Monday, January 13, 2014

a vacation in my own town

Living thirty miles from downtown Houston means that I don't get to experience some parts of my city as much as or as often as I would like to. Downtown Houston is mostly a business district, but recently, some pretty great bars and restaurants have opened up in the Market Square area and I have wanted to explore them. Some friends asked Andrew and I if we would join them for a night out there, so we got on Priceline (love Name Your Own Price), got a room, and made a weekend mini-trip out of it.

The highlights:

- We went to Discovery Green Flea, which is more a market for all kinds of handmade goods and less of a flea market. I got an air plant for my desk at work but apparently it needs sun so I think it will live in my kitchen instead.

The park's Christmas tree is still up. | My cool plant.

- Met our friends at Okra first, which we all agreed was the favorite by far. I've talked about it here before.

- Batanga for dinner. Ten different tapas to share, so a little bit of everything. The guys tried the pig ears (I wasn't that brave), but we did have the salt cod (I wasn't a fan), grilled avocado with chorizo (yum), and the potatoes, chicken croquettes, and meatballs that were already favorites. The weather was in the 60s so we got to sit outside on the cute patio. Houston in January, gotta love it.

- We checked out Little Dipper, which is a newer bar. It wants to be a neighborhood bar, downtown. The bartender was cool and extended happy hour prices past happy hour.

- Pastry War was next on the list, which is a tequila bar. I talked about it here. Everyone agreed that they made a good margarita, and the chips and salsa we ordered were great snacks, too.

- I had been looking forward to trying El Big Bad because the pictures of it online were so pretty. They have a glassed-in area around the elevator where all of their infused tequilas are kept. They have all kinds of wild flavors - blueberry, vanilla, hibiscus, blueberry-ancho, vanilla-habanero, and the one I had to try: Churro. It was in a drink with cranberry juice and was garnished with a cinnamon stick (by this point, details weren't important) and it was so good, if you like sweet drinks, which I do. We also shared the queso fundido. I really want to go back here for dinner and to try a different tequila flavor.

- Andrew and I had heard mixed reviews about Bad News Bar, the newest bar in the area, but the bartenders at El Big Bad urged us to try it out. They said it was a speakeasy with an unmarked door and you had to knock on the door with a fox three times to go in (or something. I was drinking. I just remember my friend singing "What does the fox say?"). We went outside and saw a guy checking IDs and taking people into an unmarked door, so we followed them and sure enough, there was a bar in an old law office, complete with old-school desk lamps on each table. The drinks were strong and I liked the atmosphere, though the crowd was a little young. It was an experience for sure since I never go to bars, let alone ones with unmarked entrances.

Starting off at Okra | Elevator selfie at El Big Bad | Champ #3- my churro tequila drink | On the Batanga Patio (I don't realize how short I am until I see photos with others...)

- My friends were tired and wanted to go back to their room around 11, but through the wonders of social media, I saw some of my coworker friends were at Little Dipper, so Andrew and I met up with them and the others they were with. The rest of the night involved talking a cop into letting five of us ride the lightrail illegally, a Frenchman I didn't know giving me a double-cheek kiss while I gave him some serious stink eye, and a champagne glass getting broken while a woman was getting down to "Low" by Lil Jon for no real reason.

- We met up with the original friends on Sunday Morning for brunch at Hay Merchant (the Cease and Desist burger is their version of In-N-Out's double double and it was delicious) and ended with coffee at Blacksmith, my favorite. We sat on the patio at both and it was lovely.

Burger | Latte art, of course.

So in a nutshell, that was my staycation weekend. If you don't get to fully experience your city because you live too far away from the fun stuff, I highly recommend taking the opportunity to do it. It was way safer than us going to 1-2 bars and driving home and we got to cram lots of fun into one night with good friends. Hope you had a great weekend too!


  1. I live in Tampa, so a lot of thinigs in my area can be touristy, but I don't get to try new places as often as I would like! Okay, so don't laugh but I watch Courtney Loves Dallas, and I am pretty sure she went to Hay Merchant on the last ep I saw. I am a lame Bravo junkie, I know. We have a cool speakeasy type place in South Tampa, called Ciro's. The place is cool, and delish! But definitely pricey and maybe a little too hipster to go on the regular, but it's fun every now and then.

