Intro to The Heights
For all that Houston is, it’s tough to find a part of town (inside the 610 loop) that truly feels like a ‘classic’ neighborhood. You know, somewhere where you know all the neighbors on your street, can walk around on uncracked sidewalks, and the true mark of any American neighborhood – white picket fences. Well, if this sounds like your happy place, welcome to The Heights.
Located just northwest of Downtown Houston, The Heights is a well-balanced mix of family-friendly, brunchy, and boozy. Just like your cool divorcee aunt Lindsey. But really, this is one of the few areas of town that take you out of the fourth largest city in the nation and make you feel like you’re in a small town where everyone knows your name.
Narrow streets, neighborhood restaurants tucked away from major intersections, foliage galore and mailmen ditching the gas-powered package movers and actually walking through the neighborhoods to deliver your much anticipated Reader’s Digest. Yes, it sounds like a place out of Andy Griffith, but it exists… it really exists. Right here in H-town, baby.
For much of history post-World War I The Heights was a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood that was falling into disrepair. By early 1970, it came to be known as one of Houston’s most low income areas. Today, it’s basically the opposite.
If gentrification has hit any part of the city hardest, it’s definitely The Heights. Higher income professionals started moving in around the 1990’s and bought up many of the historic homes in the area, of which there are like 100 in the National Register of Historic Places, you nerds.
Age and lifestyle-wise, this area is pretty diverse: young professional couples, small families, a solid LGBTQ+ community, and a few retirees mixed in for good measure and to keep your darn kids off their lawns.
I will say this: there has never been a moment where I’ve felt in danger in The Heights, south of Loop 610. Legit, I want to say it’s in my top 5 safest neighborhoods.
For all the times I’ve hung out in or driven through the area, I’ve never encountered a homeless person or panhandler. When you can say that about a neighborhood in Houston, you know the housing prices are going to be a touch higher than average. But we’ll get to that 😉
This does not mean that it has a 0% crime rate. There are definitely instances of vehicle break-ins in the middle of the night, especially when you’re street parking. But, it leaps and bounds better than the rest of the city when it comes to feeling safe while you’re walking around at night.
Another thing The Heights is tops for will appeal to our physically inclined friends. The walkability and bikeability are relatively unmatched.
In addition to the many side streets with little to no traffic, well-maintained sidewalks and greenspaces, The Heights Hike and Bike Trail is a horizontal path that runs across the neighborhood and provides paved access for those trying to burn off that alcohol belly they accumulated over the weekend.
Trying to jog your way to work downtown? The Heights is also home to the White Oak Bayou Greenway, which is a scenic 3 miles of badass views of Houston’s iconic skyline and slightly brown water, but that’s not horrible. Definitely something to look forward to in the morning and a great amenity to enjoy.
The Heights in Three Words: Small Town Feel, Quality of Life, Karen
As I mentioned above, you really get a close-knit community feel in The Heights. With the classic architecture, farmer’s markets, well-attended HOA meetings, locally owned shops and neighborhood bars, this is definitely somewhere to move if you’re looking to live next door to your future best friends. But remember, people can be all up in your business, too.
I feel like The Heights provides a pretty balanced approach to quality of life. With a solid selection of dining options, ways to stay active, and social activities galore, whare more could you want? There are quiet areas of the area, as well as more ‘hopping’ parts. Take your pick!
Commuting around and through The Heights is painless for the most part. Outside of the many stop signs and signal lights, it’s pretty easy breezy.
If you’ve been browsing parts of Houston to call home for a while, you know by now that road quality can vary greatly between two neighboring areas. As it relates to The Heights, I’ll rate this section as OK. There are cracks and tears in the asphalt, but not major potholes every few yards like in parts of Montrose. Though, some of the side streets can be kind of narrow and sloping – you’ll definitely need to stay aware.
If you’ve been dying to live in close proximity of a METRO Rail stop, I’m sorry, dude. The Heights does not have access to Houston’s limited light rail system. Womp Womp. Though, there are a healthy amount of bus stops, so you can stop polluting the oil and gas capital of the world with your V8 hemi.
As for access to major highways, you’ll be super close to I-10, I-45 and Loop 610. I’d venture to say that The Heights is probably one of the more convenient locations to live in if you are traveling east to Downtown, north to the Spring/Woodlands area, or south on I-45 to the Texas Medical Center.
Free Things To Do
The Heights is a solid place to live for people that love the great outdoors, while being in the city. As I said above, The Heights Hike and Bike Trail and the White Oak Bayou Trail are awesome to have close by and offer a real respite from hectic daily life. The Hike and Bike Trail runs through the residential parts of the area, whereas the Bayou Trail takes you along a concrete winding path all the way to Downtown Houston. Both are great for walking, jogging, and biking, but I personally like the Bayou Trail more because it is less trafficked and for the sweeping views.
Much of The Heights social scene is centered around 18th street – the more heavily commercial part of the neighborhood. Here you’ll find five blocks to stroll and window shop locally-owned retailers. Also, 18th street is a great place to post up for some primetime people watching action.
