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Downtown Restaurant and Bar Scene - More Coming

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I've only lived in Houston and downtown for two years and I am amazed by the amount of change that has occurred on the restaurant / bar scene. When I moved here, OKRA was not even open / even hinted at. Since then there has been a number of successful openings and it's hard to keep up with the pace of change. I've also been very pleased with the quality of each opening - these establishments are nothing like the typical Midtown / Wash Ave bars where the bartenders do not even know what Campari is.

 

Here are recent openings in no particular order:

  • Honeymoon Cafe (300 Main). Serves upscale sandwiches for lunch. Downtown's only good independent coffee shop. Always packed for lunch and surprisingly packed for Sunday brunch.
  • http://thehoneymoonhtx.com/
  • Public Services Wine and Whiskey (202 Travis). Run by the former Oxheart sommelier with interesting wines and whiskeys. It's in the restored / renovated Cotton Exchange building.
  • http://publicservicesbar.com/
  • New Hearsay Location (1516 Dallas)

 

Also, looks like a formerly empty location on Main Street is taped over with the business named "Beef and Barley" and District 7 Grill is taking over an empty space that spans half a block at Main and Texas. There is some sports bar opening on Main as well.

 

As MAB noted in another thread, a new BBQ restaurant set to open by Brian Caswell (Reef), Bill Floyd and Greg Gatlin (Gatlin's BBQ) is set to open in Q1 2015 on Jackson and Congress near Minute Maid Park.

 

There is now a liquor store downtown called Posh Liquors (http://poshliquors.com/). Based on the name, I'm assuming they are trying for an upscale clientele base.

 

All these join the first wave of restaurants (El Big Bad, Batanga, Fusion Taco) and first wave of bars (Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar and Spirit Lounge, OKRA, Pastry War, Clutch City Squire, Little Dipper, Dean's Credit Clothing re-opening). 

 

Yes it would be nice to get a full service grocery, a Target and some retail downtown but I am so grateful for everything that has happened to downtown recently, that I have no absolutely no complaints. I also have nothing but optimism for further development as more residential opens.

 

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Let's not forget that a new papasitos went into the Hilton Americas and there is a new Pappas steakhouse going into the old strip house location. Oh, and of course, the MKT Bar has been around for a number of years and is always crowded with young, hip, urbanites (and a few old farts like me).

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Oh, one more thing......

Downtown freakin' rocks. If you are reading this and if you don't live here now, by this time next year, you will begging to get in to this club. Yep. 20-years ago, you would have been begging too.... Begging to keep your wallet from the mugger...... Now, downtown is hip, vibrant, youthful, and has the lowest rate of crime in the whole city.

Come on, folks! We'll let you in, I promise!

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While Dirt Bar and Reserve 101 (and Neil's, Woodrow's, and Luckys on the other side of the freeway) are my usual haunts, I can be found at MKT on occasioal Tuesdays or Thursdays for steak night... lol

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That's funny.

 

Reading these posts are a complete surprise to me. The last few times  I've gone downtown on a Friday or Saturday night (a night where I'd expect the most attendance), it's been dead as a doorknob. I smh in disbelief each time over how downtown, although is shaping up with new amenitites and urban structures like Green Street, it's a mere shadow of its former self of the Main Street activity from the mid 00's.

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That's funny.

 

Reading these posts are a complete surprise to me. The last few times  I've gone downtown on a Friday or Saturday night (a night where I'd expect the most attendance), it's been dead as a doorknob. I smh in disbelief each time over how downtown, although is shaping up with new amenitites and urban structures like Green Street, it's a mere shadow of its former self of the Main Street activity from the mid 00's.

 

Have you been to the 300 block of Main? Because there's tons of places on the block alone and the area tends to be reasonably busy. 

 

Admittedly, these are bars, not clubs, so the vibe is very different from the scene in the mid '00s. 

 

Not sure that's a bad thing though.

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That's funny.

 

Reading these posts are a complete surprise to me. The last few times  I've gone downtown on a Friday or Saturday night (a night where I'd expect the most attendance), it's been dead as a doorknob. I smh in disbelief each time over how downtown, although is shaping up with new amenitites and urban structures like Green Street, it's a mere shadow of its former self of the Main Street activity from the mid 00's.

 

That is surprising. I can't even go to some of my favorite spots on a Friday / Saturday night because there are lines to get in (Bad News Bar) or it is too packed and takes forever to get a drink (OKRA).

