A Local’s Guide to Houston

A Local’s Guide to Houston

Someone once told me “Houston is a great place to live, but not the best place to visit.” Having lived there for six years, I totally get what they meant now. It took me about two years to get my bearings in Houston and once I did, I completely fell in love with the Bayou city. 

Unlike other major cities in Texas, Houston’s Charms aren’t that obvious at first glance. It doesn’t have a lot of natural beauty like Austin and it isn’t a cultural phenomenon like Dallas. But with a little digging and some good resources, I know you will see what a gem Houston is.

From incredible food to world-class museums and more shopping than you can imagine, Houston has everything you could ever need or want. Because Houston is technically larger than the state of Rhode Island, I’ve found the trick to enjoying the city is finding the neighborhood you like and going from there. 

The gorgeous oak trees that line Rice University.

Favorite Neighborhoods

Uptown

River Oaks

Rice Village/West University

The Museum District

Montrose

The Heights

The food in Houston is some of the best in the world. When I lived there, going out to eat was my favorite thing to do. Whether it was brunch with girlfriends, grabbing a bite to eat at the cafe after a day at the museum or a dinner out with my husband, there was no shortage of incredible and diverse restaurants to choose from.

Favorite Restaurants

Something I love about Houston is that they have BYOB restaurants. I haven’t quite tapped into that scene in Austin, but I live for BYOB spots. My No. 1 all time favorite restaurant in Houston is Huynh and it is BYOB. Since I’m a wino, I am SUPER picky about the wine I drink. Going to a BYOB restaurant is great because I can bring literally anything I want and enjoy it with fabulous food all at a reasonable price. 

Hole in the Walls/BYOBs:

Huynh

Giacomo’s

Himalaya 

Cooking Girl

In addition to my BYOB faves, I have a solid list of go-to places that I would be at on a regular basis. For dinner, I love Kata Robata (fancy sushi and IMO better than Uchi, Nobu and MF Sushi), Coltivare–you cannot beat the experience of Coltivare in Houston. It is a farm-to-table Italian restaurant in the Heights with its own garden. You can wait in the garden for your table (and have one of their famous gin and tonics), the food is incredible as well. Nobie’s is also fabulous for dinner. Their menu is always changing and the food is top-notch. The restaurant is so cozy so I love it for a date night or dinner with close friends.

I love B19 for a boozy brunch or dinner with my girlfriends and Bistro Menil is the absolute best for a salad, carafe of wine and a delicious dessert. The Menil Collection is a must-see while you’re in Houston too so you can knock out two birds with one stone with this one.

I also love Mala Sichuan and miss it dearly. If you’re looking for legit sichuan go to their China Town location, but if you want a hip vibe in town, check out their Montrose location. If you’re looking for a bougie Asian dining experience look no further than Le Colonial. I absolutely love everything about this place. From the decor, to the food, wine list and service, Le Colonial is hard to beat. I love it for brunch, a boozy lunch, dinner and late night… yes, the second floor of Le Colonial turns into a mild club scene at night and it is SO fun! Another fun dining experience with fantastic food is Armando’s. In my opinion, Armando’s has the best margaritas in town and while their food is flavorful, it doesn’t leave me feeling sick and way too full like other Mexican restaurants in town. On Thursday nights, Armando’s also turns into a dancing scene! It is the absolute best.

For sophisticated dining I always seem to go to State of Grace and La Table. Both restaurants are beautifully designed and in fabulous locations. I love the oyster happy hour at State of Grace, but really everything on the menu is incredible. La Table is truly French fine dining. The wine list is the best in Houston and I love all of their food. The service is also outstanding.

My go-to’s:

Coltivare

Kata Robata

Nobie’s

Brasserie 19

Hillstone

Le Colonial

Mala Sichuan

La Table

State of Grace

Bistro Menil

Armando’s

If you’re looking for a Fancy dining experience in Houston, there are so many world-class options to choose from. I added La Table on this list as well because it is a very upscale dining experience. 

Houston recently opened its first Michelin starred restaurant, Le Jardinier, at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) and it is truly incredible. The decor is very European and the food, wine and cocktails are outstanding. Musaafer is also new on the food scene in Houston and if you like Indian food as much as I do, you will not want to miss this spot. In addition to incredible food, the decor and vibe of this restaurant are unparalleled. Bludorn *somewhat* recently opened in town and we love everything about it. It is more traditional, elevated American food with oysters, steak and a killer wine list.

