—by Andrew Brawley
Houston is the largest city in the United States that I have not set foot in. I’ve been to every other major city in Texas, so I feel like I’m somewhat familiar with it. However, I don’t feel that qualifies me to write a travel guide for it.
For this particular entry, I’ve employed a good friend / Houston ex-pat / former co-worker who’s currently based in Los Angeles. He is originally from Houston, and is known for frequent visits to his hometown due to social and familial obligations. He’s good people, and I totally vouch for him. Here’s my pal Sam Guilloud and his recommendations for the city that will be owned by Jonathan E. in the not-so-distant future.
Restaurants: don’t be afraid of chains as Houston doesn’t do small individual restaurants. If a restaurant is good, then there are at least five of them.
- Goode Company: big chain in Houston that’s renowned for its BBQ.
- Pappas Restaurants: this is actually a superchain of restaurants in Houston that all start with “Pappas” and specialize in seafood, BBQ, Mexican, Italian, etc. If it’s got Pappas in front of it, it’s usually good. i.e. Pappadeaux, Pappas BBQ, Pappasito’s, etc.
- Ninfa’s: the restaurant that invented Tex Mex. Amazing everything.
- Taste of Texas: the premiere Texas steak experience. Pick your meat, pick your fixin’s, and gaze upon the wondrous cattle wrangling murals and stuffed buffalo head throughout.
- Vegetarian options (I’m just assuming you need this since this is for a Portland audience ): Baba Yega in Montrose. Great food and Sunday Brunch is party central.
- Houston Aquarium: I’ve never been, but I hear it’s amazing.
- The Menil Collection: one of the best contemporary arts museums in the country.
- Rice Village: great area to walk around, shop, go to restaurants, bars, mingle with college students, etc.
- Houston Galleria: the most insane mall you’ve ever seen. Can be a madhouse on the weekends.
- Uptown: this is a new area of shops and high end restaurants. It “looks” pedestrian friendly, but don’t be afraid to drive between locations.
- Fly into George Bush Intercontinental Airport. It’s the most technologically advanced airport this side of Asia. Bonus points if you take your picture in front of the bronze statue of George HW Bush. A stunning immortalization of him walking into the wind with his tie and coat jacket blown back for dramatic effect. Brings tears to the eyes.
- Mosquito repellent: Houston is a garden of freeways and skyscrapers built on top of a swampy hive of mosquitoes. These things are Texas sized will drain all your blood if you let them.
- Sweaters and Shorts: don’t be afraid to rock a sweater with your flip flops and shorts because between April and October, Houston is about 100 degrees and 80% humidity, but we keep our indoors a frosty 60 degrees year round. It’s the most air conditioned city in the world so be prepared for both extremes.
- License to drive: you’re not getting anywhere without a car. Period. People on foot are mocked and stared at for the freaks they are. You wouldn’t want to be walking in that heat anyway.
- A sense of shame: Houston is known for its zero zoning laws meaning it’s strip club heaven, most of which are in what out-of-towners may consider to be odd places. Don’t be afraid to go to one just because it's next to a church/nursery school/playground/retirement home because, really, they all are.
- Houston Hobby Airport: unless you’re packin’ heat. Sh*t gets real here.
- NASA: Houston, we have a problem. Especially since NASA is nowhere near Houston. Many first time visitors make the mistake of thinking NASA is centrally located downtown when it’s actually 45 minutes outside of the city in the middle of nowhere. Not to mention that it’s painfully boring unless you’re a serious space buff.