Travel

What We're Looking Forward to in Houston in 2021

Things are looking up already.

Courtesy of The Houston Farmers Market
Courtesy of The Houston Farmers Market
Courtesy of The Houston Farmers Market

With the complete dumpster fire that was 2020 in the rearview, we are actually kind of maybe starting to get excited about the future again. For one, there’s the whole end of a global pandemic thing that we really, really hope is a part of our 2021, and then there is all of the awesome stuff that the city of Houston has to look forward to this year. From super exciting restaurant openings to the total transformation of historic local spaces, here’s what Houston has in store for 2021:

Courtesy of RODEO HOUSTON
Courtesy of RODEO HOUSTON
Courtesy of RODEO HOUSTON

The return of the Houston Rodeo

Last year, we were given nine glorious days of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo before the city rightfully shut down operations to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. And so far this year, the HLSR is planning to return in all its boot stompin’ glory, albeit a little bit later in the season. The new Rodeo season is slated for May 4 – 23, rocking safety protocols that will hopefully allow the show to go on once again.
 

Finding even more vendors and one of the city’s best chefs at The Houston Farmers Market 

The historic Airline Drive farmers market has been showcasing local farmers and mom-and-pop vendors since the 1940s, eventually selling its space to commercial real estate investors with plans of becoming a world class culinary and retail experience back in 2017. Today, the market will host those same mom-and-pop vendors, plus a whole lot more. The Houston Farmers Market is currently open during its construction phase, but soon-to-come are things like a restaurant from Underbelly Hospitality’s Nick Fine, open-air pavilions, and a greenspace for things like cooking demos and live music.

Photo by Julie Soefer Photography
Photo by Julie Soefer Photography
Photo by Julie Soefer Photography

The real deal opening of fine dining concept MARCH 

Goodnight Hospitality’s MARCH restaurant opened its badass lounge-appropriately dubbed “The Lounge at MARCH”-late last year, but it’s yet to unleash the full power of the fine dining concept. The intimate, 28-seat Mediterranean restaurant plans to push the boundaries of what Houston knows as fine dining in 2021, with Master Sommelier and industry vet June Rodil and Chef/Partner Felipe Riccio as just some of the talented minds behind it. Until it fully opens, the caviar service and remarkable bouquet of wines at The Lounge will do (you can purchase a ticket rezzy to experience it here).
 

Another killer sushi spot from MF Sushi’s Chris Kinjo 

With its grand debut at the turn of the new year over on White Oak, Ume Sushi comes from the genius team behind popular Museum District sushi gurus MF Sushi (and that includes chef-owner Chris Kinjo, aka “Magic Fingers”). Consider this a more casual little sibling to MF, one that you can enjoy after a cocktail at the nearby Permission Whiskey, or patio beers at Bobcat Teddy’s.

Courtesy of Houston First
Courtesy of Houston First
Courtesy of Houston First

The Jones Plaza facelift 

Back in 2019, Houston philanthropist and devotee of the arts Lynn Wyatt gave a $10 million gift to the capital campaign for the renovation of Downtown’s Jones Plaza. Since renamed the Lynn Wyatt Square For The Performing Arts, the transformed block will feature a modern, open-air performance space, shaded lawn and gardens, and a buzzy restaurant, all acting as a centerpiece of Houston’s Theater District. Original groundbreaking was set for the summer of 2020 with expected completion in the summer of 2021, but alas, delays are inevitable due to that damn pandemic.

Courtesy of Tim Ho Wan USA
Courtesy of Tim Ho Wan USA
Courtesy of Tim Ho Wan USA

The opening of Michelin-starred Hong Kong dim sum spot Tim Ho Wan 

Gaining fame as the world’s most inexpensive Michelin-starred restaurant, the Cantonese-style dim sum specialists at Tim Ho Wan will be opening up shop at the new Katy Grand Square this year. Expect carts zipping by filled with everything from its house favorite barbecue pork buns and steamed egg cake to shrimp dumpling and petite Hong Kong French toast.

Photo by Travis Hallmark
Photo by Travis Hallmark
Photo by Travis Hallmark

Two more concepts from Uchi’s Hai Hospitality

Pretty much the entire city of Houston fell head over heels for Tyson Cole’s playful sushi and Japanese spot, Uchi, back in 2012; and we have a feeling we’re about to fall in even deeper when Cole and his Austin-based restaurant group introduce its offspring, Uchiko, and Southeast Asian smokehouse, LORO, this year. The restaurants will open in the Galleria and Heights, respectively, bringing things like a sushi and sashimi, wood-fired yakitori, and hard-to-find Japanese whiskies (Uchiko) and char siew pork belly, oak smoked salmon, and boozy slushies along with ‘em.
 

