Houston’s Best Neighborhoods
Ranking the best inner loop neighborhoods
Everyone knows that the ‘burbs are safer, quieter, cheaper. Is that what’s keeping us in the city? Quite possibly. City dwellers can’t seem to swallow that spoonful of sugar that master-planned suburbs sell. You might risk a car theft, but you get the diversity and culture and close proximity to the action that so many Houstonians refuse to give up.
Inside the Loopers rejoice in their urban surroundings. The population of Houston proper grew 16.5 percent from 1990 to 2000 according to the U.S. census. Even though some Houston suburbs boast a population growth of more than 100 percent, ITL lovers know that those statistics are somewhat dubious since the population was initially so small.
Being close to downtown, jobs, festivals, museums, music and nightlife not only keep commute times down, but can also make popping by a bar or symphony event an everyday occurrence. ITL’ers don’t have to plan out a night of fun, it’s happening three steps from their front porch.
Park and ride anyone? Houston’s infamous traffic is a slight that Houston proper residents bewail; but when point A and point B are only seven miles apart, ITL’ers simply wiggle their toes in the sands of congestion. Houston’s city slickers can hail a cab and saddle up with as little fuss as possible and with so few miles on their SUVs that Woodlandites might find it criminal.
True, our school system may not be the best in the country, our crime rates can’t be described as utopian, our price per square foot/yard size ratio might smell a bit off and our no-zoning laws can make us appear a bit unusual; but living la vida loca is all a part of the adventure, right? We all know that Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States, but realizing that with commerce and opportunity and culture come truckloads and truckloads of people, resulting in cars and crime and confusion, takes some minds a little longer to grasp. Plus, any relocated Houstonian can attest to the fact that Space City’s cost of living doesn’t even get off the ground in comparison to that of other major cities.
H Texas rated these neighborhoods according to price per square foot of property, dining and nightlife, crime rates and proximity to hospitals. What they lack in one department, they make up in another. Strangely enough, these little communities ran a close race all the way to the finish line – three neighborhoods even tied.
1) West University
Neighbor to the Texas Medical Center and Rice University, this niche is home to ladies who lunch. With Rice Village cozying up to its eastern border and downtown only minutes away, yuppies thrive here. Characterized by homes and yards with happy, smiling families that bring to mind the 1950s, West U is the perfect place to hang your hat if you are a young, corporate, philanthropically minded couple with 2.4 children. This area really is beautiful, though; it surely does seem to be the jolliest little space in Houston.
Fab Find: Colonial Park Relax by the pool, catch up on friendly hearsay around the playground or work your muscles in the weight room; however you choose to enjoy this gem, you’ll agree that scenic Colonial Park is the perfect spot for this pristine neighborhood. 4130 Byron
Long-renowned as home to Houston’s gay community, this area is known for it’s eclectic personality and bohemian spirit. Minutes from both downtown and the Galleria, the location is definitely central while lacking highway traffic. Apartments, condos and houses splash the streets, as well as hip resale boutiques and cozy cafés. Nonconformists relish in this unique neighborhood, but beware of a somewhat high incidence of crime.
Fab Find: Rothko Chapel Relax and rejuvenate at this all-faith sanctuary that boasts a reflection pool and various artworks by the artist for whom it is named. The perfect place to meditate on life, this refuge is catty-corner to the Menil Collection. 1409 Sul Ross, (713) 524-9839
With Minute Maid Park, Toyota Arena and the central business district, downtown is the place to be. Despite construction, this is where people work and play. Although finding a home with a yard is practically impossible here, downtown does sport some of the chicest apartments and lofts. With the wayward economy and recent business upsets, many of these dwellings can be acquired at a bargain. Catch a night of opera or pop by the M Bar on Main; whatever you choose to do, it really is just down the street.
Hot Spot: Char Bar Dukes of Hollywood Tailors has been open since 1936, but recently, after hours have become a little saucier. Tailors by day, martini makers by night, the Shapiro family stays true to Houston’s ingenuity with this swanky lounge. 305 Travis, (713) 222-8177
4) River Oaks
It houses some of the oldest money that Houston has to offer. A drive through this winding neighborhood informs guests of wealth and exclusivity. Beautifully built fences make good neighbors in River Oaks, and they keep out gawkers and burglars alike. Among the neighborhoods rated, this area has the lowest occurrence of crime, yet the costliest price per square foot. Sprawl in the middle of the city? Yep. Some buyers even purchase a perfectly acceptable home by any stretch of the meaning, tear it down and build another – just for the lot.
Hot Spot: River Oaks Country Club True to its surroundings, the ROCC is stuffed with class, gentility and big bucks. A staple to the River Oaks crowd, it’s great for a tea, gala or gossip over cocktails. 1600 River Oaks Blvd., (713) 529-4321
4) The Heights
In what was once an incorporated community, the Heights has preserved the down-home kind of feel. With the Heights Boulevard esplanade spotted with joggers and dog walkers and the whole area littered with antique stores and unique gifts, Heights dwellers live a pleasantly charming life an arm’s reach from downtown. Neighbors wave as they pass on the street and know each other by name. The historic nature of the community is constantly evolving as renovations and new constructions exist side-by-side, resulting in Victorians sandwiched between modest four-plexes and new townhomes. With the lowest price per square foot of the neighborhoods rated, the Heights boasts some pretty unique homesteads at budget prices.
