Best Houston Restaurant Patios in the Heights
A drive down Heights Boulevard, the main thoroughfare of The Heights (named for towering a whopping 27-feet in elevation over downtown) can make you forget you are in the sprawling metropolis of Houston. The road’s grand esplanade displays modern sculptures in an ever-changing exhibit. Live oak trees shade Victorian mansions and cozy bungalows. Independently owned shops line 19th Street and spread across the greater Heights — an area bordered by Durham on the west, I-45 on the east, and 610 and I-10 to the north and south.
Easy access to all those major thoroughfares is another big draw for residents in this rapidly burgeoning neighborhood. It’s an interesting area to take out-of-town guests, too. Writer John Nova Lomax, whose work has appeared in Texas Highways, Texas Monthly and the Houston Press, once described it as “Houston’s own mini-Austin” that was “filling up with fun beer gardens and low-key restaurants.” The Heights, like Houston, has changed since Lomax wrote that a decade ago. More high-end restaurants and shops have joined the casual joints, and new apartment complexes have sprung up along its tree-lined streets.
However, one thing hasn’t changed: The best way to end a day exploring the Heights is to catch a sunset on one of its lovely patios. Here’s a list of some of the best restaurant and bar patios in the area.
(For more great nearby patios, check out our list from neighboring Timbergrove, Lazybrook and Shady Acres.)
Antidote Coffee, 729 Studewood: Before (almost) all the others, there was Antidote. This Heights coffee shop’s family-friendly patio, adorned with colorful French bistro tables, has been offering area residents a third-place gathering spot since 2007. In the mornings, you can enjoy an array of coffee drinks, including nitro cold brew and a Cajeta Latte, along with a selection of breakfast foods and pastries from Kraftsman and the kitchen of Black Hole Coffee House, its sister spot in Montrose. Black Hole also provides a handful of lunchtime sandwiches (try the Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella). Antidote also offers local craft beer by the bottle and can, a small selection of wine, several flavors of Kickin’ Kombucha, including one on tap, and frozen treats from Fat Cat Creamery and Honeychild’s Sweet Creams — making this establishment an all-day outdoor hangout. Also, watch for taco trucks, such as Think Tacos, that post up in the parking lot regularly.
Better Luck Tomorrow, 544 Yale: Is it a bar or a restaurant? Co-owners Bobby Heugel and Justin Yu call this spot with a large wrap-around patio a bar — a justified distinction because of its well-crafted cocktails such as Mace In The Face, which combines rye, amaro and mace-infused Madeira. Yet, since it opened in 2017, it has consistently served some of Houston’s best food. It’s as much a destination for dinner as drinks.
If you go for dinner (or lunch) try The Party Melt — Yu’s take on the classic sandwich that deftly combines caramelized and raw onions with melted cheese and a beef patty — or the Charred Quail with corn nuts and an ancho chile and sunflower seed sauce. They also offer Saturday and Sunday brunch and weekly specials such as Monday night’s BLT Chicken Bucket with eight pieces of dark meat and sides or Tuesday’s Pasta Night. If you get there before 5 p.m. on weekdays, all booze is half off.
Cantina Barba, 3701 North Main: Wedged into an oddly shaped lot within earshot of I-45 North, the patio at Cantina Barba is not a traditionally bucolic spot. However, its views of a Thai/Laotian restaurant, a Whataburger, an auto supply shop, a bail bond company and the bungalow office of a bilingual attorney reveal a cross-section of life in the Bayou City. Pair that with a selection of snappy cocktails (try the mezcal margarita), laudable tacos (try the smoked pork and papas con rajas) and quesadillas (grab a chicken with beans) and one of Houston’s best flat-griddled cheeseburgers, and the spot transforms into a joint where any Houstonian would want to spend an 85-degree autumn evening.
Coltivare, 3320 White Oak: A vegetable garden invites diners to eat among raised beds and under strings of lights at this sophisticated-yet-friendly seasonal Italian restaurant with a few dashes of Texas Gulf Coast. Small plates, such as fried Gulf oysters with local kohlrabi, sauce gribiche and horseradish, highlight chef/owner Ryan Pera’s and his team’s deftness at incorporating local influences and ingredients into a regularly changing menu. There are also foundational Italian classics, like spaghetti with black pepper, parmesan and olive oil. Salads, such as Red Beet Tartare with cultured cream, chervil, hazelnuts, shallots and seeded crackers, reflect the simple elegance they conjure from vegetables, many of which are grown in the onsite garden.
