Intro to The Galleria and Uptown.
Do you enjoy the finer things in this world? Are you a chronic sufferer of FOMO? Is ‘extra AF’ your middle name? Well, you might as well move to Houston’s Galleria/Uptown area and start living your best life.
I know I kind of just summed it all up, but let’s get you a bit more acquainted to this part of Houston. To start, the name of the neighborhood comes from the fact that Texas’ largest shopping mall (and the number one tourist attraction in the city), The Galleria Houston, is the anchor of the area. And, the ‘Uptown’ part comes from another commercial/residential development a few blocks north on Post Oak Drive, Uptown Park.
You know that Bruno Mars song “Uptown Funk”? It was probably written about this ‘hood. Here, you’ll find some of the city’s most upscale hotels and restaurants, fancy office buildings housing HQ’s for multinational firms, and the largest population of oil and finance bros outside of downtown. If you’re looking to live it up and be in the center of the action, this is the spot.
Note: For ease, I’ll refer to this area as The Galleria through the rest of this guide. If I’m talking about the shopping mall at any point, I’ll say The Galleria Houston.
FUN FACT: Nearly 50% of residents in this area have attained a bachelors degree or higher. Many smarty pants.
Given that The Galleria is the center of Houston’s entertainment district, the majority of people living in the area are young professionals who work nearby or want to live in the middle of everything. There are some solid reasons to live in this area if you are big on being out and about, and meeting new people to Sunday Funday it up with.
On the other hand, this area also has a lot of old money surrounding it. So, if you drive like five minutes north, you’ll be in the prime territory of the ‘40+ w/ family crew.’ White picket fences and all. Well, really there are tall black, metal fences with massive amounts of topiaries and security cameras. This area is called Tanglewood and is home to some of the most expensive homes in all of Houston. #PrivacyPlease
Oh, and another large population in The Galleria: fine luxury automobiles. Like, Lambos, Ferraris, and McLarens are common sights. They are basically considered residents of the area.
As we always say, the fourth largest city in America has its share of situations. For this part of the town, I’d say the top things to look out for: Sketchy types. Parking lot drug deals. Panhandlers.
To be honest, sh*t goes down near The Galleria. It’s not funny, but it’s just so out in the open sometimes. But hey, maybe that’s the best way to hide it. Being in the entertainment hub, people from all walks of life and parts of the city find their way in. Whether out for a fancy night or to get into some trouble.
Not to be forgotten, there’s a good amount of police patrolling as well. But there’s just so much happening around that the cops can easily miss some mischievous individuals.
One interesting thing that I’d never seen before: massive amounts of motorcycles meeting up for group rides up and down busy Westheimer Road. When I say massive, I mean like 200-300 two-wheelers getting together at like 10pm to cause a huge amount of noise pollution and pull some crazy motorcycle tricks that definitely don’t belong on city streets. They’ll ride down towards Loop 610, make a turnaround and come back for another lap. Cops will start swarming the area within 10 minutes usually and omg that is a sight to be seen. These bikes split up and start speeding away to evade a ticket/arrest. Also, they’ve even been known to block traffic at the super busy intersections and do fireworks in the middle of the night. You definitely don’t want to be on the streets in the wee hours of the morning on the weekends.
So yeah, safety is a bit of a toss up, but errs on the side of mostly safe if you aren’t actively putting yourself in harm’s way.
When talking about being physically active in this area, let’s just start with this important nugget of knowledge: Westheimer is 8 lanes wide here. Four going west, four going east.
With that being said, you can imagine how heavily I would suggest not trying to go on a leisurely bike ride near The Galleria. Also, not the time or place to be walking around. These intersections are huge and the concrete sidewalks can really burn you up during the intense Houston summers. As you’ve learned by now, there are a ton of cars in and around The Galleria. And what does that tell us? Tons of smog. Don’t play yourself.
Want to go for a bike ride or walk/jog? Right across Loop 610, you’ll find Memorial Park which is home to the largest network of trails in Houston. It’s a 5-10 minute drive away, so just hop in your car and get there safely.
The Galleria/Uptown Area in Three Words: Poppin’, Party, Filet Mignon
Okay, maybe I meant four words. But really, that’s what this part of Houston is all about. F the budget and let’s live it up. There’s no bedtime here and you’ll find a party pretty much anytime of the day… or, night. In this neighborhood, bigger is definitely better. Huge, double-story, open air bars. Late night hookah lounges. Five liquor stores that span at least 50,000+ square feet each. And yes, they all have a huge champagne section. Which leads me to my next point.
