The Taco Street Neighborhood Guide to Downtown Houston

The streets of Downtown Houston symbolize the most singular experience for any Houstonian. While the rest of the city is a pastiche of different influences the downtown area Is the most modern, magical neighborhood the city has to offer.  

Its namesake comes from the first, and to my understanding only, president of Texas: Sam Houston. You might think the city was created as a vain monument by the narcissistic president, but no. It was a simple display of brownnosing. A set of needy siblings known as the Allen Brothers sought to appease power by naming the plot of land they purchased between Buffalo Bayou and the scenic White Oak Bayou after him. Nowadays, we call this area Allen’s Landing and It’s kind of a relic going through a much-needed facelift at the moment, but if you like to soak in history it’s not a bad place to bike through on a warm afternoon. 

Getting Around

Downtown Houston is easily the busiest and fullest part of the entire Greater Houston area. The local Houston government has made improvements to urban mobility and increased access to integrated transit systems. If you’re hoping to live downtown, you can expect the public transit system to be one of your preferred methods of transportation. Naturally, a large, densely populated area like this is going to be geared more toward a public transit system, and with Downtown Houston, you get 100 options!  

The city is big on sustainability, which is one of my favorite parts of venturing downtown. There’s an admirable commitment to decreasing the city’s carbon footprint. Public transportation is easily accessible including free metro rides via the Greenlink which will take you from Avenida Plaza to Jefferson St. and everywhere in between. There’s even a neat bike share program for those who want to put the pedal to the metal to explore the area in a very hands-on way.

If you prefer to walk, below the downtown boulevard is an interconnected Tunnel System. Probably my favorite hidden spot in the city decorated with shops and cute little eateries. It has a very modern aesthetic and feels like something you’d see in an Avenger’s movie about futuristic tech. It’s about six miles in length and is a nice way to move across the downtown area. 

Houston has a real driving culture, though, so even though the Downtown area isn’t particularly large and public transportation is available most people still drive. On the bright side, that means there’s never a wait for a METROrail or other forms of public transit if you choose to take advantage of them. 

Cost of Rent in Downtown Houston

The Downtown area is among Houston’s most expensive, Between the high rises and condos, it’s pretty typical. What city’s heart isn’t the most expensive? Outside of the most exclusive neighborhoods, it is hard to come by an excessively expensive neighborhood here. Houston’s just a generally affordable city especially when you compare it to the exploding costs in Austin or other metro areas outside of Texas. 

  • Studios: $1300+
  • 1 Bedrooms: $1500+
  • 2 Bedrooms: $2100+
  • 3 Bedrooms: $2500+

Downtown Houston Lifestyle

To be frank, the culture here rewards youth: being physically active, outgoing and interested in the hustle-and-bustle of the downtown vibe is a necessity to traverse these concrete streets with any amount of confidence and pleasure. Head down to the Central Business District where the Astros and Rockets call home and enjoy the iconic Theatre District where the Houston Ballet, Grand Opera and Society for the Performing Arts bring the beauty of high art to us lowly denizens. 

Other cool stuff!

  • Niko Niko’s – Historic District’s tastiest treat is this quaint little Greek eatery where the Gyro plates are the best Mediterranean food you’ll find in town. For dessert, the Athenian Mud Pie is sure to induce a sugar rush and my guiltiest pleasure.  
  • Discovery Green – Our newest community space that I discovered during the Pokémon GO craze of summer 2016 as hundreds of nerds would fill this area from the wee hours of the morning to the late nights trying to find a stray Pikachu. Dorky, I know, but I fell in love with the space – especially after all the Pokémon hunters retired. It’s Houston’s answer to New York’s Central Park. It’s a completely green space that you can get lost in for hours with sequestered picnic spaces and entertainment venues funded by a committee of philanthropists. If you don’t do anything else, you have to go to Discovery Green at least four times to soak it all in.  

  • Downtown Houston has a park on damn near every corner, so if Discovery Green isn’t your cup of tea we have Buffalo Bayou Park, which makes Discovery Green look like a coffee shop as a 160-acre behemoth, and right next to that is Sesquicentennial Park for when I’m feeling particularly aesthete and artsy like the yuppies who fill the space taking in the grand art installations its most known for. 

  • Greenstreet – a multipurpose entertainment complex that urbanites flock to on the weekends. Complete with dining options, bars, hospitality services, and shopping centers, Greenstreet is a one-stop-shop for weekend excursions as it houses the iconic House of Blues just past the skybridge. 

  • 40 Below – A lounge located just forty steps below the Revention Music Center. Reservations are required just to gain entrance to the main hall; it’s more than a tad bit exclusive here. If you have the money, I hear it’s lovely. Celebrities and the important suits make up the elite clientele.  

  • Saint Arnold’s craft beer brewery – This is for the beer sommeliers. It has a very odd aesthetic mixing religious motifs and classical architecture with cheesy beer references that can confuse first-time visitors. I’m not a beer person, so I can’t speak on the quality of the alcohol served as it all tastes the same to me, but the experience is unique, to say the least.  

There’s never a dull moment when you relocate straight into the belly of the beast! Whether it’s the lively nightlife, innovative green initiatives or authentic ethnic restaurants, the throes of Downtown 

Overall Pros and Cons

Pros 

  • Yum Yums! – The food is to die for! It’s one of the many advantages of living in the most diverse city in the nation. There’s something for every foodie downtown. I recommend Treebeards, a Cajun joint ironically located off Louisiana Street. It perfectly symbolizes our unique brand of Southern Comfort (get the seafood gumbo or jambalaya and ALWAYS make it a large). 
  • Perfect Location – The downtown area is a perfect midway point both between the popular city neighborhoods and the major suburbs that make up the exterior of the Greater Houston area. Downtown Houston is prime real estate. 
  • Jobs Everywhere – It’s not hard to get a job downtown where a lot of headquarters, nonprofits and other businesses are concentrated. Someone’s always hiring and as long as you have the credentials you can make a good, easy living. 

Cons

  • Homelessness – Downtown Houston is like The Purge. The sheer omnipresence of the homeless concentrated there coupled with their aggressive disposition is off-putting. It has gotten better, but it can be scary, especially late nights and early mornings. 
  • Traffic – The Downtown streets get congested quickly. Whether you’re using a form of public transit or driving your car, waiting in traffic is practically a Houston tradition. A nice podcast or an even nicer book will help pass the time by!
  • It’s Hot as Hell! – While the food may be the die for, the heat may actually kill you. No matter where you go in Houston, the humidity is thick and opaque attracting the worst mosquitoes in the region. Keep a spare pair of rain boots for flood season, too. 

Conclusion

If you’re social and can afford it, I say move Downtown. You’re at the epicenter of everything and it is never a bore. If you can’t find something to do on a Friday night, then you’re simply not looking hard enough. You’ll never get bored and you’ll never see beauty like that anywhere else in Houston. I’m a bit partial to art deco architecture, so simply having the chance to wade through the beauty of the iconic Reserve 101 Bar and other architectural wonders of the early 20th century is worth the price of admission. Downtown Houston is a spectacle in modernity that has spent decades establishing itself as a hot spot for work-life and recreation while re-imagining its role as a residential enclave has only increased its placement in the ledger of Houston’s best neighborhoods.


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