Whenever Will and I were celebrating something special, we would try to go to BCN. This elegant spanish restaurant is phenomenal and so charming. It is very hard to get  a reservation so you will have to plan your visit far in advance, but it is totally worth it. 

If you’re looking for an over-the-top steak experience, Mastro’s and Doris Metropolitan are my favorites. Mastro’s is just a sceney experience with great cocktails food and people watching, but Doris Metropolitan is really for the foodies. I think the best steak I had in Houston was at Doris. 

Fancy Night Out

BCN

Le Jardinier

Bludorn

Mastro’s

La Table

Doris Metropolitan

Musaafer

Did you know we are standing in front of “Cloud Column” at the MFAH? This sculpture is the sister piece to Chicago’s iconic Bean sculpture. Having been to both, I would visit Cloud Column any day. No lines or massive crowds and The MFAH is simply the best.

The activities in Houston are endless, but I don’t think they are obvious to a first-time visitor. If you couldn’t tell from my extensive food list, eating should be a top priority if you’re in Houston. Make reservations in advance and do a fun food tour trying out as many places as you can. I cannot stress how incredible the museums in Houston are enough. Having visited museums around the world, I can honestly tell you that Houston has some of the best. The MFAH is remarkable in every way. It is an entire campus with multiple buildings that house different kinds of art, sculpture gardens, the Glassell School and incredible dining options. In addition to the MFAH, the Contemporary Arts Museum, Jung Center and the Houston Museum of Natural Science are fantastic. If you are with children, the Children’s Museum, the Health Museum and the Zoo are incredible as well.

Adjacent to the Museum District, is Rice Village (my old neighborhood) and Rice University. This is one of the most stunning campus’ in the U.S. as it is lined with century-old oak trees and gorgeous brick buildings. There is a walking track that runs the perimeter of the campus and is a perfect 3-mile loop. I used to walk the loop every morning for exercise and I miss it so much. While you’re doing the walk, you can stop to see James Turrell’s famed SkySpace (sunrises and sunsets are the best time to go) and when you’re done, you can pop into Rice Village for food, drinks and shopping.

If you’ve taken in enough culture for your visit, Athletic events are always fun to attend….Astros games are definitely my favorite. The shopping in Houston should also not be missed. The Galleria is incredible and has every store imaginable. I love the Saks Fifth Avenue and all of the restaurants around it most. Outside of the Galleria, Tootsie’s is fabulous and if there is one store you absolutely have to go to while in town, it’s Kuhl Linscomb. To say I’m obsessed with Kuhl Linscomb is an understatement so if you’re in town, please go!!

Fun Things to Do

Visit the museums

Walk around Rice University and see the James Turell SkySpace

Go to a game! Texans, Astros and Rockets games are the best

Go shopping! 

Do a food tour

I hope you all have the chance to visit Houston soon and that you love it as much as I do! If you have been, leave me a comment and tell me your favorite things about the city! Hope you all have the best weekend!

XO,

Brit

Travel during COVID-19

Travel during COVID-19

As an avid traveler, the past few months have been incredibly strange for me. In my pre-COVID life, my husband and I would fly somewhere at least twice a month, but until last week, we hadn’t stepped foot in an airport since March.

To be honest with you, I was a bit trepidatious about going to the airport and actually flying. I had so many questions and had heard horror stories about not being able to use the bathroom or not having access to get water or food. In the weeks leading up to our trip, I called the Austin-Bergstrom Airport a couple of times to see what it was like in the airport. They assured me that places like Starbucks and Jo’s Coffee were open and all of the bathrooms were open.

I had also heard stories about crazy-long lines to check bags and get through security, but in our experience, it took less than 10 minutes to check two bags and we got through security in under 15 minutes.

The line for security at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on June 7, 2020.

We flew from Austin, Texas to Panama City Beach, Florida for our first post-COVID vacation. There were no direct flights available so on the way to Florida we had a layover in Nashville, Tennessee and on our way home we had a layover in Houston, Texas. Our layover in Nashville was about 10 minutes so I can’t really speak to what that airport was like, but I would rate Austin’s airport as the cleanest and most efficient.