One of The Heights’ real strengths is it dining scene. An eclectic mix of new and old, chill and fancy, trendy and more down-to-earth. The one thing you won’t find a lot of: fast food. Local restaurateurs have mostly pushed them out of the area, so you won’t have to worry about that 2,000 calorie temptation at midnight. Either way, here’s a selection of my fav restaurants in The Heights.
With the hand roll craze coming to a head, one of my favorite little spots to catch a bite in the neighborhood is the OG Heights hand roll king, Hando. The restaurant has no tables, but has a three-sided bar with about 20 seats. It’s a great spot to go on a chill date night and see your order being prepared right in front of you. Their menu is pretty simple, with like seven hand roll options (love the blue crab), and a few appetizers to choose from. Though, they have a pretty solid spirit and sake collection – my favorite being the one I can’t pronounce but comes in a juice box. It’s like I went back to 2nd grade and got tipsy over sushi. Always a winning combo.
So, I’m kind of a tex-mex snob. I take that back. I am a bonafide tex-mex snob. Coming from someone who lived in San Antonio for 15 years, Houston’s good tex-mex options inside the loop are pretty minimal. I literally like two places and have tried like 20. Yes, my research is your wisdom. You’re welcome for recommending Superica. The decor of this place is super chill, more reminiscent of New Mexico than border-area Texas, and the quality of the food is what wins me over. Their green chile enchiladas definitely don’t make me feel like I’m in The Heights, which is known for smoothies and macarons. They have a pretty decent sized patio too, so there’s another plus for sunday funday.
Field and Tides $$
This Gulf Coast inspired southern/seafood restaurant has become a neighborhood favorite. Located inside of a converted shotgun-style house, you really feel like you’re dining at your friend’s mom’s home. The intimate atmosphere, concise menu, and passable wine list are the bee’s knee’s for a night out with friends. Oh, you want my personal recommendations? Okay, since we’re friends now… start with the hush puppies (duh) and the creative pimento cheese fritters. Then, Order a Basic B (Tito’s, raspberry, lemon, soda). Next, treat yourself with a full order of the scallops for the entree and do the K.O. with Momm’s Banana Pudding. Now, that is a night out, my friends.
Being one of Houston’s most popular Italian joints (if not the most popular) Coltivare holds the important responsibility of providing a consistent experience, comfortable environment, and welcoming service. And yes, it hits the spot in all three categories every time. If you’re visiting for dinner, be ready to wait at least 15-20 minutes most nights, and up to an hour on the weekends. They don’t take reservations, so if you get hangry, get there right when they open. I will say, I hate waiting for a table at most restaurants, but that goes out the window at Coltivare. Just to the right of the main entrance, you’ll be guided to an enclosed garden area, with some smaller tables for waiting. It’s wonderful because they have a dedicated staff that can serve you drinks while you wait, and the garden is where many of the vegetables and herbs for the restaurant are grown. You’ll literally see cooks come outside to collect some basil, if they’re running low in the kitchen. So rustic, baby.
Overheard at Ritual: “Ay gurl, you like meat?”
Lol, but really. Ritual is the local outpost for the most unabashed carnivores in The Heights. From the moment you walk in, the washed brick walls and real hardwood floors warm you right up. Then, once you dig into their signature Pig Mac appetizer (pasta, pulled pork, peppers, cheese) you’re sent straight to the deep end of the pork oarty. As one of the more pricey restaurants in the neighborhood, you’ll easily drop $150+ on a splurge-worthy date night for two (with drinks.) But, you’ll go home feeling like Fred Flintstone. Isn’t it worth it? All of their steaks are right around the $50 mark. Fish entrees around $35 and a variety of burgers and chicken sandwiches around $20. I usually hit up this place for lunch for their badass Ritual Burger – wagyu and brisket patty, with caramelized onions and bleu cheese. Yes, I like bleu cheese on my burger, don’t hate. It’s called having a refined palate.
A drawback for The Heights: It’s sleepy. Like, even on the weekends most streets will be empty by 10:30 p.m. If you’re looking for a party scene, The Heights is not the best option. Though, there are some bright spots that really have a good late night chill.
White Oak Music Hall
If you haven’t deduced this as of yet, there are no clubs in The Heights. The one close-ish exception is White Oak Music Hall, a live music venue in the east side of the neighborhood. It’s not a huge venue, as capacity sits around 1,500 inside, and 3,000 on the outdoor lawn. This is where all of the regional acts come out to perform, so don’t expect Keith Urban to show up for a set. They do have a couple of bars on site, so come thirsty and ready to vibe out.
COVID got you down and made you cancel your annual summer vacation in Hawaii? The neighborhood tiki bar, Lei Low, is the cure. This VERY intimate watering hole is the perfect place to sip on something sweet and powerful. With all of the traditional tiki bar accutroments, you’ll easily make friends as the location seats like maybe 20 people. Like I’ve been saying, The Heights has a super neighborhood-y feel, and Lei Low is another prime example of this. If you don’t like rum or having fun, stay away.
