in the city – speaks from the very bones of 805 Pacific, now home for the chic wine bar and restaurant.
Lauren Bailey, founder of Phoenix-based Postino, designed the building that was once home to iconic Houston gay bar to reflect its vibrant Montrose stature. One of Postino’s walls is plastered with old photos, advertisements and archival material for the space that was once the Tattooed Lady, Pacific Street Station, Uncle Charlie’s, and the Montrose Mining Company, Houston’s longest-running gay bar.
Best of luck! Tell Houston we said hello.