Lifestyle

30 Reasons for Houstonians to Leave the Loop

Published On 07/06/2016 Published On 07/06/2016

Houstonians are creatures of habit. Especially those that live inside the 610 loop and liken leaving their urban safe zone to being dropped off by their dad on the first day of kindergarten, desperately hugging on to his leg. The point is, you were better off for bravely facing uncharted territory. Since we know you probably require a little more than a questionable pump-up speech to stop being so lazy and leave the loop, there are also these awesome reasons.

Typhoon Texas

1. To play around in a waterpark AT NIGHT

That’s right, night sliding. Friday Night Slides at the newly opened Katy waterpark, Typhoon Texas, is the best way to beat the heat without having to actually face the scorching sun.

2. So you can sip suds at one of the best breweries in Texas

Local beer experts drank their way through Texas’ finest brews to come up with their personal lists of the top 10 breweries in Texas, then we tallied their answers and ranked the 10 finest accordingly. The least you can do is leave the loop to visit one of them, mainly Lone Pint in Magnolia. Or if you really can’t even, the just outside the inner loop Karbach Brewing Co and Brash Brewing Company.

Galveston Island Brewing

3. Or to get in early on an up-and-coming brewery

You know that feeling you get when you like a band way before they were cool, then you get to make fun of all the posers that just discovered them? Do that with Houston’s next big beer stars, from Galveston Island Brewing in Galveston to B-52 in Conroe.

4. To smash donut burgers at Pena's Donut Heaven

This Pearland donut shop & grill made its own version of the cronut and had a Killen’s Barbecue collab that caused an outright frenzy, so it’s obvious they aren’t messing around. Make your way to Pearland to see what all the fuss is about, and to get things like bacon cheeseburgers with glazed donut buns and hot dogs done “chimichanga style.”

Flickr/Francisco Antunes

5. Because rocketships and space stuff are cool

Access to the largest rocket ever built and operated in the entire world? Check. Full-scale version of the Space Shuttle. Check. Astronaut food, space simulations, and the opportunity to fantasize about saving a lunar landing in the Mission Control room. Check, check, and check.

6. To get discount electronics, fly fashion and decor finds, and pashminas

If you consider yourself an semi-professional bargain hunter/pack rat, the discount haven that is Harwin Dr is the seriously cheap peanut butter to your budget-minded jam. Or the next evolutionary step into your starring roll on an upcoming episode of hoarders.

Flickr/Ronald Woan

7. To dip your toes in the sand

Though we all mock Galveston beaches more often than not, the island is actually pretty cool. Play in the sand, rides waves in the Gulf, and do fun stuff like partake in our 11 Part Galveston Drinking Guide.

8. Because eight courses are better than one

Hubbell & Hudson’s impressively crafted eight-course tasting menu restaurant, Cureight, is one of the Woodland’s best kept secrets. Looks like the secret’s out.

9. To do some dim sum

Just outside of Chinatown, Fung’s Kitchen's Hong Kong-style dim sum packs the massive dining room on the regular. We suggest you go see why (here’s a hint: they take fresh seafood straight from their fresh inhouse aquarium).

Mamak Malaysian Cuisine

10. Because no seriously, Chinatown though

Chinatown, aka Asiatown, aka where you should be going to eat has strip center after strip center filled with absolute stunners. Drive through and you’ll find every type of staple Asian cuisine you can think of and then some, from seven courses of Vietnamese-style beef and Cantonese squid ink fried rice to Malaysian-style whole fish wrapped in banana leaf and that rolled ice cream that’s been taking over your IG feed.

11. To live that kolache life

Step away from the Kolache Factory. There are so many better versions to be had nearby, like Two Czech Chicks Kolache Shoppe & Bakery’s passed down, babicka-approved recipe, the poppyseed numbers at Rosenberg’s Old Main Street Bakery, or everything at the just-outside-the-loop Original Kolache Shoppe.

12. For lakes and party boats

Nobody is taking a party boat out on the Buffalo Bayou, so it’s pretty favorable that there are plenty of lakes nearby. All you have to do is leave your inner loop panic room, and you’ll find lakes like Clear Lake and Lake Conroe, at which you can sail, jet ski, fish, and most importantly, day drink.

Flickr/Adrian Delgado2012

13. Because there are ample hiking opportunities

Galveston Island State Park, Sam Houston National Forest, and Stephen Austin Park are just a few of the excellent spots to hike nearby.