Diners can round out meals with dishes such as wood-fired pizzas, Tagliatelle Verde with Texas wild boar and ragù bianco (another example of blending Italian techniques with local ingredients) or longtime favorite, the simple wood-grilled chicken with agrodolce and pickled grapes. Save room for rustic desserts like Roasted Pear Crostata. There are also plenty of drink options to pair with your meal. Ask for recommendations from the old-world-focused wine list or choose one of the seasonal cocktails such as Rhumming with Negroni (rhum agricole, campari, vermouth and tarragon).
Eight Row Flint, 1039 Yale: At the corner of Yale and 11th, Agricole Hospitality (Revival Market, Coltivare, Indianola) has converted a gas station into a spacious bourbon-and-taco-focused patio bar, complete with garage doors that, on nice days, allow the indoor space to become an indoor/outdoor refuge. The food menu offers five tacos on housemade corn tortillas, including a satisfying Brussels sprouts taco with radish, charred onions, crema and queso fresco. There are also snacks, fajitas, nachos and more.
While the food selection is focused, the cocktail and spirits list is more extensive than a New Jersey diner menu. There are over 20 pages detailing regular cocktail offerings such as the carbonated Coltivare Gin and Tonic, seasonal cocktails such as the Daisy Buchanan (with Citadelle Gin, St. Germain, Peychaud’s Aperitivo, Cruzan Blackstrap, Campari, Maurin Quina, lemon oleo, lemon juice and mint), proprietary single barrel whiskies and over 90 mezcals.
Good Dog Houston, 903 Studewood: For a decade — first from a food truck, then at a brick-and-mortar — Amalia Pferd and Daniel Caballero have been serving franks that will make you love hot dogs again. They don’t serve those limp, tepid torpedoes of meat by-product served to kids at backyard cookouts. These are Texas-style, made-to-specification franks (85% beef and 15% pork) served in toasted, locally made buns and topped with an array of housemade condiments.
Good Dog Houston’s bungalow outpost in the Heights features both a homey front porch and a cozy backyard where you can enjoy an Ol’ Zapata — a Good Dog frank topped with bacon, caramelized onions and jalapeño relish — perfectly crisp housemade chips and a rotating selection of Texas craft beers. Also on the menu is a handful of salads and sandwiches and the best fish and chips in Houston. For vegetarians, tofu dogs are available and are particularly good for the base of the Sloppy Slaw Dog, which is topped with grain mustard, apple-horseradish slaw, and melted Swiss cheese.
Harold’s in the Heights, 350 West 19th: The terrace of this 90-year-old building is an ideal place to sup after exploring 19th Street. The downstairs tap room is a full bar and gathering place, while upstairs, Southern fare, made with locally sourced ingredients, is served. Try KG’s Fried Chicken — classic buttermilk fried chicken with Texas cheddar mac and cheese and braised greens— or the 1855 Ribeye, a premium, char-grilled ribeye served with potatoes au gratin and vegetables. Lighter fare, such as the Pear Salad, comes with ricotta, spiced pecans and a charred pear vinaigrette. Saturday and Sunday brunch offers classic breakfast dishes with Gulf Coast twists like the Creole Benedict featuring a house-made biscuit topped with beef debris, poached egg and creole hollandaise.
Heights Bier Garten, 1433 North Shepherd: This Heights hangout features a large patio, with many shaded seating areas, that is bookended by two bars: one offering a broad selection of cocktails and one highlighting 94 taps for beer, cider and more. Initially, this setup can be confusing. Cocktails are ordered from one, beer and wine from the other. But you’ll soon find yourself zipping between the two enjoying seasonal cocktails such as Baggage Claim, which blends Whistlepig Piggyback Rye with cacao, PX sherry, ambrette and mace, and craft brews like Spirit Journey, a New England-style IPA from Equal Parts Brewing.
You can order food (and close your check) from either bar. Start with cracklings served with jalapeño buttermilk dressing and roasted cauliflower with madras curry and pickled red onion. Then, move on to a sandwich, such as the Smoked Pit Beef with smoked pastrami, provolone and cabbage on Texas toast or the Cubano with house-cured bacon, bologna, Swiss cheese and Creole mustard on a pressed bolillo roll. There is also a selection of sausages and a Saturday/Sunday brunch.
La Lucha, 1801 North Shepherd: Atlanta-based and Houston-raised chef Ford Fry’s ode to the legendary San Jacinto Inn, which served fried chicken and Gulf seafood from 1916 to 1987, features a patio with sturdy wooden tables and shady oak trees. Houston chef Bobby Matos kicks off the trip down nostalgia lane with a selection of Gulf Coast oysters such as Cajun Pearls from Louisiana or Murder Points from Alabama. The journey continues with classics like fried chicken and the Pharmacy Burger.
