Ultimate Montrose Bucket List Part II: 100 Things To Experience In The Neighborhood
Montrose has a lot to offer, but have you experienced it all? From arts and culture to food and beverage, to interesting annual events and quirky shops, we have handpicked a selection of experiences that we believe define the neighborhood; a “bucket” list of sorts. We’ve divided the list into four segments, grouped by categories that hopefully make it easier to explore according to your interests.
Here’s our second in the series, covering food and drink. Stay tuned for the next three weeks to see if your favorite Montrose institutions made the cut, and read the already published Part I here.
26. Make reservations for Sunday brunch at Hugo’s. / 1600 Westheimer
It’s not just a Sunday brunch, but a Montrose rite of passage to sit in Hugo’s tall-backed chairs and devour plate after plate of fresh chilaquiles and other Mexican delicacies. It’s buffet-style, so your options are abundant, but seating is not. Be sure to call ahead and reserve a table, and always, always save room for desserts like their fresh churros (dip them in the Mexican hot chocolate) and tres leches cake.
27. Get to Common Bond early enough to grab some croissants. / 1706 Westheimer
This truly world-class bakery has plenty to choose from, but to gain a true appreciation of their skills, you must try one of their famous croissants. Unfortunately, they’re among the first items of the day to sell out, so getting there early is imperative. Tuesday through Friday, they open at 7 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to line up before the doors are unlocked.
28. Visit a place you’ve never been during Houston Restaurant Weeks. / Multiple Locations
Escape the worst of summer in an air conditioned restaurant this August during Houston Restaurant Weeks. The charitable extravaganza, which benefits the Houston Food Bank, runs all August long, features dozens of Houston’s best restaurants (including a large representation in Montrose), and is a great time to try out places you’ve never been.
30. Sip a pint and share a pizza at Kenneally’s Irish Pub. / 2111 S. Shepherd
Kenneally’s is everything an Irish pub should be. The atmosphere is the opposite of pretentious and the thin-crust pizzas are famously good. Not surprisingly, March 17 is a big deal here with plenty of revelers clad in various shades of green, celebrating with pints of Guinness.
31, 32, 33, 34. Organize a coffee crawl! / Multiple Locations
Montrose is the ultimate caffeinated neighborhood, boasting nationally recognized coffeehouses like Blacksmith, where the food is just as good as the brew. Other notables include Southside Espresso, where you’ll find one of the best cortados in town, Black Hole where the cold brew is so good they sell it in take-home growlers and Mercantile, famous for their smooth flat white made with locally roasted beans. Honorable mention: Inversion’s “Honey Badger” drink made with honey and cinnamon.
35. Go Greek at Niko Niko’s. / 2520 Montrose
The Fetokakis family’s legacy began 38 years ago in Montrose with a small Greek food stand and has grown into an instantly recognizable brand across multiple neighborhoods in the city. Their original location on Montrose Boulevard has expanded by leaps and bounds, and boasts long lines of people waiting to get a taste of those famous family recipes. Even the popular television show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives took notice when it featured the restaurant in 2009. Save room for dessert — the loukoumades (think honey-drenched donut holes) and homemade Greek pastries are worth a trip alone.
36. Experience the charm (and the pasta, and the cookies and the coffee) of Paulie’s Restaurant. / 1834 Westheimer
If ever there were a true cafe in Montrose, it’d be Paulie’s. This family-owned and run restaurant is a true trifecta, with a quality coffee program, housemade pastas and famously cute and delicious shortbread cookies. Pick one, or pick all three, just don’t miss a chance to visit.
37. Enjoy a moment of zen at Té House of Tea. / 1927 Fairview
One of the only true teahouses in the city, this cozy haven is like walking into a nice, warm blanket. The zen atmosphere is great for those wanting a quiet place to get work done or catch up with a friend, the food is simple but tasty with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options and the selection of teas is massive.
38, 39. Sit outside and enjoy a bottle of beer from West Alabama Ice House and tacos from Tacos Tierra Caliente. / 1919 W. Alabama
Like Harold and Maude, Bonnie and Clyde, mayonnaise and mustard, some things were just meant to be paired. In Houston, one of those perfectly symbiotic relationships is between the West Alabama Ice House and Tacos Tierra Caliente. It’s a true Montrose pleasure to sit outside in the open air at a rustic picnic table at the ice house and enjoy an ice-cold brew while chowing down on a trio of al pastor tacos from one of Houston’s best taco trucks.
41, 42, 43, 44, 45. Take the James Beard tour of Houston: Indika, Underbelly, Hugo’s, Da Marco, Uchi. / Multiple Locations
Montrose pretty much has the lock on most things James Beard Award-related in town. Chefs and establishments that have been nominated over the years include chef Anita Jaisinghani of Indika (and Pondicheri in Upper Kirby), multiple nominee and finalist Hugo Ortega of Hugo’s and Backstreet Cafe and Marco Wiles of Dolce Vita, Poscol and Da Marco. There are even two winners, both of them on Westheimer: Underbelly’s chef Chris Shepherd and Uchi’s chef Tyson Cole (though he admittedly resides in Austin, we’re lucky enough to have a branch of his most famous restaurant here in the neighborhood). That’s not even taking into account the fact that Bobby Heugel of Anvil and Sean Beck of Hugo’s and Backstreet Cafe have been nominated in the wine and cocktail-related categories as well.
46. Watch a pizza cook in 90-seconds at Pizaro’s Pizza Napoletana. / 1000 W. Gray
After a long wait, Pizaro’s finally opened their second location in Montrose this year. The long-awaited restaurant does one thing, but it does it very well: authentic Italian-style pizzas. Marvel at the beautiful duo of pizza ovens, imported directly from Italy, which cook at temperatures around 900-degrees Fahrenheit, and watch them cook a pie in less than two minutes.
45, 46, 47, 48. Organize a cocktail crawl! / Multiple Locations
Anvil: One of the best cocktail bars in the country, period. Start here and try anything from their list of 100 classic cocktails. Better yet, slowly work your way through the list over a year of visits. Rosemont Social Club: The view from atop the rooftop deck is unbeatable and the drinks are refreshing. The Pimm’s Cup is a summer favorite. Zimm’s: It’s classy, it’s laid-back and it’s a great place to grab drinks before a spectacular meal from next door’s Pax Americana. Martinis are a must. Sanctuari: Use their “spiritual advisement” method to find the perfect drink. Circle key words — “sweet,” “dry,” “spicy,” etc. — as they apply to your preferences and at the end, you’ll have a transcendentally good drink to start (or finish) your evening.
49. Educate your palate at Camerata. / 1834 Westheimer
Learn about your wine and drink it too at one, or all, of the semi-regular classes held at Camerata — the wine bar adjacent to Paulie’s. There are workshops scheduled for July, August and October so you can plan ahead.
50. Enjoy a relaxing breakfast at Baby Barnaby’s. / 602 Fairview
It’s not only a place to enjoy breakfast from 7 a.m. to noon on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends, but also one of Houston’s most LGBT-friendly establishments. Everyone is welcome here to enjoy delicious plates of migas, corned beef hash, green eggs, chicken fried steak and eggs and more.