  2. Looks like a super fun weekend!

    I live about 50 miles from Savannah. Usually we just spend the day there and like you said have to rush around to all of the places we want to go. This coming weekend the BF and I are spending the weekend in Savannah and I am so looking forward to it!

  3. same with me; i hardly ever go to downtown toronto which is filled with so much awesomeness but the traffic and the driving ugh, too much!

    Vodka and Soda

  4. This is such a great idea! I've always thought it would be fun to stay in a hotel in DC and just really enjoy the city, even though I live in it. Good for you! It looks like you had so much fun!

  5. What a fun weekend!!! Chris and I were talking on Saturday night about how we need new friends to hang out with that like to go out and do things like this. Why cant you live closer?! I am totally craving a hamburger now after seeing that picture. Mmmm!

  6. I was just thinking this morning I can't wait until it warms up so I can take a beach staycation!

    What a fun and interesting idea for weekend fun, Discovery Green Flea sounds like my kind of place. I love your air plant but I had no idea they needed sun.

  7. Same reason why I don't go into Boston too often! Sounds like you had a blast. The Speakeasy unmarked door sounds like fun! I need to be a tourist in my town more! Glad you had fun!

  8. Latte art latte art! I love it!

    Overall very fun weekend for you guys.

    I love being a tourist in my own town. We've only stayed in a hotel downtown here once though. My parents do it often!

  9. What a fun weekend! I love Okra and Hay Merchant. And I've heard good things about bad News Bar. I need to check it out!

  10. i love weekends like this in your own city, especially when you live in a place that has so much to offer !

  11. Sounds like a glorious weekend!

    We went to a speakeasy type bar with an unmarked door and a password when I was visiting friends in Milwaukee. Apparently they give out a fake password that doesn't work, so they make you do ridiculous things at the door to get in (like try to rub your stomach and pat your head at the same time) and put it on a live feed that everyone in the bar can see, so when you finally get in, everyone laughs at you. It was both hilarious and mortifying.

  12. I know it's not close, but I am going to Austin in February and can't wait!

    This looks like such a fun weekend. I love exploring my own city but don't do it often enough.

  13. I love the idea of taking a vacation right in my own city - might have to do that sometime!

    BTW this idea of unmarked bars is so weird to me - I think I am way too unhip, although I think I saw something similar happening as I was driving through an industrial part of town a couple weeks ago! Pretty cool!

  14. How fun! And you only recovered from drinks not traveling! MY kind of vacation!! The coffee looks amazing! So glad you had fun!

  15. It sounds like you had an absolute blast! I am super jealous of the bar you went to with the speak-easy feel. I would love to go to one of those!

    Interesting names for the places you went to. When I think Little Dipper, I think ice cream place. When I think Pastry War, I think of a bakery! Oh how wrong I was. Ha!

    David and I have never done a staycation. We stayed at a hotel here in town for two nights after our wedding... but that's really the extent of it, so it doesn't count.

  16. That's so cool you went on a staycation, sounds like so much fun! Also, send me a churro drink pleeeease

  17. YUM! All this food talk made me hungry! I love those weekends that kind of aren't planned and you just get to take an entire weekend to enjoy the company of people and explore new places. Sounds like an awesome mini vacation!

  18. You guys always look like you're having so much fun!! I seriously need to come visit you and let you take me around to all the fun places :)

    That bar sounds really neat. I love fun places like that.

  19. I like the plant and the bowl, it's so cute. And almost looks like a fishy could be in there. :)
    And of course I LOVE all these food, restaurant and drinks pics. Sigh. Le Houston.
    This looks like a great weekend to start off the year!!

  20. Love the idea of having a staycation in your town. There's so much to explore. That food looks delicious :)

    Thanks for linking up!

  21. Man, that weekend (on Saturday) I had the burger at Hay Merchant, immediately followed by a vanilla latte at Blacksmith. If only we had planned this better, we could have enjoyed them both together! Haha. But basically, any time we eat lunch at a place that is remotely close to Blacksmith, I make George take me there. It's just too good!

    Also, I really want to go to El Big Bad now! Perhaps that can be our next outing??

  22. Wow this is such a good idea! You really got to explore the city this weekend!!!


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