Thirteen, a restaurant from James Harden coming to Midtown

It’s questionable how long Harden will be staying with the Rockets, but at least The Beard will be keeping his presence in Houston well above radar with the opening of his upscale restaurant, Thirteen, set to take over the former Mr. Peeple’s space on Badby. The website currently shows a countdown clock, that will presumably lead to the opening date soon. We’re excited to see what kind of magic Houston’s beloved point guard has in store for our culinary scene.

Photo by OMA/Luxigon
Photo by OMA/Luxigon
Photo by OMA/Luxigon

The international food and market hall at POST Houston

Downtown’s getting a hot new culinary destination complete with 30+ restaurants, counter-service food stalls, and kiosks, plus a seriously cool looking glowing metallic staircase, in the old Barbara Jordan Post Office (that’s the space that used to host music and lights fest, Day for Night). Completely revamped, the 550,000 square foot mixed-use development POST Houston is set to host eateries like Salt & Time Butcher Shop from Austin, South Houston’s popular Taco Fuego, and Vietnamese pho and bun bo hue concept SOUPreme. There’s also a 5 acre Skylawn, a rooftop park that’ll house even more restaurants, and a farm. The highly anticipated project is slated to open in fall 2021.
 

A new Israeli restaurant from the Doris Metropolitan crew

Fan of the high-end Israeli steakhouse, Doris Metropolitan? Us too. Looks like we’re all in luck, because this year, the restaurant team is preparing to open Hamsa, a modern Israeli concept, over in Rice Village. Soon enough, you can sit under the tree-shaded terrace and dive into a rich palette of shareables, from traditional Jewish fare to Arabic-influenced dishes. With its original opening set for summer of 2020, owner Itai Ben Eli confirmed the restaurant is now on track to open in 2021.

Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

New American restaurant and bar The Nash opening in Downtown

Set to open in mid-January in the historic Star (formerly known as the Texaco building) in Downtown, The Nash is the kind of place you’ll want to post up for a late-afternoon cocktail before settling in for a full-on gustatory experience. Omar Pereney (of A La Carte Consulting Group and formerly at Peska Seafood Culture) is the skillful chef behind the kitchen, offering dynamic New American eats that take a nod from Houston’s crossroad of cultures-think Venezuelan tequeños, mussels with Spanish chorizo and grilled sourdough, and a 12-hour ragu short rib pappardelle. 

Brooke Viggiano is a Houston-based writer who thinks things are looking up for 2021 but she doesn’t want to jinx it so let’s just pretend she didn’t say that. Share your 2021 hopes and dreams with her @brookiefafa on IG or @brookeviggiano on Twitter.

Travel

8 Suburbs Near Phoenix You Should Absolutely Visit

You could use a little space.

Discover Gilbert AZ
Discover Gilbert AZ
Discover Gilbert AZ

Phoenix is pretty great. There’s the burgeoning culinary scene, the diverse culture, the arts, of course, the sports, the great outdoors, and don’t forget about the more than 300 days of annual sunshine. We could really go on, and on, about how great this place is, but all of that greatness can blind you to all the excellence just outside it. The suburbs across The Valley are not to be missed. To encourage you to actually explore them, here’s what the best of ‘em have to offer.

Photo courtesy of Tempe Tourism
Photo courtesy of Tempe Tourism
Photo courtesy of Tempe Tourism

Tempe

Notably, Tempe is recognized as home to one of the largest universities in the country, Arizona State. But this Phoenix suburb is so much more than a college town, although it does add to its undeniable magic. Downtown Tempe plays hosts to epic arts festivals, dragon boat races, marathons and triathlons, and dozens of other events that all take place a short-distance from Tempe Town Lake, a two-mile long perennial reservoir and urban park that attracts cylicts, rowers, and active types. Break a sweat with a hike to the top of A Mountain and take in a panoramic sunset view. Or, just belly-up to the bar at one of Tempe’s innumerable craft breweries. Both are solid choices. And both can get you acquainted with this laidback Phoenix suburb.

Photo courtesy of Hotel Valley Ho
Photo courtesy of Hotel Valley Ho
Photo courtesy of Hotel Valley Ho

Scottsdale

Nearly half of Scottsdale’s land area is dedicated to open spaces and untamed desert. Outdoor activities like mountain biking, hiking, road cycling, horseback riding, and kayaking reign supreme here, and the city certainly leans toward an active, wellness-centered lifestyle. And while there’s no shortage of desert to explore, Scottsdale also claims some of the best spas in the world, award-winning restaurants, world-class golf courses, it’s the center stage for major events like luxury car auctions and sporting events, and it’s even got a bustling arts scene. This Phoenix suburb checks all of the boxes, really.

