Things To Do

First Look: POST Houston

Houston's best side.
Houston's best side. Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Houston is a fast-growing city and one that is very popular with real estate developers because of the lax zoning restrictions. Stuff goes up, other stuff comes down, oftentimes taking the city's character with it. That's why it is something to be admired when a developer repurposes a structure rather than razing it.

Such is the case of Lovett Commercial's project POST Houston, which has turned the Barbara Jordan Post Office into a destination development with a lovely rooftop garden. The architecture studio OMA has transformed the former USPS building into an industrial retail, dining and arts complex with massive staircases and lots of neon lighting.
click to enlarge The spiral staircase anchors the food court. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
The spiral staircase anchors the food court.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
This past weekend, on a warm December Houston afternoon, I decided to check out the dining options at POST Market. After swinging by the University of Houston to grab my daughter, I headed toward the edges of downtown dreading the idea of finding a decent parking spot. Luckily, there is a lot right in front of POST Market. Unluckily, it's quite small. It seemed every time someone was leaving, another car swept in and took the open spot. Finally, a family in a minivan left me a perfect parallel parking space in which to insert my own minivan. The parking dedicated to the market is $3 per hour after the first 30 minutes. I have no idea how I am being charged for it, however. I just drove in, then drove out four hours later. It has license plate recognition capabilities so I suppose I will get a bill eventually.
click to enlarge It may be expensive for families but it's yummy. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
It may be expensive for families but it's yummy.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
With a primo parking space right in front of the heavy glass doors, we entered the POST straight into the food hall. The space is filled with metal and concrete, making it quite loud inside, especially with the crush of people. We were able to snag a table pretty quickly and I went to grab a beverage from one of the bars, Address Unknown. I was thirsty so I got a Karbach Christmas Ale on draft. With tax, tip and gratuity, it was 9 bucks so guests can expect concert hall prices here. My daughter grabbed a $4 Inca Kola from Andes Cafe, a soft drink whose neon yellow color, thanks to FD&C Yellow #5, fits in well with the surrounding neon signs.
click to enlarge Golfstrommen has fresh seafood and a few tables for dining. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Golfstrommen has fresh seafood and a few tables for dining.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
I thought we' d start off with something basic so I ordered the Butcher's Burger ($12) at Salt & Time, the butcher shop from Austin, Texas that is known for its locally-sourced meats and house-made charcuterie. It's a basic burger with just mayo and pickles. I nixed the mayo because I am not a big fan of it on burgers. I know local journalist and fast food connoisseur Ken Hoffman would very much disagree with me but I prefer mustard on my hamburger sandwich. And I like the usual LTO but that wasn't offered with the Butcher's Burger. Cheese is an extra $1.50 but I chose to forego the add-on because I wanted to see if the meat patty was as good as people say.

The couple in line with me tried to pay cash for their order but was told that the entire market only takes debit or credit cards. The poor woman was scrambling on her phone to check her account balance. While I waited for my burger, I perused the butcher shop offerings. The meat looked beautiful but it comes at quite a cost. I am used to paying pretty exorbitant prices for my meat from a Texas rancher or at the Farmers Market but these prices gave me pause. I am not sure that many people will be stopping by the butcher shop with a cooler to grab some meat but they do offer to cook some of the steaks on site. Salt & Time also has a few tables located within its space.
click to enlarge The fries are the best part. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
The fries are the best part.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
My phone dinged when my order was ready which some of the vendors do, others do not. I squirted a little mustard on my burger (sorry, Ken!) and headed to our table. I cannot say that the Butcher's Burger is a thing of beauty. The bun was a bit of a soggy disappointment. The thick meat patty was cooked medium but I would say a little on the rarer side of that. The ground beef is a coarse grind and the meat was delicious, with a simple beefy flavor. We also had a side of Beef Fat Fries ($4). It was a good-sized serving of hand-cut, skin-on French fries. I didn't detect any beefiness from the cooking fat but my daughter and I each scrambled to beat each other to the last few sticks of potato left. I would definitely order the fries again but I am on the fence about the burger.
click to enlarge We could hang out here all night. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
We could hang out here all night.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
My sister-in-law was downtown for a luncheon so she met up with us afterward. She wore a mask and was a little worried about the crowd. My daughter was also wearing her mask, though we are vaccinated and boosted. However, over the course of the evening, our mask-wearing was not 100 percent. The majority of the people at POST were mask-less, including employees.
click to enlarge A rainbow of cotton candy awaits those with a sweet tooth. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGGIERO
A rainbow of cotton candy awaits those with a sweet tooth.
Photo by Lorretta Rugggiero
There are two bars in the food court. We went up to the counter at Return to Sender, to see what cocktail offerings it had. I am used to the high cocktail prices that most of the trendy hotspots in Houston are charging but to me, that's for an experience. I am not too keen on shelling out $12 to $15 for a cocktail in a plastic tumbler. Add tax and gratuity and you are forking out nearly 20 bucks for one drink.  We decided to go for the Ready-to-Drink options for $10. I got the Cazodores margarita and my SIL chose the Bacardi mojito. They were okay, sort of like a better tasting White Claw. And really, they are mostly sparkling water.