The premier Sunday Funday spot of The Heights has to be Heights Biergarten. This expansive german-style beer garden is one of the few of the venues in the area that skews towards the lower age demographic of 20’s hipsters. With tons of TV’s, fancy picnic tables, and numerous fire pits, their 50+ tap brews really get the opportunity to shine in the perfect environment. I love this place for another reason: they legit have the softest pretzels I’ve ever had. They also bake their own pretzel buns for the burgers – also very legit. I feel like a true kraut everytime I drop in for a pint and match.
Taco Street – The Heights
Given that The Heights was a primarily Hispanic neighborhood, you can still find some relics of its history via the delicious taco options around the area.
The Best: La Vibra
Once you try this spot, “Ahh, La Vibra” is what you’re going to be saying every morning as you wake up. They just moved into a new location in the south section of the neighborhood, close to I-10, so you can most definitely hit them up on your way to work. And trust me, you will. Alot. As you walk in, the environment is pretty chill – kind of like a Chipotle with some personality. As you walk up to the counter, you have to order my favorite: one costra taco with ribeye. Never had a costra? Picture a pillow-like flour tortilla, a slab of your choice of protein, and a crispy disc of freshly griddled gouda. YUP, you read that right, fried cheese to start your morning. It’s nothing short of dreamy. You can also check out their classico, which is a bit more tamed with a choice of protein and grilled onions.
Runner Up: Cantina Barba
Ranking Cantina Barba in second place on this list was a tough decision, as they were the first amazing taco I bit into after moving to Houston. This place is all about doing the simple things right. If Cantina Barba was a basketball player, it would be Tim Duncan – the big fundamental. CB was actually based out of a taco truck on Washington Ave for a couple of years, before moving into their permanent location off of I-45 at Main street. But the beautiful thing is, as you walk into the cozy restaurant, it feels like a fancy taco truck pulled up to the building and just left itself there. The humble beginnings have been retained and the same goes for the menu. With tacos starting at $2.50 and offering your choice of asada, smoked pork, pollo, veggie or barbacoa, you’ll feel like you rewinded to simpler times. Step up your game and add on a side of elotes and plantains, and you’ll thank me via postcard for sending you their way.
A Day in the Life
Even though I’ve never lived in The Heights, I will say its easily one of the most convenient neighborhoods to call home. Especially when it comes to daily chores and errands, you can’t really go wrong.
Let’s start with grocery stores. You’ll have access to three krogers, a target, an HEB and even one of Houston’s only Whole Foods 365’s. If you’ve read our other neighborhood guides like the ones for Midtown of Downtown, you’ve noticed that The Heights has a wealth of grocers compared to the others. This is a solid plus for those who love to hit up the produce section a couple of times a week.
Looking for a spot to get your downward dog going? The Heights has no shortage of yoga studios and gyms. You’ll easily find one no more than half a mile from your apartment. People in this neighborhood know how to stay active and start their day with a quick sweat session to really get things revved up.
I also really enjoy how local The Heights feels. There are tons of locally owned shops and a weirdly large number of antique shops. I feel like anytime I turn a corner, I see a new one. My favorite has to be August Antiques, because they have a large selection of classic books, too. This is not because I read a lot, but because being around books makes me feel smarter. It’s osmosis.
As we discussed above, The Heights feels like a real neighborhood. It’s no special occasion to be walking down the street and run into a few neighbors and get caught up in a long convo about the weather and how the construction near I-45 will never end. It really adds on to the whole white picket fence aura. It’s a vibe.
Additionally, gas stations, convenience stores, dry cleaning, and laundromats are scattered throughout the area and all are pretty accessible. You may be paying a bit more for the necessities in The Heights, but that’s the price of saving time and living in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Houston.
The Verdict on The Heights
- Neighborhood pride
- Dining scene
- Cleaner than the rest of Houston
- Close to downtown
- Public transport limited
- It’s getting expensive
- Apartment options limited
Why should you move to The Heights? Well, it’s where you go when you don’t want the party scene of Midtown. Or, you’ve got/are starting a family and Montrose doesn’t offer the same friendly options down the street from your apartment. Or, you realize that downtown is lame as hell and you want a neighborhood with some real personality.
Now, do be warned that rent is not cheap in this part of town and you’ll easily be paying $1,500+ for a 800 sq. ft. one bed, one bath apartment in a mid-rise building. There are several options to choose from, mostly concentrated in the southside of The Heights, close to I-10.
But remember, if being around people from different backgrounds is important to you, it may be worth taking a look at Montrose. The Heights can come off as entitled and privileged, and many of the residents haven’t seen true hardships in their life, so a holistic sense of the trials and tribulations are not as widespread.
All things considered, I would recommend The Heights for your Houston move. Its safe, clean, and the neighbors are well-educated. If you enjoy being around people and feeling like you’re living in a small town, you can’t go wrong with this part of Houston.