Another thing this area is tops for? The most popular men’s clubs in Houston. You’ll often hear them mentioned in a wide array of hip-hop ballads. Treasures. Vivid. Onyx. Yep, Drake has mentioned them all. It’s a culture. Houston Rockets superstar James Harden has also been known to frequent these establishments, so if you’re looking to become a friend of The Beard, you have a pretty good chance of finding him in the champagne room. Yes, his jersey does hang from the rafters at one of these entertainment venues. Not kidding.
The restaurant scene here is definitely not the most authentic representation of Houston, but is meant to appeal to a wide variety of folks. AKA very OK steak, hyped seafood, and tons of chain eatery locations. This is also where the out of town money comes to see and be seen. Frequent business travelers, the top 1% of Mexico, and middle eastern royalty are proud to call this part of the city their second home.
Traffic. Traffic. Traffic. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. This is easily the busiest thoroughfare for automobile traffic in the city. Being so close to three major highways(I-10, 610, 59) can be a blessing and a curse. It’s like everyone in Houston has to visit the same Starbucks in the morning or something. I’ve personally experienced having to wait at a red light for 10 cycles a.k.a 30 minutes before I could make it through the intersection. That is an extreme example, but if the city happens to be doing any amount of construction in the area and closes even one lane, things can stack up quickly.
Like much of Houston, the only public transportation in The Galleria is via the city’s expansive bus system, the METRO. Being as busy as the area is, there are a ton of bus stops and if you choose to live nearby, the nearest stop will not be more than a 5-10 minute walk away. Also, sorry to burst your bubble, but the METRO Rail does not turn through this area.
In summary, buy a car. Take care of your car. Make sure the A/C works. Maybe consider an SUV, so that you can see over the sea of cars standing between you and your customary 5:55 p.m. pre-game tequila shot.
Oh, I almost forgot. PRO TIP: If you’re commuting between this part of town and Downtown Houston, Memorial Drive could end up being your best friend and even more reliable than them. I-59 is the route that Apple Maps may recommend, but Apple doesn’t know Houston like you do now. I-59 can easily be a mess and Memorial Dr. can consistently get you downtown in 20 minutes flat. Compare that to the easy 30-45 minutes I-59 will commit you to during rush hour.
Free Things To Do
One thing that is for sure in and around The Galleria: you gotta spend money in this part of town to have fun. Its all about tax revenue. But, let’s take a dive and say you forgot your wallet at home.
I will say if you are an avid fan of people watching, it doesn’t get much better than this area. Pro athletes, musicians, world-famous celebrities, as well as people trying to become famous can easily be spotted on a normal day. It’s like the Sunset Strip of Houston. For example, Kim and Kanye went ice skating at the indoor skating rink during the holidays at The Galleria Houston. The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown is easily the favorite spot to stay and play for musical artists and international actors. If you want to sit back, relax, and enjoy some eye candy, you can easily post up on a bench with your mug of coffee and take it all in.
- Memorial Park
The favorite park of Houston’s walking/running community, Memorial Park easily makes this list with it’s footprint of 1,500 acres. Yes, it’s almost double the size of NYC’s Central Park. Let that sink in. The most prime property in the city has been left to the people of Houston to enjoy and benefit from. That’s pretty awesome. With several projects underway, including the recent completion of the the Memorial Park Golf Course (home to the PGA Tour’s Houston Open), the ambitious Land Bridge, and Eastern Glades, this green space is a gift to anyone who enjoys getting out and getting some much need fresh air.
- The Water Wall
In the shadow of Williams Tower, you’ll find the magnificent Waterfall located in Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park. Yes, the park may be less than three acres, but what sets it up to be a true Houston gem is the 64 foot tall Waterwall, which is a curved structure that serves as the city’s closest interpretation of Niagara Falls. This attraction is a top spot for Instagram posts and wedding photoshoots, and I don’t blame them. It’s been featured as a backdrop in Bollywood movies and local rappers love to use it as their set, too. It’s famous. Ready for another fun fact? The Waterwall was built to the same height in feet that the adjacent Williams Tower has floors – 64.
- Grady park
Okay, now we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. Grady Park is located just down the block from your local Whole Foods and it’s pretty small… not tiny. But, small. There’s a playground for kids and one tennis court. That’s all I got. It’s the Galleria, dude. Go spend some money.
In the sections above, I did mention a few things that sum up the restaurants in this part of Houston, but we’ll dive a little deeper now.
First, a refresher: A lot of upper-scale chain restaurants and classic old Houston spots. Places you want to be seen dining at. And, if you’re reading this just to make sure there is a Nobu… yes, there is a Nobu.