Since we had a pretty good table, I was the food gopher. My SIL had already eaten lunch but her skinny butt always has room for more. She's my favorite person to cook for because she loves everything. However, she and my brother-in-law have switched to a mostly vegan diet so I asked if she was eating meat at all. I wouldn't say her eyes lit up but she looked a little excited as she said she could eat a "little."
click to enlarge The Balinese Eggplant ordered with roti. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
The Balinese Eggplant ordered with roti.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
So, with that in mind, I hit Hawker Street Food. I got the Balinese Eggplant ($8) and the Chicken Tikka ($12.50). When the young woman asked if I wanted roti or rice for the eggplant, I said roti. Unbeknownst to me, that was another $2.50. There are three heat levels for the Chicken Tikka so I chose spicy. When I went to get my food, I was asked again if I wanted it spicy and I replied affirmatively. A few peppers were added to the top of my chicken but they really didn't have much of a kick.

The plates from Hawker were restaurant quality. The Balinese Eggplant was charred and the creamy sauce and vegetables were a beautiful combination with a sprinkle of sweet, pickled red onions and chopped walnuts on the flatbread. My SIL and I split it while my daughter munched on the cheese roti that came with the Chicken Tikka. She loves cheese quesadillas and that's exactly what the roti looked like. The Chicken Tikka itself was two thin bone-in chicken thighs with masala sauce that was very tasty but not as spicy as I would have preferred. I would have also liked rice with it and a bit more sauce. The chicken, however, was very tender and perfectly cooked.
click to enlarge Hawker's Chicken Tikka could have used a little more spice. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Hawker's Chicken Tikka could have used a little more spice.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
While my SIL and I sat gabbing, my daughter headed to Gelu Italian Ice for a treat. She returned with a cup filled with three scoops of brightly colored Italian ice topped with even more lurid gummy bears and worms. The mango scoop tasted of pure mango and the blue raspberry turned her mouth a bright blue. It was her favorite but I preferred the strawberry-kiwi.
click to enlarge Sorry, puppy. There are no mail carriers to chase at the POST. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Sorry, puppy. There are no mail carriers to chase at the POST.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

The POST may be a bit loud for an intimate conversation but it's good for people watching. There were a number of families and groups of young people. Surprisingly, there were also a number of dogs. I don't know the rules on canine admittance but we saw a few handbag pooches and a couple of other pups on leashes. Another spotted item: tramp stamps. There were more than a few people sporting that particular ink style and dressed in a way that made sure everyone could see them.
click to enlarge A view made for romance. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
A view made for romance.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Before we realized it, it was already starting to get dark. I had planned to head up to the Skylawn at sunset. Unfortunately, after a quick run to the restroom, we were ten minutes too late. There was just a brief hint of pink sky by the time we made it. Instead of taking the stunning spiral staircase in the center, we walked up the enormous side stairs that are lit blue by overhead lights. Once we emerged onto the Skylawn, we were met by the most spectacular view of the Houston skyline that I have ever seen. I have always believed our city to possess one of the most striking downtown cityscapes in the world and the Skylawn at POST lets viewers see it in all its glory.

We weren't the only people to be blown away by the view. A young man had chosen that very spot to propose. Again, we were about ten minutes too late for the actual proposal but a beautiful, beaming young woman sat on a blanket, backlit by the words Marry Me and rose petals laid out in a heart formation.
click to enlarge A Bird of Paradise takes flight in the night. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
A Bird of Paradise takes flight in the night.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The Skylawn is a terrific xeriscape with mostly drought tolerant specimens, including a bed of gorgeous Bird of Paradise plants made even more impressive by the orange lights of the structure behind them. We walked around the urban rooftop garden marveling at a close-up view of the Powerball Lottery sign that we so often see from the freeway. We could hear music coming from the 713 Music Hall next door which is also part of the POST.