Photo by Lauren Topor Reichert
Photo by Lauren Topor Reichert
Photo by Lauren Topor Reichert

Gilbert

Not too long ago Gilbert was a sort of sleepy, far-away farm town. That’s certainly not the case anymore. Gilbert has grown exponentially, but its agricultural roots are still readily present in its personality and charm. Downtown Gilbert is home to dozens of restaurants and bars, most of which have a local, farm-to-table approach, naturally. And then there’s Agritopia, a friendly neighborhood with its very own shared garden and community spaces that include Epicenter and BARNONE, where you can order a wood-fired pizza, a can of experimental natural wine, and camp out under a canopy of trees in the open-air. It’s practically a utopia.

Mike Boening Photography
Mike Boening Photography
Mike Boening Photography

Cave Creek

A gateway to Horseshoe and Bartlett Lakes, Cave Creek’s position on the outskirts of Tonto National Forest makes it a primo spot for outdoor activities like biking and hiking and adventure by way of air balloon or horseback. Modern cowboys and gals can mosey over to The Buffalo Chip Saloon where bull riding and swing dancing are just part of a typical day. Additionally, Cave Creek has its own botanical garden, raptor rescue, and a gallery packed with person-sized crystals. And it’s all yours to discover.

Ade Russell/Flickr
Ade Russell/Flickr
Ade Russell/Flickr

Mesa

Point your GPS east and you’ll arrive in Mesa, Arizona’s third largest city. Whether you’re after outdoor adventure, looking to explore the arts and culture scene, or searching for locally made ciders and craft beer, Mesa has it all. There’s a hip, growing downtown area lined with storefronts, restaurants, theaters, and tasting rooms. And if you’re game for a little outdoor recreation, Mesa is your jumping-off point to scenic Sonoran Desert trails including Usery Mountain Regional Park, Lost Dutchman State Park, and San Tan Regional Park. Mesa is also just a short distance from The Salt River where you can cruise by wild horses and native wildlife via paddle board and Saguaro Lake is just up the road.

Experience Fountain Hills
Experience Fountain Hills
Experience Fountain Hills

Fountain Hills

At the center of this Phoenix suburb is an expansive urban park and monumental water fountain that tops out at 560-feet. The fountain in Fountain Hills is larger than the Washington Monument, and it’s three times as high as Old Faithful. Pack a picnic and spread out in the park for an afternoon where you can traverse the walkable paths, cycle around the waterway, or play a competitive bout of frisbee golf. If you swing more towards traditional golf, there’s a shortlist of premier golf courses to tee-off at. And like many of the Phoenix suburbs here, Fountain Hills is surrounded by wide-open desert and scenic vistas just waiting to be explored.

Camelback Ranch - Glendale
Camelback Ranch – Glendale
Camelback Ranch – Glendale

Glendale

Arizona sports teams including the Coyotes and Cardinals have home turf advantage in Glendale. Over the years Glendale has hosted three Super Bowl bouts and will host another in 2023. But Glendale’s not just a sports mecca for fans of professional football and hockey. This Phoenix suburb is homebase to Camelback Ranch, a modern ballpark with all the amenities where the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers take the field each season as part of Cactus League Spring Training. Take your time in Glendale into extra innings and visit Historic Old Town Glendale. Here you’ll encounter eclectic antique and vintage stores, restaurants, candy shops, and coffee houses.

Pedal Haus Brewery
Pedal Haus Brewery
Pedal Haus Brewery

Chandler 

Museums, urban parks, art galleries, and growing neighborhoods like Uptown Chandler and Downtown Chandler give this Phoenix suburb lots of appeal. Rows of palm trees line the Downtown area where you can start your day with a locally roasted coffee and organic breakfast bowl. Downtown Chandler regularly hosts community-focused events and it’s a popular hangout for craft beer drinkers. SanTan Brewery, Pedal Haus, and The Perch, with 40 beers on tap and tropical birds at every turn, all call this Phoenix suburb home.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Lauren Topor Reichert is a Phoenix-based multimedia storyteller, photographer, and content creator. Her work has been featured in travel guides, national publications, and the social feeds of some stellar local restaurants. Follow her around Arizona, and beyond, on Instagram @hungryinphoenix.

Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.
icons/states/check

Please enter a valid email address