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
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
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
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
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
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
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.