However, you can get off the beaten path with side jaunts such as the Classic Remoulade Salad made with Jimmy’s gulf shrimp, Old Bay seasoning and tarragon and the Creole “Cheesecake” made with blue crab and shrimp. As you reach the end of the road, relax under lanterns hanging in live oaks and enjoy refreshing cocktails such as Rewards Flight to Rio, made with white rum, guava, lime and coconut milk.
Mico’s Hot Chicken, 1603 North Durham: What started as a food truck has grown into a brick-and-mortar location with a huge patio. The menu centers on three main items, all of which include its signature hot chicken: The Tender Basket, Loaded Fries with waffle fries and melted cheese and the Sammy, a chicken sandwich with slaw and pickles. The chicken is available in a range of spice levels from “no heat” to “x-hot.” For dessert, the banana pudding is a tongue-soothing treat. The patio is stocked with oversized Connect 4 and Jenga games, as well as two 65-inch TVs.
Pinkerton’s Barbecue, 1504 Airline: This uncomplicated barbecue joint has outdoor seating that stretches alongside this modern take on a shack-and-pit restaurant. At no-nonsense picnic tables outfitted with buckets for paper towels or beers, diners can enjoy classic Texas barbecue, including brisket, beef or pork ribs, sliced turkey breast and sausages such as boudin and jalapeño cheese. Everything is served with plain white bread and a choice of sides such as Smoked Duck and Sausage Jambalaya, mac and cheese and South Texas Beans. This barbecue restaurant breaks tradition by featuring an elegant wine list and a full bar of curated cocktails like the Blanco Bumblebees made with Moody June Gin, local Heights honey lemon juice.
Savoir, 1344 Yale: The small patio at this dressy-casual Heights restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy a wine-centric afternoon. Brian Doke, formerly of Tiny Boxwoods, and co-partners Haig and Hien Papaian put together an extensive and eclectic wine list that ranges from rarities such as 2001 Domaine Bonneau du Martray Grand Cru from Corton-Charlemagne to the more accessible 2018 Volker “Von Donabaum” Gruner Veltliner from Wachau, Austria. These pair nicely with inventive dishes like Tex-Mex Brussel Sprouts made with chorizo, maple sherry vinaigrette and sesame seeds and Ribeye with pipian roja (a nutty, peppery, mole-style sauce), marbled potatoes and charred spinach. For brunch, try the Strawberry-Rhubarb Mimosa with Brisket and Egg Pizza, made with braised brisket, tomatillo salsa, cheeses and a sunny-side-up egg, or the decadent Brie Burger made with 44 Farms beef, brie, tomatoes, greens, cornichons and curly fries.
Spanish Flowers, 4701 North Main: This classic Mexican restaurant has a cozy, umbrella-covered patio. The extensive menu includes an ample vegetarian menu featuring dishes such as Spinach Enchiladas filled with garlic-herb spinach and topped with Chihuahua cheese sauce and sour cream. Affordable lunch specials have all the extras, such as the Texas Plate with carne guisada, cheese enchiladas, guacamole, rice and refried beans. For dinner, try Camarones a la Brochette: bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp stuffed with jack cheese and jalapeño, and served with chipotle barbecue sauce, Yucatán rice and charro beans, or flamed-grilled New Zealand lamb chops over poblano mole sauce.
Squable, 632 West 19th: One of the Heights’ — and the city’s — best restaurants just happens to also feature a well-appointed, shaded patio with outdoor bar seating. It’s the perfect spot for an al fresco date night or intimate gathering with friends. It’s co-owned by Justin Yu and Bobby Heugel (of Theodore Rex and Anvil Bar & Refuge, respectively), and the seasonal menu and well-curated beverage program are overseen by chef Mark Clayton and general manager Terry Williams. You’ll regularly see Clayton hauling crates and bags of produce through the Urban Harvest Farmers Market, and the small plates reveal his expert use of those locally grown ingredients. Try the refreshing summer melon with blistered shishitos, cucumber consommé and spicy lemon or year-round favorite marinated mussels, which pairs the shellfish with unlikely partners, calico beans and grilled bread, creating an earthy riff on surf and turf.
Though you could easily make a meal with just the small plates, don’t miss out on the equally well-executed pastas and “big plates.” The lasagna combines invigorating layers of bolognese, pickled collards, ricotta, and arrabbiata sauce into a surprisingly delicate, yet flavorful and satisfying, architecture of pasta. The hearty gigante beans with a zingy parsley pesto, roasted olives and crisp, rich fried feta will satisfy vegetarians and omnivores. There’s even a decadent French cheeseburger smothered in raclette. The attentive staff will expertly pair whatever you choose with a glass or bottle from their extensive wine list or a cocktail such as Scorpio Season, which mixes rum with melons, basil, honey and sumac.
(For more great nearby patios, check out our list from neighboring Timbergrove, Lazybrook and Shady Acres.)