Argentina cafe — $
Let’s start with one of the few reasonably priced restaurants in the area and easily the finest purveyor of empanadas inside the Loop. Okay, it’s barely just outside the Loop but it counts! Argentina Cafe is located just outside of the Nordstrom Garage, and man, this is the spot. Authentic Argentinian dishes perfect for lunch or dinner. Sweet and savory empanadas, cheesy fugazetta (Argentinian pizza), fresh tropical salads, and a variety of Italian-influenced main dishes and pastas. Oh, and solid sandwiches/lomitas if you’re in a rush. The interior of the restaurant is quite homey – nothing fancy, but nice enough to meet up with an old friend and just enjoy some good South American food.
Barbar — $
As I mentioned, quality budget dining is a rarity near The Galleria. So, I would definitely recommend driving seven minutes west to visit one of my favorite mediterranean restaurants in the whole city. Barbar specializes in grilled meats and typical middle eastern sides like fluffy flatbread, hummus, and heart healthy salads. Being that west Galleria is a hotbed for Medi restaurants, this one definitely takes the cake with it’s butter and garlic-basted grilled chicken. You have to try this addictive piece of poultry. Life changing. The atmosphere of the eatery is nothing to write home about, but once you bite into their tender, juicy grilled menu items, you won’t even be looking up from your plate. Problem solved.
Kenny and ziggys — $$
Looking to lean in to some classic jewish deli fare? Lucky for you, Kenny and Ziggy’s is the most popular one in town and in your future neighborhood! With a huge deli section full of meats, cheeses, prepared seafood, and drool-worthy desserts, you’re set for a takeout feast. Dine in and take advantage of the large, comfortable booths and nosh on their variety of smoked salmon and lox, or cure that hangover… er, cold with a steaming bowl of matzoh ball soup. It’s like your jewish godmother knew exactly what you needed close to your apartment and made it happen. Comfort food for sure.
Peli Peli — $$
Being such an international city, Houston has embraced Peli Peli for it’s iteration of South African cuisine. Located inside The Galleria Houston, this restaurant features dining room ceiling lit with LED lights which light up to make it feel like you are sitting beneath the stars or have a front seat to the most beautiful sunset ever. Their most popular dish is the Espetada – chunks of bbq’d chicken hanging from a hovering vertical skewer and a hunk of garlic butter dripping from the top of the arrangement, over the meat, and onto your plate. Yes, I am hungry just describing it. With a selection of authentic African-style seafood, steaks, and sides, you’ll feel like you just landed in the motherland. With dishes topping out at $35, this is a great spot for a Friday night or a special occasion.
Pappas Bros – $$$
Even though Pappas Bros Steakhouse is a Texas-wide chain, it’s based out of Houston and does it better than most in the city. Consistently winning the top awards for it’s wine list, this location has been around for 20+ years and slings out the finest cuts of meat and delectable seafood. You know how they always say not to order fish at a steakhouse? Ignore that advice when you step through the doors of this establishment. The service is on-point, the food is served piping hot, and each dining experience is surely to be a fine memory. It’s like the quintessential Houston meal. Meat, smiling faces, and a sizable tab at the end of your night. Enjoy.
Cafe Annie — $$$
If you’re looking for a taste of old Houston, look no further than Cafe Annie. This bistro is Houston’s backdrop for big business deals, all-blonde baby showers, and mostly passable entrees. The city’s elite have turned this restaurant into their Texas version of Gossip Girl. This is where you come to chill back, spend big bucks on very okay food, and smile throughout it all. Recently taken over by the veteran New York restaurateur, Cafe Annie is sure to step it’s game up and keep the next generation of trust fund babies coming back for seconds. Ah yes, this is also the mainstay lunch spot for residents of nearby River Oaks – we’ll talk more about them in another guide. 😉
Nightlife in The Galleria area is usually one of two extremes: raucous, large club-like scenes or your nearest hotel lobby bar dotted with ladies of the night.
The West End
With space for 400+ people, you can imagine how The West End can get on a Friday night. With a huge patio, set just off of Westheimer Road, 50+ beers on tap, and a basic selection of bar bites + dishes, this place is where you stop when you just can’t stand being in traffic for another second. On the weekdays, this place is overrun by the local office building employees looking to let traffic die down and on the weekends the party doesn’t even really get started until 9 p.m. with a live DJ and bottle service. When you add in backyard games on the patio and more than enough room to entertain even your largest family gathering, The West End will always hit the spot as long as your expectations are reasonable.
You know when you hear that story from the night before when your best friend went out to a new spot, was having a great time, and then ended up vomiting in the parking lot as they were leaving? Yeah, they were probably at Prospect Park. This place gets WILD. Like, for real. When you mix a huge selection of beers, three bars, tons of fried foods, 40+ TVs and an on-site hookah bar, you know you’re going to have a great time. You may end up paying for it the next morning, but it’ll always be a memory. This place has become so popular that they have had to rent out the four nearest parking lots just to accommodate patrons in the evenings. Oh, and their chicken wings are famous throughout the city.