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That is surprising. I can't even go to some of my favorite spots on a Friday / Saturday night because there are lines to get in (Bad News Bar) or it is too packed and takes forever to get a drink (OKRA).

Or you can't:

Get a table at Hearsay without a reservation and they are all booked anyway.

Sit outside at Botanga on a pleasant night

Find a spot mid-week at The Grove

Get a table with out a reservation at Vic and Anthony's mid week and often on Saturday nights.

Find space for 6 at Honeymoon for Sunday brunch.

Get into Hardrock without a wait on a Friday or Saturday night

Go anywhere near HOB or bayou place if you don't want to be around crowds.

Downtown is about to explode.

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Over by the library it's still pretty quiet at night...  :ph34r:

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I like the activity, but wish there were more dive bars and live music places. My band used to have some fun shows at Dean's and now Dean's is a swanky bar. I think Downtown bars would have more staying power if they made Main like a 6th Street instead of clubs and restaurants opening only to close a couple years later. We need more live music in these places!

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I like the activity, but wish there were more dive bars and live music places. My band used to have some fun shows at Dean's and now Dean's is a swanky bar. I think Downtown bars would have more staying power if they made Main like a 6th Street instead of clubs and restaurants opening only to close a couple years later. We need more live music in these places!

That is a really interesting point.

Now that I have considered it, having a nice soft jazz bar, a bar that had acoustic bands, some (perhaps like Pete's) piano bars, maybe a classical bar, and even a rock bar or two would be nice.

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I feel like it be a good idea to make a discussion forum about news/development on downtown Houston restaurants 

 

I will start with this news

 

 

Q: Do you have anything new planned for Houston restaurant-wise?

A: We're looking for a Saltgrass location downtown. And I'll be moving Willie G's and opening a Mastro's in 2016.

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/real-estate/article/Houston-billionaire-plans-expansion-even-as-5917677.php

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There's a downtown restaurant thread literally two threads below this one.

Edited by swtsig

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From today's walk to lunch. 

 

809 Congress has been painted.  Interior looks largely complete except for the floors.

15751929278_9b2ddc0830_z.jpg809 Congress by differentryana, on Flickr

 

 

The retail space below the Hermann Lofts, formerly Macondo, is getting torn out.  Reliable sources indicate this will be a Subway.  Two in a two block radius.  Downtown Houston has finally arrived.

15752081300_ff374229b1_z.jpgHermann Lofts retail. by differentryana, on Flickr

 

Shameless plug - my own bar, the Houston Watch Co, will open in the old Franklin St. Coffee House space adjacent to the Bayou Lofts lobby in early 2015.

15753620507_65c04e7bc7_z.jpgHouston Watch Co. by differentryana, on Flickr

 

 

 

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congratulations upon obtaining this wonderful spot as per your forthcoming bar HOUSTON WATCH CO our pal adr!  however, what's with the very odd title?  wouldn't you prefer something chic that actually pertains to a bar per se... just asking?

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since i actually live downtown houston, i am quite acquainted with the quirky bar / establishment names etc.  however, HOUSTON WATCH COMPANY just does not make one think of lively libations.. other than wonderful timepieces.  i want you and yours to be truly successful.. and i love that you chose downtown, just make certain that your overall product is remarkable... and that you ensure that the word BAR is prominently added to your moniker...

cheers_intro_logo.png

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since i actually live downtown houston, i am quite acquainted with the quirky bar / establishment names etc.  however, HOUSTON WATCH COMPANY just does not make one think of lively libations.. other than wonderful timepieces.  i want you and yours to be truly successful.. and i love that you chose downtown, just make certain that your overall product is remarkable... and that you ensure that the word BAR is prominently added to your moniker...

 

 

Public Services doesn't either.  Moving Sidewalk.  Pastry War.  

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So they went from a large open bay style window to a brick up entrance only design....Houston assualt on it own beauty seems to have no end sometimes.

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Pastry War also doesn't even have anything visible from the sidewalk that says "Pastry War."

