If you find yourself in Austin, Houston or San Antonio, here are the spots you should take time to reacquaint yourself with.
Rainey Street was once a sleepy side street tucked between the interstate and the lake. Now with its bars, restaurants, food trucks and hotels it still has the quirky vibe that attracted its original developer, bar owner Bridget Dunlap, a decade or so ago.
Rainey Street’s rejuvenation has come largely through repurpose and reuse, from old clapboard houses to shipping containers turned bars. There’s an increasing juxtaposition of quirky with shiny, new Rainey Street. It’s still very much a work in progress.
While Houston is still seen as a cement city, Buffalo Bayou Partnership has spent millions trying to transform that. They’re trying to turn the 160-acre Buffalo Bayou Park into a first-rate outdoor destination.
Invasive plants have been removed and replaced. And a four-acre abandoned City of Houston water system site is now a place to rent a bike, grab a bite or watch a performance. You can also visit “The Cistern,” built in 1927 as the City of Houston’s first underground drinking water reservoir. Abandoned for decades, it will now feature temporary art and lighting installations.
One of the most visually striking examples of the park’s improvements is Lost Lake. What was once filled with trash and inhabited by weeds is now a beautiful area surrounded by wetland gardens. It is near one of two visitors centers where you can rent kayaks or grab a bite to eat at The Kitchen at the Dunlavy, where the food is both seasonal and locally sourced. Little ones will have fun at the Nature Play area and four-legged friends will have a blast at the two-acre dog Park.
One of the city’s most beloved icons is the repurposed Pearl Brewery. It’s worth your time to spend a weekend strolling through, noticing every detail of old-turned-new, like ammonium tanks repurposed as planters, or artistic walls of rusted chains.
In the spirit of preservation, Southerleigh is now serving dinner and brewing craft beer in the original building that made Pearl one of the largest breweries in Texas back in the early 1900s. You can sit in the main dining hall with a view of second story brewing tanks, or enjoy the private party room housed in one of the original grain silos.
Chef Jeff Balfour has a menu that changes seasonally, and sometimes, daily, along with beer that recently earned awards at the Great American Beer Festival. Try a California Common beer paired with an appetizer of fried snapper throat followed by sirloin topped with shrimp butter. Finish in style with a pear tart with almond crème and chai ice cream.