14. To pony up

For the chance to feel like a real Lone Star cowboy, hit up Cypress Trails for a horseback riding sesh. The feeling should last roughly 2.5 seconds, the amount of time it takes you to realize you don’t know how to mount and/or ride a horse.

15. For "Loud Packs" and "Crack Sauce"

If you don’t know about Lotus Seafood, you don’t know anything. So we’ll help. Visit any one of the trio of Creole/Cajun/Asian seafood spots, ask for a Loud Pack with extra Crack Sauce, and you’ll be gifted beautiful shrimp and crawfish fried rice with extra spice and more shrimp of which you can and will absolutely smother in creamy garlic butter sauce.

Corkscrew BBQ

16. Because CorkScrew BBQ’s smoked meat is not going to eat itself

And neither is Killen’s.

17. To catch a concert

Houston’s hottest outdoor music venue lies in the Woodlands, so if you want to see some of the biggest names out there, you may have to take a ride to our friends up north.

18. Because there’s a wakeboarding park

Not only does Wake Nation boasts an overhead cable-system so you can learn to wakeboard without a boat, there’s also an aerial ropes course, water trampoline and slice park, and paintballing.

Topgolf Houston-Katy

19. To smack golf balls at targets

Top Golf, the golf arena/entertainment center/drinking venue that is a total good time, has locations in Katy, Webster, and Spring.

20. To eat shrimp and stuff

... at a place called Shrimp 'n Stuff. The Galveston seafood shack is a cult favorite thanks to fresh-as-hell seafood po-boys, fish tacos, stuffed shrimp, and cheap beer buckets.

21. To try the best burger in Houston

One man (Thrillist editor and burger obsessive Kevin Alexander) is on a quest to find America’s Greatest Hamburger, and he started in his birthplace: Houston. Follow the epic journey on Instagram @thrillist_burger_quest. Oh, and go to Tookie’s to try the burger that he named supreme because that’s what this piece is really about.

Flickr/Gino

22. So you can stargaze

The George Observatory in Brazos Bend State Park gives you a closer look at those big, beautiful Texas stars on Saturdays year round.

23. For trompo

Which you can find at the street-style taco spot Karancho’s.

24. To get a full pound CFS

Mel’s Country Cafe doesn’t just have an insane 1.5lb burger, they also have an insane 1lb chicken-fried steak that comes fully loaded with cream gravy.

Flickr/dasroofless

25. To swim in a blue lagoon

Bet you didn’t realize there are blue waters outside of South Padre. Just 75 miles north of Downtown, you’ll come upon the clear blue spring-fed Blue Lagoon.

26. To treat yo’self at an award-winning, former member’s-only dining club

With an executive chef who’s had stints at El Bulli, French Laundry, and Alinea, the Pelican Club boasts a bold menu of beautifully plated, progressive American eats. Now that you’re allowed in, put on some slacks and get Parmesan-encrusted red snapper, BBQ Gulf shrimp & buttered grits, and Zinfandel-braised lamb chops.

27. To further prove your taco prowess

You can’t call yourself a taco aficionado without hitting the El Ultimo Taco Truck off Long Point.

Cajun Kitchen

28. Because that’s where you’ll find the best Vietnamese crawfish

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Vietnamese-style crawfish are hands down one of the coolest things about Houston. Get your Casian mudbug on out Crawfish & Noodles, Cajun Kitchen, and Wild Cajun.

29. Because of these 74 reasons to go to Galveston

Which include Moody Gardens, Schlitterbahn Waterpark, and BIKINI CONTESTS!

30. To get wine mouth

Before you drive all the way to Fredericksburg, check out the legit vineyard and winery located  just over 35 miles from Downtown. Santa Fe’s Haak Vineyards and Winery is open for tastings and tours seven days a week, plus they host fun stuff like food truck fests, concerts, and farmers markets.

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Brooke Viggiano is a Houston writer who can personally attest to getting wine mouth at Haak Vineyards and the effects of an addiction to “crack sauce.” Find out more truths @BrookeViggiano.

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1. Lone Pint Brewery 507 Commerce St, Magnolia, TX 77355

More than anything, Lone Pint Brewery loves hops. So much so, they only use whole, raw cone hops without filtration, and you can taste the difference in every single brew. This Magnolia brewery is perfect for IPA fans, and the Yellow Rose IPA -- made from a malty base combined with blueberry, pineapple, and grapefruit -- is one of the greatest beers brewed in the Lone Star state.