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That was an El Tiempo hybrid restaurant in the early 2000's. Didn't last very long. Its interesting how we go through these cycles. Back in the late 90's and early 2000's this part of town was going crazy. There were restaurants and bars opening all of the time. It was pretty incredible to see so many people downtown most nights of the week and especially weekends. I was running Cabo's at night just across the street at the other end of Prairie and Travis. The Mercury room was going great and the dancing Marlin,Soleros, State Bar, along with several others in the Rice, Tryst, Deans, the Black Cat, along with all of the bars on the square and several on the north end of downtown that I can't even remember all of their names. And then everyone moved to Washington Avenue. Now they're back but more solid bars and restaurants seem to be hanging on. It will be interesting who has staying power, and how long before  the next cycle and where the new scene will take place. Trust me its always moving from Richmond to Shepherd plaza to Downtown to Washington to Midtown,and back to downtown. Wouldn't be surprised to see it jump over to Eado with all of the old warehouses. They already have several bars, and many more residents now. with the proximity to the super bowl parties at the Convention center it would be a natural.

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That was an El Tiempo hybrid restaurant in the early 2000's. Didn't last very long. Its interesting how we go through these cycles. Back in the late 90's and early 2000's this part of town was going crazy. There were restaurants and bars opening all of the time. It was pretty incredible to see so many people downtown most nights of the week and especially weekends. I was running Cabo's at night just across the street at the other end of Prairie and Travis. The Mercury room was going great and the dancing Marlin,Soleros, State Bar, along with several others in the Rice, Tryst, Deans, the Black Cat, along with all of the bars on the square and several on the north end of downtown that I can't even remember all of their names. And then everyone moved to Washington Avenue. Now they're back but more solid bars and restaurants seem to be hanging on. It will be interesting who has staying power, and how long before the next cycle and where the new scene will take place. Trust me its always moving from Richmond to Shepherd plaza to Downtown to Washington to Midtown,and back to downtown. Wouldn't be surprised to see it jump over to Eado with all of the old warehouses. They already have several bars, and many more residents now. with the proximity to the super bowl parties at the Convention center it would be a natural.

Agreed.

"Bar scenes" tend to move in trends. What is needed downtown is not "trendy" bars but rather some establishments that have more staying power like, say, hearsay or maybe honeymoon cafe. Bars open and close..... "Neighborhood pubs" have more staying power.

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Agreed.

"Bar scenes" tend to move in trends. What is needed downtown is not "trendy" bars but rather some establishments that have more staying power like, say, hearsay or maybe honeymoon cafe. Bars open and close..... "Neighborhood pubs" have more staying power.

 

True.  

 

Which is why Warren's and La Carafe have both been around for decades - from before Market Square was hot and fashionable in the '60s, through the valley of the '80s, and on into today.

 

There's going to be more staying power for more places, though, as more and more people actually live downtown.  My experience is that singles and couples living in a smaller place within an easy walk will often treat the neighborhood places like an extension of their living rooms.

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Exactly and that is why all of the efforts to get more people living downtown is really going to help the restaurant and neighborhood pubs survive. Also it will help to create more of a street life since the tunnels aren't open at night and they don't exist in many areas where housing is going in. I'm personally interested in seeing more gfr in these areas. There's plenty of empty retail spaces that will slowly be repurposed once more of this housing opens.

While were talking restaurants and bars, does anyone remember Ruby Reds and Willies Pub.

They had great burgers and served unshelled peanuts. The floor was always covered with the shells.

We used to play down there in the 70's

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True.

Which is why Warren's and La Carafe have both been around for decades - from before Market Square was hot and fashionable in the '60s, through the valley of the '80s, and on into today.

There's going to be more staying power for more places, though, as more and more people actually live downtown. My experience is that singles and couples living in a smaller place within an easy walk will often treat the neighborhood places like an extension of their living rooms.

I fully agree with you.

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I've only lived in Houston and downtown for two years and I am amazed by the amount of change that has occurred on the restaurant / bar scene. When I moved here, OKRA was not even open / even hinted at. Since then there has been a number of successful openings and it's hard to keep up with the pace of change. I've also been very pleased with the quality of each opening - these establishments are nothing like the typical Midtown / Wash Ave bars where the bartenders do not even know what Campari is.

 

Here are recent openings in no particular order:

  • Honeymoon Cafe (300 Main). Serves upscale sandwiches for lunch. Downtown's only good independent coffee shop. Always packed for lunch and surprisingly packed for Sunday brunch.
  • http://thehoneymoonhtx.com/
  • Public Services Wine and Whiskey (202 Travis). Run by the former Oxheart sommelier with interesting wines and whiskeys. It's in the restored / renovated Cotton Exchange building.
  • http://publicservicesbar.com/
  • New Hearsay Location (1516 Dallas)

 

Also, looks like a formerly empty location on Main Street is taped over with the business named "Beef and Barley" and District 7 Grill is taking over an empty space that spans half a block at Main and Texas. There is some sports bar opening on Main as well.

