Have you been to Montrose? Houston’s Hippest Hangout
By Helen Foster
I’m lying in my own private pool in 30 degree heat, there’s a dragonfly perched on my kindle doing whatever it is that dragonflies do when they eventually sit still – and if I look up all I can see is palm trees and blue sky. You’d think I was in sunning it in Bali right? Actually, we’re staying in an Airbnb house smack bang in the middle of Houston, Texas. Within a 10-minute walk of our tropical idyll are a host of super hip restaurants, chic bars, vintage shops and tattoo parlours, lots of tattoo parlours. Welcome to Montrose, Houston’s hippest place to stay.
Montrose is roughly four-miles west of downtown Houston, but a world away in terms of attitude. It’s described as eclectic, diverse or bohemian – often that’s code for ‘slightly dodgy, watch your handbag’ but we felt perfectly safe walking around and if you don’t get freaked out by the sight of hipsters with overly large ear piercings, you’ll be fine. On your doorstep are sights like the Rothko Chapel (a secular church full of amazing paintings) and the Museum district. The Galleria mall is a short three-mile drive away and the Space Centre about 45-minutes down the freeway – we barely got to any of those though as the lure of the bath-like pool and nearby nightlife was just too great (plus we only had a really quick 36-hour stay!)
When it comes to nightlife, the Montrose guidebook will tell you to spend your dollars at its James Beard (US culinary award) nominated restaurants Hugos and Underbelly but we wanted our fun more erm, budget… So we hit the local cheap and cheerful bars and restaurants. These four were our favs…
Those chic bars I spoke about? This isn’t one of them. It’s got a dusty floor, picnic tables, a taco stand and beer comes in cans; but it’s friendly and fun. We got chatting to folks in the oil industry (it is Houston), played with a Great Dane called Walter, found a guy from South London and probably could have hit the pool table with the nearby bikers if we’d asked nicely.
The New kid on the block. It had only opened a week before we arrived, but it was packed. It’s Mexican inspired but the portion sizes mean you’re not groaning afterwards. And you get to eat ceviche with corn chips; what’s not to love? We’d been recommended to go for the margaritas and the Watermelon Fresca which blends tequila, aperol and watermelon juice, didn’t disappoint.
There comes a point in every US holiday where you want a vegetable and foods that aren’t fried – this is where you can find exactly that. We choose the pasta and soup combo – blended aubergine and red peppers in a cup has never tasted so good.
If you don’t understand the above vegetable comment Docs is where you go. With four branches in Texas (including two in Austin) it dishes up huge portions of US classics – the boneless wings were fantastic and the Pork Carnitis Power Bowl can convince you you’re eating healthily while satisfying all your Tex Mex cravings. If we’d had another day I would definitely have tried the Chicken Fried Avocado (fried avocado stuffed with chicken) which intrigues me even now. Is fried avocado a good enough reason to book another trip? I’m thinking so.
We stayed at: Airbnb’s Montrose Guest House with Pool and Hot Tub. You stay in the chic, modern pool house at the back of the property and get to use the pool and hot tub whenever you like. Host Kim is funny, friendly and if you’re lucky might ply you with margaritas. Prices start at £99 a night. There are also other Airbnbs and actual B&Bs in the area.
The Montrose Home Tour and Art Walk. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door
Amazing vintage clothing finds at Taxi Taxi
Main photo by Mike Rastiello