Unfortunately, alcohol is not allowed outside of the food court which is a shame because that view begs for a glass of wine or even a $15 cocktail in a plastic cup. Perhaps the owners are afraid people will hang out on the Skylawn for hours drinking, making it too congested. I would be one of those people. There are a couple of empty enclosed spaces up there but I don't know what the plans are for them. With that vista, they should consider an upscale restaurant or elegant cocktail lounge.
click to enlarge At ChopnBlok, "The Vibe is always included". - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
At ChopnBlok, "The Vibe is always included".
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
After ooh-ing and aah-ing over the Skylawn we headed back down, this time taking the spiral staircase. We popped into ChopnBlok, the West African concept which owner Ope Amosu started as a pop-up series. Amosu was actually the one taking orders and ChopnBlok is one of the few vendors that has a spot that has been cleverly and cozily decorated with a few tables for dining. With music playing and people laughing, my SIL told Amosu that she loved the vibe in the restaurant to which he replied, " We are all about The Vibe" and pointed to the back of an employee's shirt with the restaurant's tagline spelled out. And indeed there is an upbeat vibe at ChopnBlok where free samples of jollof rice were being given out while people lounged around the space enjoying themselves. Amosu thanked one customer "for the love, bro" when the young guy ordered a lot of food, saying it was his breakfast, lunch and dinner. I grabbed an order of Minnie Pies which included three pastries filled with minced beef and vegetables. I am not sure what is in Amosu's spice blend but I think I tasted thyme and possibly coriander. They were a perfect snack for the three of us and at $6.50 was one of the better deals to be had at the market. They can also be ordered vegetarian.
click to enlarge Minnie Pies are a tasty snack at ChopnBlok. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Minnie Pies are a tasty snack at ChopnBlok.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
We then made our way to David Guerrero's Andes Cafe. The original on Canal closed in January 2020 after nearly six years. Now, the South American restaurant has reopened at POST, albeit with a much smaller menu. There are a couple of tables in the new spot but it's a bit tight. We ordered a Pique Macho ($12) and an order of Arepitas ($6). As the crew was trying to figure out the payment system, I watched the flames shooting up in the small kitchen behind them, feeling sympathy for the fellow working in its scorching heat.
click to enlarge Andes Cafe had the best dish at POST...and the worst. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Andes Cafe had the best dish at POST...and the worst.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
While the Pique Macho is described as an appetizer, it was more like a dish of fancy loaded fries. And, it was the best thing we ate at POST, though the Balinese Eggplant at Hawker was a close second. It was also the spiciest thing, too. Our mouths were on fire and we no longer had any drinks. When I asked for a cup to get water, I was told that it was $2 for an empty cup. Not wanting to pull out my debit card for a $2 charge, I took the arepitas out of their bowl, wiped it out and filled it with ice and water from the drink machine. I was desperate but in a good way. I loved the heat from the dish and the beef tenderloin pieces were smoky and tender. The sausage didn't have quite as much flavor but the peppers and tomatoes were so yummy and the broth at the bottom was drinkable. All of this goodness was atop standard crinkle cut fries which were a perfect vehicle for the juice, soaking in the flavor without losing structure.

The amazing flavors of the Pique Macho gave me high hopes for the arepitas but they were a huge disappointment. I hate to declare anything inedible but we didn't take more than a couple of bites. They had no seasoning, were greasy and tasted like cardboard. I am going to chalk it up as a one-off. The Pique Macho was so amazing, I figure the tasteless arepitas must have been a fluke.
click to enlarge Sweets with L&L has cotton candy for kids and kids-at-heart. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Sweets with L&L has cotton candy for kids and kids-at-heart.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Before we left, my daughter wanted to check out Sweets with L & L, the local cotton candy purveyor. I always tell her she has the gastronomic appetite of a ten-year-old and she agrees. She emerged with a huge blue cone of spun sugar and a box containing four different flavors of cotton candy, purchased by her auntie who likes to spoil her.
click to enlarge From country music stars to Golden Girls, Pop Soap has a candle for that. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
From country music stars to Golden Girls, Pop Soap has a candle for that.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
There was only one retail vendor open, Pop Soap, selling vegan soaps and kitschy items like religious candles with celebrity faces instead of saints. More will be coming soon as will a number of other dining concepts.

As we walked out into the night, somehow having spent more than four hours there, we mused about whether we would return. The food hall set up gets expensive when you figure in the prices and gratuity. In a normal mall food court, tips are not expected which isn't the case here. Of course, tipping is optional but it doesn't really feel that way when you are paying at the register. In the end, the experience is a do-it-yourself food court for restaurant prices. There are staff who are quick to clear off tables and take away empty plates. I hope they are part of the tip pool because they do an excellent job.

As for the food and drink prices, go with the expectation of spending as you would at a festival or amusement park. Still, the no cash option can be a pain if you only want to buy a bottle of water or a soft drink.
click to enlarge Neon and metal complement the brutalist architecture. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Neon and metal complement the brutalist architecture.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The best part of the food hall is the opportunity to sample different foods all in one place. I would have liked to try Rolling Phatties but I was too full and the line at Taco Fuego never lessened so I missed out on the tacos birria that I was thinking about. I will likely return to try some of the places that I didn't get to this go around.

And I will definitely keep POST Houston on my list of places to take visitors because the view of our fair city is incomparable.

POST Houston
401 Franklin
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Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.