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2. Karbach Brewing Co. 2032 Karbach St, Houston, TX 77092

The brewmasters at this German-style brewery have decades of experience, resulting in high-quality craft brews -- and a genuine celebration of their beer and its drinkers. Since 2011, this northwest Houston spot has been serving up mainstay beers like Hopadillo IPA, Weisse Versa Wheat, and Weekend Warrior Pale Ale. They also host brewery tours, and have a gift shop and restaurant on the premises, which serves gastropub-style fare like charcuterie plates and wood-fired pizzas.

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3. Brash Brewing 508 Crosstimbers St, Houston, TX 77022

This edgy brewery opened its doors in late 2015 under the leadership of Ben Fullelove (of Houston's famed Petrol Station). In its tasting room, otherwise known as Brashland, you can try a handful of beers with creative names, such as the dessert-inspired Vulgar Display of Power (a Russian Imperial Stout with a whopping 14% ABV), Pussy Wagon (an Imperial IPA) and Adopted Arrogant Bastard (an American Strong Ale). The space, a haven for '80s kids, features a variety of retro games like the Terminator 2 arcade shooter.

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4. Galveston Island Brewing 8423 Stewart Rd, Galveston, TX 77554

A former home-brewer and tugboat captain who also worked a stint at Beerfoot Brewing (and St. Arnold. And Karbach) burst out all on his own with this Galveston outpost. Galveston Island's known for the Tiki Wheat (keeping consistent with the its tropical vibe), a brew that's half wheat and half barley with coriander and honey, but its other signature brews include Blue Bridge Amber and Excelsior! IPA. You can pair any of them with classic pub grub straight from the taproom or venture onto the patio to eat from the day's scheduled food truck.

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5. B-52 Brewing Company 12470 Milroy Ln, Conroe, TX 77304

Houston natives and brothers Chad and Brent Daniel caught the home-brew bug while living in Austin and built a 12-keg operation in their garage. Not long after, they opened Conroe's B-52 Brewery (like the jet, not the band) in 2014 and began selling their signature brews commercially. If you visit the taproom, you can try your hand at a Payload Pilsner, Wingman Wheat IPA or Rye Saison on a park-like and family-friendly campus, home to ping pong tables, food trucks and regularly scheduled live music.

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6. Peña's Donut Heaven And Grill 11601 Shadow Creek Pkwy, Pearland, TX 77584 (Pearland)

"Where all good doughnuts go," Peña's Donut Heaven has been serving Texans since '96 and is still going strong with this family-owned Pearland spot. This ain't your average or generic donut shop; when you come here, you're met with a selection of creatively topped donuts and cronuts (oreos, maple bacon, Foot Loops) along with the options of breakfast tacos and breakfast plates stacked high with bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes, potatoes and grits.

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7. Cureight by Hubbell & Hudson 24 Waterway Avenue Suite 125, The Woodlands, TX 77380 (The Woodlands)

Cureight is what happened when Chef Austin Simmons (of Hubbell & Hudson Bistro, where Cureight is located) let his imagination run wild. This intimate restaurant's menu, hand-picked by Simmons himself, changes weekly and revolves around tasting (that is, very small portions with very chic presentation) and always features fresh, sustainable fish, dry-aged meat and creative desserts. Despite its Woodlands location (a 30-minute drive from the city), it has no problem keepings it's 25-seat chef's table packed, so be sure to lock down a reservation before you show up.

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8. Fung's Kitchen 7320 SW Fwy 115, Houston, TX 77074

This Sharpstown spot owned and operated my master chef Hoi Fung has become synonymous with good dim sum and authentic Hong Kong-style fare. The steamed dumplings, buns, pan-fried rolls, puffs, sticky sweet cakes and (best of all) the meats are perfectly spiced. The wide selection of seafood including shrimp, cuttlefish, king crab, lobster and squid are plucked fresh out of their live aquarium with your order.

