10 of Downtown's Best Kept Secrets

Everyone loves a secret, wants to be in the know. It’s human nature to love knowing something no one else does, realizing that you have the inside edge of the coolest bar, the newest up and coming talent, the best new restaurant. And when it comes to Downtown Houston, secrets abound – great spots to try great food, great places to learn about the city core’s history, great excursions. Get ready to feel superior, because we’re sharing Downtown’s best secrets with you.


Buffalo Bayou Cistern

105 Sabine

The Cistern at Buffalo Bayou Park is a former drinking water reservoir built in 1926 for the City of Houston. After operating for decades, an irreparable leak was discovered and after a few years, the reservoir was decommissioned and doomed to be demolished. Fortunately, Buffalo Bayou Partnership rediscovered the historical and architectural treasure during their recent park renovations and worked out a deal with the City of Houston to take over the site. The Cistern recently re-opened as an underground industrial relic to the public with rotating temporary art installations and regular tours scheduled throughout the year.



1010 Prairie

Part food hall, part beer garden, all Houston, Conservatory is a delightful blend of vendors, meaning diners and drinkers can have a different experience virtually every time they go. Melange Creperie, El Burro & The Bull, Moku Bar, Arte Pizzeria and Mars Bakery serve up eclectic fare; the beer garden seats 250 and has more than 60 beers on tap. Boisterous and fun, this space is great for lunch, happy hour, dinner and virtually everything in between. This is undoubtedly one of the coolest places downtown!

Photo: Katya Horner

Hardy Nance Studios

902 Hardy

With open studios every third Saturday of the month, here’s a place to see some of Houston’s most exciting artists working today. Painters, sculptors, jewelry designers, videographers and other artisans rent space here, making for a creative atmosphere that shows Bayou City art at its best. The open studios allow you to see their work, and each one is a different experience. Support local artists and check out this unknown downtown gem.



1820 Franklin

You won’t find anywhere more original for your next party than this massive, 10,000-square-foot warehouse selling new and refurbished video games, pinball machines, air hockey and foosball, and all manner of amusements for you to include in your home or office. Joystix happily rents out its showroom space to private groups wanting to play PacMan, pool and any of hundreds of other games. It’s about the perfect place to relive your gaming youth – or continue your gaming adulthood. Bonus: the Eighteen Twenty Lounge located next door, has two million songs on the jukebox, a full stocked bar, flat-screen TVs and video games.


Public Services Wine & Whiskey

202 Travis

James Beard Award-Winning Chef, Justin Yu, and the super talented and knowledgeable sommelier, Justin Vann, opened this killer spot specializing in a dizzying array of unique, international wines and whiskies. The bar is housed in the historic Cotton Exchange Building, dating to 1884 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Designed by architect Eugene Heiner, the red-brick Victorian building with its wide windows and natural light is a favorite downtown edifice. Let all that history sink in as you’re sipping one of the curated sherries, wines, scotches, bourbons or rums.


Rec Room

100 Jackson

Downtown newcomer, Rec Room, is Houston’s first and only recreational performance space and social club. The intimate venue provides a hub for innovative performances including theatre, music, comedy and film. Audience participation is often written into the script and their completely unconventional philosophy allows and even encourages guests to take pictures and videos throughout the performances. Grab a drink at the in-house bar and settle in for the show!


Houston Escape Room

101 Jackson

Think you have what it takes to outwit your friends? Then make a reservation to escape! Your team of two to five members will be locked in a themed room where you’ll have to rely on each other to help solve puzzles and find clues to escape, save the world or overcome other thrilling experiences. Better start brushing up on your problem solving skills… You don’t get caught as your team’s weakest link!


The Big Bubble

510 Preston

You’d miss it if you weren’t looking for it, which is part of what makes Dean Ruck’s installation so much fun. Crossing over the Preston Street Bridge, you’ll find a big, red button. Press it and you can watch Buffalo Bayou “burp” below you, spewing bubbliness and garnering grins. Sometimes, it’s the simplest of joys that bring the biggest smiles.


Tongue-Cut Sparrow

310 Main (Upstairs)

Enter into popular downtown tequila bar- The Pastry War, walk to the back of the building past the pool tables, open the door with the icon that resembles a pair of clippers (if you blink you’ll miss it), walk up the stairs and around the corner finally landing in the formal cocktail bar, Tongue-Cut Sparrow. Tucked away in a quiet refuge above the rest of the excitement on Main Street, you’ll immediately feel like you’ve been transported to a different era in time. The cozy 25-seat bar named after a Japanese fable provides an extremely elevated experience from the tidy menu made up of 16 classic cocktails, to the bartenders clad in black bowties.


Treebeards at the Cloister

1117 Texas (Inside Christ Church Cathedral)

With five different locations scattered across downtown, Treebeards is known for serving up some of the most delicious Cajun dishes on this side of the Texas/Louisiana border! Located among many of Houston’s most frequented courthouses and hidden inside the fellowship hall at downtown’s Christ Church Cathedral, The Cloister location has been serving courthouse luminaries and other downtown office dwellers lunchtime favorites like chicken and shrimp gumbo, etouffee, and the infamous red beans & rice since 1981. This unique location boasts cathedral ceilings, stained glass windows, local art, large communal tables and a beautiful courtyard. 

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