 

As MAB noted in another thread, a new BBQ restaurant set to open by Brian Caswell (Reef), Bill Floyd and Greg Gatlin (Gatlin's BBQ) is set to open in Q1 2015 on Jackson and Congress near Minute Maid Park.

 

There is now a liquor store downtown called Posh Liquors (http://poshliquors.com/). Based on the name, I'm assuming they are trying for an upscale clientele base.

 

All these join the first wave of restaurants (El Big Bad, Batanga, Fusion Taco) and first wave of bars (Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar and Spirit Lounge, OKRA, Pastry War, Clutch City Squire, Little Dipper, Dean's Credit Clothing re-opening). 

 

Yes it would be nice to get a full service grocery, a Target and some retail downtown but I am so grateful for everything that has happened to downtown recently, that I have no absolutely no complaints. I also have nothing but optimism for further development as more residential opens.

 

 

I'm not sure you've fully observed Downtown.

 

Your first wave of restaurants as you call them are all located in spaces previously occupied by restaurants that recently failed.

 

State Bar, a long time downtown resident, is gone.

 

Georgia's Market failure is glaring. Not only where they a grocery store, but they were also a bar and restaurant.

 

Most restaurants are still closed on the weekends and or evenings (café express, Chipotle, etc..)

 

Not saying we can't be optimistic about Downtown, but lets see how the crash in oil prices plays out first.

 

 

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There's a Dunkin Donuts going in under 1000 Main where Quizno's used to be.

 

Now that's a restaurant scene rebirth right there.

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Good info, thanks!

 

This info is super-dated (as always from the Chron). Refer to the first post in this thread on November 21: "District 7 Grill is taking over an empty space that spans half a block at Main and Texas."

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There's a Dunkin Donuts going in under 1000 Main where Quizno's used to be.

 

Now that's a restaurant scene rebirth right there.

 

mmmmmm... sugar and lard...

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There's a Dunkin Donuts going in under 1000 Main where Quizno's used to be.

Now that's a restaurant scene rebirth right there.

Dunkin Donuts may not be the only arrival. Look next to Poblano's before the sealed off Macy's doors ...that space is also under work.

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I was just in Austin. I was reminded their downtown life is very cool. I can't wait to see ours come around.

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Dunkin Donuts may not be the only arrival. Look next to Poblano's before the sealed off Macy's doors ...that space is also under work.

 

Was told this morning that this is actually an expansion of Poblano's

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I was just in Austin. I was reminded their downtown life is very cool. I can't wait to see ours come around.

 

I can do without the cool, that brings in more people.

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I can do without the cool, that brings in more people.

 

I am not afraid of more people ;)

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I thought we wanted more people downtown...besides, we have our cool area on Washington/Montrose and Westheimer. It might not be A-town levels but it's a start.

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I am not afraid of more people ;)

 

 

I thought we wanted more people downtown...besides, we have our cool area on Washington/Montrose and Westheimer. It might not be A-town levels but it's a start.

 

Have you been around people lately? They're the worst.

 

In seriousness, I like Austin being the cool kid in the state, it keeps the festival related street closures to a minimum.

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I can do without the cool, that brings in more people.

Totally disagree with this. If those are your expectations, perhaps you'd be happier in a city like Amarillo or Lubbock, not the state's largest city and among the top 4 in the nation.

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Totally disagree with this. If those are your expectations, perhaps you'd be happier in a city like Amarillo or Lubbock, not the state's largest city and among the top 4 in the nation.

 

I am being a bit tongue in cheek here, but you're not far off re: Lubbock/Amarillo.

 

I like the job market options that a large metropolitain area affords. It makes it worth it to me to put up with the people.  Houston as always (in my 38 years here) been big with plenty of people flocking here for whatever their reasons may be, but I never got the feeling that there was much "cool" to pull in folks just looking for a city in which to have fun around a lot of other people similarly looking to have fun.

 

The particulars (as I percieve them) that make Austin/Portland/NYC/San Francisco "cool" do very little for me. Were I independently wealthy, I'd probably live on the outskirts of a small-ish city with a regional airport, but if you are going to give up the economic advantages of a large city, you can probably do better for scenery and climate than our friends in the Panhandle.  

Edited by Nate99

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