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9. Two Czech Chicks Kolache Shoppe & Bakery LLC 1810 Main St, Danbury, TX 77534

This hidden gem in Danbury has been serving the best and most authentic kolaches in the Houston area since 2013, unbeknownst to most of the city. With its signature recipe handed down from generations, the Two Czech Chicks serve the lightest, fluffiest kolaches you'll ever eat in flavors like strawberry chocolate, blueberry cream cheese and pecan pie. Other sweet treats like cream cheese rolls and cake balls can also be found here, just make sure you show up bright and early (you'll get them fresh out of the oven well before they close in the afternoon).

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10. Old Main Street Bakery 808 3rd St, Rosenberg, TX 77471

You wouldn't guess much of this joint by walking past it in Downtown Rosenberg, but once you step inside, you know it's far more than its generic signage suggests. The Old Main Street Bakery, with its open bricks walls and marble tables, is an old-school bakery and cafe known for its kolaches (as any self-respecting Texas bakery should be). Grab one, but don't dare leave without getting your hands on a cupcake, slice of pie or fresh loaf of bread, either.

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11. The Original Kolache Shoppe 5404 Telephone Rd, Houston, TX 77087

Just outside The Loop in Golfcrest, The OG of Kolache shops, this mom & pop spot has been serving the Czech pastry since 1970. The Original Kolache Shoppe offers a much wider selection of flavors than you're used to at the donut shop next to your house; options range from breakfast style (stuffed with sausage, bacon or ham with egg, cheese and jalepeno) to sweet (cream cheese meets fruit, chocolate or cinnamon) to savory (polish sausage, brisket, chicken).

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12. Lotus Seafood Market 8550 S Braeswood Blvd, Houston, TX 77071

Westchase's Lotus Seafood Market is a one-stop-shop for any seafood you could possibly desire. Fresh from the sea, the menu items here are practically endless and include simple fried rice plates to massive seafood platters with catfish fillets and fried oysters between (all served to go in styrofoam boxes so don't expect to hang around for long). You can unexpectedly find some really good chicken wings at this spot, too, but it'd be a mockery to eat those when you've got fried lobster with Louisiana fried rice waiting for you.

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13. Corkscrew BBQ 26608 Keith Street, Spring, TX 77380 (The Woodlands)

This BBQ joint started out operating from a trailer-truck and ran out of food around 2pm or 3pm every day. Due to such high demand, Corkscrew eventually went brick-and-mortar and are still just as popular, if not more so, among Houston's (and Texas') BBQ aficionados. Whether you're planning on destroying their oak-smoked brisket, blistered ribs, or spicy pork sausage, show up early or prepare for a wait (long lines start forming around 9 or 10am because they only cook enough food for the restaurant's capacity).

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14. Top Golf Katy 1030 Memorial Brook Blvd, Houston, TX 77084 (Katy)

The West Houston branch of this golf/entertainment/food and drink franchise offers 102 bays over three floors and a luxurious indoor bar and restaurant with dark lighting, sleek, modern furniture and a whopping 235 high-definition plasma televisions. The entire place is family-friendly, right down to the menu (chock full of burgers, sandwiches and pizzas), but the KidZone can take care of the young ones while you sample through the cocktail, beer and wine lists.

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15. Shrimp N Stuff 3901 Avenue O, Galveston, TX 77550

There's no better place in Texas to get fresh and ready seafood than Galveston Island, and this place might be the king of the Galveston lineup. Shrimp N Stuff is really underestimating itself when it calls all of its non-shrimp offerings "stuff." Aside from coconut/popcorn/stuffed shrimp, at this sports-bar-like spot you can feast on crawfish, catfish, crab and oysters in the form of massive, fried platters, po boy sandwiches, salads, tacos and gumbo.

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16. Tookie’s Hamburgers & More 1202 Bayport Blvd, Seabrook, TX 77586

This green-and-gold institution had to shutter in 2008 after serious flood damage from Hurricane Ike, but it reemerged stronger than ever with more elbow room and a renovated kitchen to keep up with the burger-craving hordes in 2011. The vintage decor harks back to the restaurant's 1970s inception and fits with the menu of classic American food. The move here is to order the double cheeseburger, a side of Mama Ethel's oversize onion rings, and a Heath Bar milkshake.

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17. George Observatory , Needleville, TX 77065

Forget parking your car in that desolate parking lot, George Observatory is where you really want to be looking for constellations. Located in Brazos State Park and operated by the Houston Museum of Natural Science, this is a prime spot for stargazing outside of the city that's open to the public every Saturday. This spot boasts a planetarium and three domes telescopes (the 36-inch one is one of the largest public-use 'scopes in the country) for amateur and professional space-nuts alike to find stars, planets, meteorites and galaxies.