Looking to line dance and connect with your inner Texan? The Rustic is where we’ll probably find you. Located in popular Uptown Park and hosting live country music six nights a week in it’s 40,000 square foot location, this is the place where Ford F-350 drivers come to party. Their regional music acts are actually pretty solid and the huge parking lot helps when things get real crowded on the weekends. Food is available, with offerings such as beer can chicken, chicken strips, and other backroad specials. Just don’t expect it to blow your mind. It’s meant to soak up the alcohol. Happy hours consists of a creative progressive special, ie. $3 beers at 3 p.m., $4 beers at 4 p.m., etc.
Taco Street – The Galleria/Uptown
Near the Galleria area, to get decent tacos you’ll have to drive a drive a couple of miles west. In traffic that can be a lot to ask for. Nonetheless, we are Taco Street and we will find tacos on your street!
The Best: Tacos El Gato
Yes, it translates to the cat tacos. But if you don’t stop by at least once, you are not a cool cat. This is the ideal taco truck you pull up to at 10 p.m. and satisfy that craving for a plate of five juicy al pastor tacos on fresh corn tortillas. Exactly what you wanted and served hot. Does it get much better than that? Nope. If you’re looking to get a little adventurous, try their Machete – a larger corn tortilla stuffed with your choice of protein, pickled onions and a healthy glob of cheddar cheese. When that melts together and hits your taste buds, it’s lights out. Goodnight. Don’t worry about parking as there is an attendant that will tell you where to park so that the lot doesn’t become inaccessible to the many fans of this truck.
Fancy: Blanco Tacos and Tequila
Looking for a fancier experience? Blanco Tacos and Tequila is up your alley. Connected to The Galleria Houston, this Arizona transplant hosts a large patio area, typical tex-mex apps like warm queso and tortilla soup, and is more of a bar vibe than a restaurant. If I were to have named the restaurant, tequila would have definitely come before the tacos, as the party atmosphere definitely gets more attention than the average food offerings. I mean, the place is pretty at least.
If you have a taco spot in your neighborhood that’s open from 8 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week, I’d say you’re in a good place. Though, Ruchi’s barely makes the cut. With tacos that probably wouldn’t beat Taco Cabana in a blind taste test, their winning ingredient is that they are open late. Though, their sizable margarita selection may be reason enough to give them a try. Hungry, thirsty, and got off work late? See ya there, dude.
A Day in the Life
When it comes to daily life, The Galleria are has the basics. You have a Whole Foods, a Randall’s, and a Target near Uptown Park, which is close to the more posh high-rises. Farmer’s Markets are not really popular around here, as the neighborhood diet mainly consists of New York strips and shrimp scampi. No farmers in The Galleria Houston.
Tons of dry cleaners, but not as many laundromats. This area values time > money. There are several convenience stores and gas stations which are scattered throughout the area, but be ready to pay a premium price given the sheer amount of demand in this part of Houston.
Will you need to leave the neighborhood at least once a week to get a taste of what real Houston is? Yes. The Galleria can be overwhelming for some, and you should be prepared to go further inside the loop for more specialty shopping trips and a less judge-y crowd.
You will most likely encounter a wrong way driver every once in a while. Not because it’s late at night and they’re drunk. This will happen in broad daylight, as this area is where most international visitors stay and I guess they forget which country they are driving in. Ah, the perils of renting a car in a foreign country.
The Verdict on The Galleria
In the center of the activity
Close to the major highways
Roads are in great condition
Tons of fine dining options
Close to Memorial Park
Can be noisy into the night hours
Panhandlers/Shady characters abound
Cost-effective dining options are limited
No museums, arts, culture
When you choose to live in the Galleria/Uptown area, you do it because you don’t want to miss out on this party that we call life. You want to be invited to all the big bashes and be seen. You definitely don’t choose it because of it’s food scene, ease of getting around, or value.
This area is not everyone’s cup of tea. You could easily be someone that comes into the area once a week to get your dose of the high life and quickly scurry back to your safe place. Have you noticed how many times I’ve mentioned traffic in this article? Take it as a tip. It shouldn’t completely ward you off if you value making connections with some of the most well-connected in Houston.
For physical activity, remember what I said about trying to walk or bicycle in this area – don’t do it. You’ll want to ensure your apartment has a solid gym or look into some home equipment to help you burn off that alcohol belly.
For those of who are really into being around other people a majority of the time, there’s not a better neighborhood you could pick in Houston. If the traffic is turning you off, Washington Corridor has a great number of bars/nightlife/live music venues with way less automobiles roaming about. If you want a little quieter lifestyle, check out Montrose or The Heights. If you want to be closer to the pro sports venues, take a peek at downtown
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