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.
1820 Franklin St
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, flat-screen TVs and video games.
1010 Prairie St
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, Samurai Noodle and Myth Kafé 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. Opened back in March of 2016, it’s already earning kudos as THE place to eat in downtown.
The Big Bubble
510 Preston St
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.
Public Services Wine & Whiskey
202 Travis St
Chef Justin Yu and sommelier Justin Vann of Oxheart fame 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 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.
Allen’s Landing/Sunset Coffee Building
Visit Allen’s Landing, Houston’s birthplace, one of many spaces along the meandering, newly designed Buffalo Bayou Park, and catch a launch for a Bayou tour. That renovation was thanks in huge part to the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, which now has its office in the historic Sunset Coffee Building. That space was built in 1910, serving as an annex for the growing D. Cleveland and Son’s grocery wholesaler. Its massive 12,000 square feet have been restored, paying homage to the building’s past. It’s got a rooftop terrace where you can enjoy city views, a bike and paddle craft rental space where you can grab a craft and explore the Bayou’s expanse, and an outdoor gathering space.
Escape from a Zombie
917 Franklin St
Think you have what it takes to outwit zombies who want to eat your brains? Then make a reservation to Escape the Mobile Lab. Your team of two to five members will take a tour of this lab space, only to discover an experiment has gone awry – and now you’ll have to rely on each other to get out of there! Great for team building, bachelor/bachelorette parties and group outings, escaping has never been so fun.
Hardy Nance Studios
902 Hardy St
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.
100 Jackson St.
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, as well as to BYOB (at least until they get their own bar up and running).