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18. Karanchos 620 Sheldon Rd, Channelview, TX 77530

This former tiny taco stand might have transformed itself into a full-fledged Mexican restaurant, but that doesn't mean it ever lost touch with its authentic street food roots. With tacos for only a buck a pop, you can load up on al pastor, trompo, chicken and barbacoa with cilantro and onion (wrapped in your choice or flour or corn tortilla) for a ridiculously low price. The restaurant has ample seating and full bar inside, but the best way to eat from Karanchos is still to take your food outside to the patio (it is street food, after all).

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19. Mel's Country Cafe 24814 Stanolind Rd, Tomball, TX 77375

Started in the ‘70s as a fried chicken joint, this place was transitioned by the Weirich family to a burger-centric operation in the mid-’80s. The decision proved apt: their meat masterpieces, with a penchant for excess, remain objects of obsession today (take, for instance, the Mega Mel burger with one and a half pounds of ground beef, a full pound of bacon and a quarter pound of cheese). Even if you aren't coming for the challenge, come hungry because your other options include big portions of country fried chicken, grilled catfish and shrimp with hush puppies.

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20. Pelican Club 3828 Avenue T, Galveston, TX 77550

Executive Chef Ross Warhol (who cooks in renowned kitchens all over the world such as El Bulli, French Laundry, and Alinea) created this restaurant to share his love of farm-to-table cuisine and progressive American fare with the world. This Galveston spot used to be impossible to get into, reserved for members only. These days, it's open to the public, which means you have your fair chance try taste from Warhol's innovative and beautifully presented dishes like succulent duck breast, rye tegliatelle and zinfandel braised lamb.

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21. El Ultimo Taco Truck 7403 Long Point Rd, Houston, TX 77055

Want big flavor without spending big bucks? Look no further than El Ultimo. Tacos start at $1.50 and ratchet all the way up to $1.75 for el ultimo on thick flour tortillas. This place is known for its breakfast taco selection, but you can never go wrong stopping by on your lunch break (shouldn't be hard, their usual spots are right outside the loop). Pick your meat (go for the de chicharron y barbacoa, trust us) and have it topped with salsa verde, grilled onions, cilantro, white cheese, and avocado slices.

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22. Crawfish & Noodles 11360 Bellaire Blvd Ste 990, Houston, TX 77072

Crawfish & Noodles serves up an unexpected combination of Cajun and Vietnamese food to west Houston. On the corner of a Bellaire Ave strip mall, C&N impresses with bowls of piping hot, garlic-butter-soaked crawfish alongside the likes of slow-simmered beef and pork meatball pho. This joint's also got a massive dining space with ample seating and even a dance floor, which makes it a prime spot for private parties and events for the whole family.

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23. Cajun Kitchen 6938 Wilcrest Dr Ste E, Houston, TX 77072

This Viet-Cajun restaurant in Chinatown serves everything on the spectrum from Southern to Asian cuisine from blackened fish and chicken wings to po boys to its serious seafood boils — choose your own spice level and flavor to create your ultimate boil experience and add some other seafood basics and wings to your order. Take everything out to the back patio where you can cool your burning mouth with fresh air and a cold beer.

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24. Wild Cajun 6533 Wilcrest Dr, Houston, TX 77072

Despite its name, Wild Cajun literally has something for everyone, even those who don't like cajun food. This Chinatown spot's massive menu sports boiled, fried and grilled fish, wings, fried rice platters, sushi and a ton of mouth-watering starters like fried pickles,cheese fries, egg rolls and oysters. With dark orange walls, plentiful (and perpetually full) black tables, neon signage and flatscreen televisions, Wild serves all its authentic cajun and Asian cuisine with a laid back sports-bar vibe.

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25. Haak Winery 6310 Avenue T, Santa Fe, TX 77510

The first and only commercial winery in Galveston County, Haak offers tours of its vineyard and tastings of its wines — a slew of reds, whites and rose, ranging from sweet to dry — every day. Straight Amidst its scenic rows (upon rows upon rows) of growing grapes, there's a gorgeous white stone awning and barn-like building, which have become frequented venues for weddings and private parties (which are catered by its full-service kitchen).

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