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a lobster roll at Sporting Club, topped with avocado mousse, caviar, and mustard seed.
The decadent lobster roll at Sporting Club, topped with avocado mousse, caviar, and mustard seed.
Sporting Club/Facebook

Make a Triumphant Return to Houston’s Dining Scene With a Food-Filled Crawl Down Washington Avenue

Cocktails, cheeseburger quesadillas, and so much more await on one of Houston’s most vibrant dining destinations

Houston’s Washington Avenue has seen plenty of changes in the past two decades. At one point it was known for Pamland, the trio of bars owned by Pam Robinson, which included Walter’s on Washington, and which regularly hosted touring and local punk and indie bands. A few years later, nightclubs and sports bars began taking over the street, some of them controversial, and many turning over as quickly as they popped up.

Now, the neighborhood is changing again. The nightclubs are still there (and a handful have opened even in the midst of the pandemic), but a number of hotly anticipated restaurants have also joined the corridor, with more on the way, including an as-yet-unnamed project from the minds behind Heights sushi hand roll favorite Handies Douzo and a sprawling new food hall on upper Washington called Railway Heights.

With all this change, it’s likely that most Houstonians haven’t fully experienced what Washington Avenue has to offer. There’s something for everyone here, whether in search of a bustling club vibe or a laid-back pub with killer late-night snacks. There’s also plenty of patios and to-go options among these spots, for folks who aren’t comfortable with dining indoors just yet.

Note: Washington Avenue runs 4.5 miles from Memorial Park to Downtown Houston. It’s technically walkable, but it might be best to consider hailing a rideshare for some of the more far-flung destinations.

Stop #1: Twisted Grilled Cheese

two hands pulling apart a cheesy, stringy grilled cheese sandwich
Go for the not-so-basic 5-Cheese Classic at TGC.
Twisted Grilled Cheese/Facebook
  • What to order: The TGC 5-Cheese Classic
  • When it’s available: 11 a.m to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

The first permanent outpost for this popular food truck opened in November 2020 and includes decor inspired by the legendary Manchester U.K. venue the Hacienda — a fitting theme for the night. Start early and fill your belly with some cheesy goodness, but don’t get too stuffed, as there are more treats on the way.

Stop #2: Sweet at The Sugar Room

a hand holding up a red cocktail in front of a purple neon sign that reads Sugar Room
Find cocktails hidden in a luxe speakeasy behind a late-night bakery at The Sugar Room
Sugar Room/Facebook

What to order: The Jetsetter

When it’s available: 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday

This speakeasy tucked behind a pastry shop serves up creative takes on classic cocktails, like the Jetsetter, made with gin, basil, ginger beer, cucumber, lemon and spicy boba. The adjacent bakery is open until 2 a.m. too, which makes it possible to stop by at the end of the night for a late-night doughnut nightcap.

Stop #3: Sporting Club

The interior of a bar with a retractable roof, sports on a TV and succulent plants lining the booths
Sporting Club’s spacious patio and retractable roof make for plenty of space to social distance.
Sporting Group/Facebook
  • What to order: Lobster Roll
  • When it’s available: 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., opening at 11 a.m. on weekends

A new open-air hangout from the same minds behind The Sugar Room, The Sporting Club offers more than 8,000 square feet of flexible indoor-outdoor space, including a retractable roof and a large outdoor patio with an Airstream trailer as a bar. Here you can find late-night pizzas, including the Houston Pie, topped with smoked pork from Feges BBQ, and decadent comfort food, like the Lobster roll, topped with mustard seed, avocado mousse and caviar.

Stop #4: Xin Chao

a plat of eggrolls and fish sauce dip
Xin Chao’s seafood-stuffed Not Our Ma’s Eggrolls
Xin Chao/Facebook
  • What to order: Not our Ma’s Eggrolls
  • When it’s available: 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 pm. Friday and Saturday, 9 p.m. Sunday

A few blocks south of Washington Ave on the end closest to Downtown, Xin Chao is the first standalone restaurant from popular Houston chef Christine Ha, who has partnered with Saigon House’s Tony Nguyen. Try the egg rolls, which are stuffed with pork shrimp and crab and served with a fish sauce vinaigrette. For this dish, both Nguyen and Ha adapted recipes from their mothers, serving something that’s exemplary of the entire menu — comforting, family recipes with a hefty dash of Houston flair thrown in.

Stop #5: Julep

a plate of raw oysters on ice
Grab a dozen fresh oysters at Julep
Julep/Facebook
  • What to order: Mint julep
  • When it’s available: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily

After a year of serving to-go only, expert mixologist Alba Huerta’s Julep is finally reopening to the public just in time for Kentucky Derby Day on May 1. The namesake drink is an obvious go-to here, but the menu also includes other refreshing classics perfect for the Houston heat, like the French 75 and Pimm’s Cup. Pair with a dozen raw oysters for a perfect Gulf Coast snack.

Stop #6: Henderson Heights

a margarita lined with tajin on a patio balcony
Henderson Heights’s unfussy patio is the perfect antidote to Washington Avenue’s bustling nightclubs.
Henderson Heights/Facebook
  • What to order: Cheeseburger quesadilla
  • When it’s available: Noon to midnight, Sunday through Wednesday, until 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday

Far from the bustle of middle Washington, Henderson Heights is a gem hidden in a historical house a few blocks south of Washington. Neighbors flock to the massive patio for sports-watching, and the menu consists of tasty but unfussy pub food and a large selection of craft beers, plus liquor and wine. Finish the night — and ward off any impending hangovers — with the cheeseburger quesadilla, a perfect mash-up that’s stuffed with ground beef, bacon, melted cheddar, ketchup and mustard. It’s the ultimate late-night food.

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