Fab Find: Aunt Mike’s in the Heights The sweetest gift store in town, Aunt Mike will help you find the perfect token. Housing Houston artisans and one-of-a-kind wares, you will be surprised by the selection and quality found in every corner of this boutique. Check in often for a schedule of upcoming events. 3320 White Oak, (713) 702-0390
Could there be any more corporate condos here? Maybe not, but those moving to Houston and working downtown flock to the apartments located just south of downtown. This area caters to SINKs and DINKs like no other; down a pint at Front Porch Pub or brunch at Farrago’s for a sense of the place. Near Little Vietnam, eateries such as Van Loc and Mai’s are regular favorites. The Metro trolley system, putting downtown amenities and businesses a short (and free) ride away, is a major draw to living in this area.
Hot Spot: Red Star This Russian-themed bar is full of twists. Take a shot off of the ice bar, lounge in a plush chaise or bask in the view of downtown on the fabulous deck. 2606 Fannin, (713) 655-STAR
Locks of Giving
by Phaedra Friend
Returning from summer break during college, I found my friend lacking her long spiral locks. With a new, hip cut, she told me about the charity to which she donated her hair. Locks of Love is a unique not-for-profit organization that provides hair pieces for financially disadvantaged youth who suffer long-term medical conditions which result in hair loss.
I was ultimately impressed by my friend’s sacrifice and remembered it as I got ready to cut my own hair. I knew that I wanted a shorter style and to donate to Locks of Love – I just had a little research and a ton of growing to do before my big day. Locks of Love requires at least 10 inches of hair for donation, but prefers 12, which can take a while to cultivate. Collecting my hair into a ponytail and measuring it every couple of weeks, I felt like I was a child again, getting my height measured.
Locks of Love was founded in 1997, and the benefits have been immeasurable. Providing self-esteem to children, custom wigs are handmade entirely of donated human hair. Whether the recipients are children who are survivors of cancer or alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition with no known cure, the new wigs help to ease the trials of living without hair. While Locks of Love takes financial donations, this charity is distinct as more than 80 percent of the hair donations come from children.
Although I knew I was in for a big change aesthetically, I also knew I was making a change for the better. I couldn’t imagine trying to muster through junior high again, especially without hair. I chose a fantastic salon with a knowledgeable staff to create the perfect and painless transformation. I am thrilled with my wispy coiffeur, and I know that I made a difference in someone’s life.
If you are interested in helping, please visit www.locksoflove.org or call (888) 896-1588.
Garnering a lot of attention in Montrose, the new Cabo has opened with whirling-dervish-like excitement. As our staff scoured for a location for the fall fashion photo shoot, we thought we’d found it here in Montrose. That is, until we scoped out Cabo’s flagship location in Uptown. The striking sign portraying a dancing marlin and the bright yellow building set the stage for a stylish interior that is quite the posh upgrade from the typical settings on Richmond Avenue.
The ambiance at this location makes it obvious why the Montrose location has become immediately popular: The folks at Cabo know how to have a good time. Their attention to detail indulges your senses, creating a top-notch destination. For years, Cabo has been turning heads with its flawless delivery of fish tacos and margaritas while providing visitors with a cornucopia of tropical favorites with a décor that provides a harbor from dreary days. The chrome-plated, six-pointed stars that adorn the outside of the building act as stars above, guiding hungry patrons to a distinct destination.
The striking steel bar invites diners in for a respite from the hustle and bustle of Uptown. This ornamental bar continues to flow through the room like a winding river, dividing the main dining area into two impressive settings. As you look down at the bar, the colorful tiles show that no expense was spared to bring visitors the ultimate upscale tropical experience. Providing a dramatic centerpiece to the open dining area are three metallic palm trees that stand well over eight feet tall. Designed by local artist Herman Casey of Stone, Wood and Steel, they give this location a unique and distinctive flair. What a perfect setting to enjoy a margarita and salad under the metallic shade. Dancing along the wall and creating a dramatic backdrop are colorful marlins in shadowboxes.
Just set off from the main bar, the cigar room provides an intimate location for those who appreciate a good cigar, enjoy a creative atmosphere and want to have a good time. Owner Michael Roberson is an avid cigar smoker, and here at the Uptown location, he created a cigar lover’s paradise. The artwork tips a hat to the Cuban influence on the room. Those in the know will recognize the words “robusto” and “rothchild” that are painted on the window – these are, of course, cigar lengths. As one would expect, the finest Dominican and Honduran cigars are available for purchase here. For those non-smokers simply enjoying the company of cigar afficionados, the room is complete with its own dedicated ventilation system. This room also allows you to become your own disc jockey on individual stereo systems.
The attitude here at Cabo is friendly and inviting. From flip-flops to business suits, patrons can come in and feel right at home. Thursday nights have taken on a life of their own as the Thursday Network Happy Hour greets the after-work crowd. From 4-7 p.m. each Thursday, a full happy hour buffet features popular items from both the dinner and banquet menus. Snag seats ahead of time for your party by calling (713) 780-2744.
The value-oriented menu at Cabo Uptown includes a lot of great lunch items such as salads, sandwiches, fish tacos and more. Some of the best fajitas in town are available for only $12.99 – now that’s a steal. Don’t be afraid to fly here solo – the counter service is quick and friendly, and there are plenty of televisions to watch. Whether your event is for six or 600, Cabo Uptown has a banquet facility for you. Cabo is the perfect location for receptions, meetings, rehearsal dinners, happy hours and fashion shoots; take your pick.
Cabo Uptown Flagship Location 6025 Richmond Ave. (713) 780-CABO
Cabo Downtown 419 Travis (713) 225-2060
Cabo Montrose 1111 Westheimer Banquets (713) 780-2744