Top 10 Restaurants in the Third Ward

All of Houston's original six wards are rich with history, but none captivate me quite as much as the Third Ward. Once home to the city's wealthiest residents, the area just southeast of downtown has gone through a tremendous amount of change since it was first established in 1836.

The Third Ward has been called "the elite neighborhood of late 19th-century Houston," home to "a silk-stocking neighborhood of Victorian-era homes" that changed drastically with the construction of Union Station -- now Minute Maid Park -- in 1911. The area quickly became less residential and more urban, and the first "flight" of residents took place as the neighborhood became saturated with hotels and other businesses catering to travelers.

Another significant flight took place in the 1950s, when neighborhoods such as Riverside Terrace underwent forced integration. The formerly Jewish neighborhood off MacGregor Way -- constructed in the 1930s at a time when Jews were forbidden by an unwritten gentleman's agreement from building or living within the WASP-y enclave of River Oaks -- saw its wealthy residents depart as blacks moved in. A second wave saw those wealthy blacks leave as Highway 288 was carved through the neighborhood in the 1960s.

Today, the Third Ward possess a dynamic mix of old and new as the area slowly undergoes a slow gentrification process: beautiful brick homes abutting wonderfully divey restaurants like Chief Cajun Snack Shack, 80-year-old meat markets turned into vegan coffee shops, non-profit arts organizations such as Project Row Houses side-by-side with still-occupied row houses. The University of Houston and Texas Southern University both call the Third Ward home, and so do a diverse mix of restaurants to suit every taste.

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Katharine Shilcutt