Few if any neighborhoods in Houston have undergone a transformation quite like that of the Heights. Once home to small cottages and bungalows and a few local shops, the area is now a haven of condos and townhomes, shopping centers, restaurants and, of course, nightlife. The Heights is still home to a number of dive bars that made their name serving cheap drinks to locals, but those joints now cohabitate with upscale bistros, patio bars and any other number of watering holes. These are the ten best the neighborhood has to offer.
The spot on Studewood that Ritual now inhabits has experienced a curse of sorts. While fellow White Oak-area places like Little Woodrow’s, Christian’s Tailgate, Onion Creek, Fitzgerald’s and Jimmy’s Ice House (pour one out for Jimmy’s) have flourished over the years, the plot where Ritual resides can safely be described as a revolving door. Fortunately, prospects appear high for Ritual, which opened last year and is unique enough to differentiate itself from its neighbors, yet laid-back enough to blend right in. Ritual serves up some of the best food in the Heights – particularly dishes like Beer Can Chicken and the Black Hill Pork Pie – and offers one of the more expansive wine menus in the area. A full bar – one of the more aesthetically pleasing you’ll find in Houston – serves up quality cocktails and an array of local and national craft beers. 602 Studewood, ritualhouston.com
This quaint spot, former home of the Heights General Store, serves up specialty cocktails and beer and wine on tap. The 1,300-square-foot converted taproom shares its space with the popular Harold’s restaurant. It's a great place to grab a drink before or after dinner in the Heights’s famed historic district. The cocktails focus on seasonal ingredients, and those feeling adventurous can get down on offerings from local breweries Eureka Heights and Town in City. Pair a pint with any number of bar-like treats, such as pretzel sticks, pizza, sliders or cheese plates, and experience the Heights at its finest. 350 West 19th, haroldsheights.com
A new kid on the block (no pun intended), Presidio officially opened for business in February after the original founders settled a legal dispute. Situated in a nice pocket of the Heights right on 11th Street, and featuring a really nice patio, Presidio is really going to bump during the gorgeous spring days and nights for which Houston is known. In addition to a full wine list and one hell of a craft beer menu, Presidio is quickly becoming known for its original cocktails. Drinks like the Bright & Sunny (rum/syrup/grapefruit juice/ginger beer/orange peel) and Pearly Legal (pear/lemon juice/lime juice/syrup) are but two of the many craft cocktails served up at one of the area’s hottest new spots. 911 West 11th, presidiohtx.com
Like Ritual, The Barking Pig opened last year. Like Ritual, The Barking Pig resides where so many bars once did (El Big Bad is great, but I still miss El Gran Malo). You can’t miss this place, which resides on the corner of 23rd and Ella and features a large inanimate pig out front. The Barking Pig has a number of local craft beers on rotating taps, which can be paired with a number of bar bites like burgers and chicken tenders. The establishment is also aware that many Heights residents are on a budget, which is why it offers up daily specials. That includes Mexican beer specials on Mondays and free pizza with the purchase of a bottle of wine on Sunday nights. Tuesday nights have become a draw as well, as the Barking Pig has partnered with Geeks Who Drink for weekly trivia. Winner gets a $50 bar tab, and a $25 tab goes to second place. Plus, the regular quizmaster is both handsome and takes his job seriously – yes, he donned a kilt the week of St. Patrick’s Day and a dapper black-and-red suit combo on Valentine’s Day. 2307 Ella, tbpheights.com
The Heights has become known as a place for patio bars that serve up craft beer and American-style bar fare. This is certainly a good thing; more businesses equals more local jobs, and there’s nothing wrong with knocking down a burger and a local IPA. However, Lei Low caters to those who want something a little bit different. Located in a small, nondescript building on Main Street, Lei Low serves up a number of tropical drinks, which are sure to be in demand as the Houston weather warms up in the coming months. Be warned, however, that Lei Low bartenders are not known to go light on the booze, so either stick to one or two or be prepared to find a ride home. 6412 North Main, leilowhtx.com