What We’re Looking Forward to in Houston in 2022

From hotly anticipated new restaurants to the Houston Rodeo’s thunderous return, we could really use a win this year.

After a tumultuous 2020, we were all looking forward to a tamer 2021. Needless to say, that didn’t exactly go as planned… but 2022, now that’s going to be awesome. Especially in Houston, where we have quite a few happenings to look forward to. Some epic projects that were slated to open last year are finally heading into the end zone, while things like returning concerts, new restaurants, and penguins—yes, you heard that right—are set to keep us on our toes. Here’s everything giving us hope for an even better Houston in 2022.

Georgia James Tavern | Photo by Claudia Casbarian

As we sadly say goodbye to Underbelly Hospitality darlings UB Preserv and Hay Merchant, we can take solace in the fact that they’ve got a lot of exciting prospects on deck. UB Preserv vet Nick Wong is bringing his distinctive skills to the super cool Georgia James Tavern downtown, while the former restaurant space will transform into the cocktail-focused Everlong Bar & Hideaway, promising “great drinks and food with crossover appeal.” There’s also culinary director Nick Fine’s full-service spot Wild Oats and shake and burger joint Underbelly Burger at the Houston Farmers Market, plus two restaurants opening in the upcoming mixed use development Regent Square: Georgia James (find them operating out of One Fifth until their new home launches) and Pastore, showcasing belly-busting red sauce Italian favorites a la One Fifth Red Sauce.

Memorial Park Conservancy
Memorial Park Conservancy

Memorial Park’s already got 1,466 acres of greenspace robust with nature, diverse plant and animal species, manicured gardens and lawns, beautiful waterways, and fun things like hiking and biking trails, tennis and sand volleyball courts, soccer and baseball fields, an 18-hole golf course, and an onsite burger joint, plus a whole bunch more. It’s already one of the coolest urban parks in the city (and probably even the country), and it’s about to get even cooler with the unveiling of its nearly 100-acre Land Bridge and Prairie Project, set to link the park’s north and south sides by way of an awesome land bridge spanning Memorial Drive. Completion for the project is slated for late 2022.

RODEOHOUSTON
RODEOHOUSTON

It’s been two long years since we’ve fully experienced the joys of Houston’s favorite season, so suffice it to say we are AMPED for the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo to make its triumphant return. This year’s dates run from February 28 to March 20, and while we await the concert lineup’s official release (so far we know Bun B has a takeover night and George Strait is the closer), get pumped by checking out the “genre schedule.”

Uchiko
Uchiko | Photo by Travis Hallmark

It’s been a long two years, and after patiently awaiting the onset of two new concepts from powerhouse restaurant group Hai Hospitality, Uchi enthusiasts can finally start to celebrate in 2022. First, there’s LORO, a Southeast Asian smokehouse and bar that’s reimagined a historic 1940s church in the Heights. The spot comes from two of Texas’ finest—Uchi founder Tyson Cole and the indelible Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue, while chef de cuisine Marcos Leal will be responsible for putting out goods from sticky Char Siu Pork Belly to Coconut Rice Bowls peppered with oak-smoked salmon. Next, there’s Uchi’s little bro, Uchiko, which is primed to bring its grilled oysters and hard-to-score Japanese whiskies over to Post Oak sometime in Q2 (fingers crossed).

Houston First
Houston First

Originally slated to be finished by 2021, the transformation of Jones Plaza into the Lynn Wyatt Square For The Performing Arts is now expected to touch down sometime this summer. The makeover comes thanks to a generous $10 million gift from Houston philanthropist and devotee of the arts Lynn Wyatt, making his mark on the epicenter of Houston’s Theatre District (the square block is flanked by Jones Hall, Alley Theatre, and Bayou Music Center) by developing a modern urban park complete with an open-air performance areas, shaded lawn and gardens, and two-story hospitality space.

Photo by Jen Duncan

Late August (that’s the restaurant’s name, not when it’s supposed to open) is coming soon to Houston’s new Innovation District hub, The Ion. The inventive concept comes from two big names in the culinary world: Best Chef: Texas James Beard Award-semifinalist and Top Chef Portland star Dawn Burrell (we should probably mention she’s also a former Olympian) and Lucille’s Hospitality Group founder, activist, and all-around badass, chef Chris Williams. Long story short, this is going to be a good one.

The Houston Farmers Market
The Houston Farmers Market

With its makeover completed, the historic 1942 Airline Drive farmers market now begins its metamorphosis into an iconic Houston landmark, one akin to NYC’s Chelsea Market or Seattle’s Pike Place. Visit now and you’ll find a bustling expanse showcasing a mix of mom-and-pop and young-gun vendors set over beautiful greenery and open-air pavilions. There is still more to come, however, including a just-opened butcher shop from R-C Ranch, Viet-Cajun crawfish champion Crawfish & Noodles, and the aforementioned Underbelly concepts, Wild Oats and Underbelly Burger.

Montrose Collective
Photo courtesy of Montrose Collective

The Montrose Collective, Autry Park, and Regent Square are just some of the new real estate concepts on their way to making Houston that much doper. Joining hotspots like Uchi and Velvet Taco on lower Westheimer, Montrose Collective blends together, recreation, living, office, retail, and dining spaces (Atlas Restaurant Group’s new Italian concept Marmo, from-scratch scoop shop Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, and garden rooftop bar Idle Hands are all signed on to open). Elsewhere, self-proclaimed “bespoke urban village” Autry Park will stretch out over 14 lush acres across from the Buffalo Bayou Park (look out for two spots from B&B Butcher’s Benjamin Berg, and Auden, a vegetable-forward concept from a husband-and-wife duo with Michelin-starred experience). And not too far away, the smartly designed Regent Square strives to make the city more pedestrian-friendly, offering serene tree-lined promenades alongside two hotly anticipated Underbelly Hospitality concepts, Georgia James and Pastore.

713 Music Hall
713 Music Hall

Elton John. Bad Bunny. Tool. Whatever your speed is, Houston’s probably got a concert tailor-made for you this year. Take a peek at the upcoming schedules at venues including House of Blues, Bayou Center, Toyota Center and NRG Park, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Warehouse Live, White Oak Music Hall, and the shiny new 713 Music Hall stashed over in POST Houston.

Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo

The Houston Zoo is turning a whopping 100 this year, and it’s celebrating the milestone with the opening of its Galápagos Islands Exhibit later this fall. That means the venerable institution is rolling out the red carpet (figuratively, of course) for a fleet of super-cute Humboldt penguins, plus sea lions, giant tortoises, sharks, iguanas, and more. Get in on the action and help the Zoo in its conservation efforts by donating now.

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Brooke Viggiano is a Houston-based writer who is sure hoping she didn’t just put a jinx on 2022. Share your totally optimistic dreams for the new year with her @brookeviggiano on Twitter and @brookiefafa on IG.