William P. Hobby Airport on June 14, 2020.

For our trip, we flew on Southwest Airlines and I have to give them such a major shoutout. Everyone from the people behind the counter checking bags to the people boarding you for the flight were so helpful. I think they are incredibly sensitive to the fact that people are nervous about flying again and they worked hard to make everyone comfortable and safe.

If you’re familiar with Southwest Airlines, you will know their boarding process is quite different than other airlines. You check in 24 hours before your flight and are assigned either an “A,” “B,” or “C” with a number between 1-50 behind the letter. That is still the same, but instead of calling passengers in groups of 30, the boarding agents now call passengers in groups of 10. I actually loved this aspect. It was much more civilized and I think it kept the bottle-neck of passengers way down. Until September 30th, Southwest says they are only booking flights at 60 percent capacity leaving the *dreaded* middle seats empty unless you are a family or group traveling together and want to sit in the same row. I loved this and on all four of our flights, there were empty seats and a lot of space between passengers.

None of our flights were completely full. The only people who sat in middle seats chose to sit in them or were traveling with their families.

I do think Southwest could improve the cleanliness of the planes. Our flight to Florida was around 6 a.m., so I believe the plane had been cleaned the night before and you could tell. Our seats were clean and the plane seemed fresh. Our flights home were a very different story. Our flight from Panama City to Houston had a quick turn-around time and there were still crumbs on my set when I boarded the plane. Same story on our flight from Houston to Austin. Luckily, I bring my own wipes and wiped down our seats, armrests, seatbelts and tray-tables, but I do think the airlines should be doing more to keep their planes clean. They were very focused on picking up trash and requested passengers hand them wipes people usually stuff behind the seats several times during the flight, but picking up trash alone does not equal cleanliness.

Passengers are required to wear masks while boarding the plane and during the entire flight unless they are eating or drinking, but while you are in the airport, you are not required to wear a mask. During our longer flights, Austin to Nashville and Panama City to Houston, we were offered a can of water and a snack, but I always bring my own water and snacks so I didn’t take any. On the shorter flights, Nashville to Panama City and Houston to Austin, beverage and snack services were not offered. We were able to use the bathrooms on all flights, but you are not allowed to form lines.

COVID or not, I always try to pack my own snacks. For our flight to Florida, I made Kodiak pancakes, and packed grapes and celery. I don’t usually like fast food and try to avoid buying salty snacks in the airport.

Overall, I really appreciate the changes airports and airlines have implemented and I think they actually make the process of flying less hectic. I do think sanitization efforts should be taken up a notch by sanitizing the buckets used for security, requiring passengers wear socks through security and that airplanes are cleaned AND sanitized thoroughly after each flight.

Up, Up and Away! Leaving Austin for the first time in three months to go to the beach!

Have you traveled during coronavirus recently or do you plan to soon? Leave me a comment and let me know your experience.

XO,

Brit

Easy Red Coconut Curry

Easy Red Coconut Curry

Even though we are in quarantine and I am home all of the time, I still feel like my weekdays are crazy busy! Because of that, I love cooking healthy, one-pot meals throughout the week. Tonight I’m making my favorite red coconut curry recipe from Averie Cooks.

Thai food has always been one of my favorite cuisines and after living in Houston, Texas, for the better part of a decade, I got pretty spoiled when it came to getting the best Thai food or really any kind of food just down the street. My husband and I recently moved to Austin in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic so we know a little bit about the food scene here, but definitely not as well as we knew our favorites in Houston. Today I was craving curry, so I decided to make this delicious recipe instead of ordering-in.

All the ingredients you will need for the coconut curry recipe.

I’ve made this recipe about 10 times and I’ve decided the only red curry paste I like to use for it is the Exotic Thai Red Curry Paste. I’ve tried a few other brands and it really makes or breaks this dish if you don’t get a good paste.

The creator of this recipe, Averie Cooks, claims this fresh, nutrient-rich recipe is only 141 calories per serving. I serve my curry over rice so of course that number will go up. One cup of rice is generally 160 calories so you will be at 300 calories for one serving of this dish, which is amazing!

Not only is this dish healthy, but it is SO easy to make, you can make it all in one pan and it only takes about 20 minutes, which means you’ll have an easy clean up too!

Let me know what you think and if you try this recipe out!

XO,

Brit