Walking Tour: West University’s Rice Village

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A Walking Tour Through West University's Rice Village

Shea Serrano

Located deep within the heart of Houston’s metropolitan center is the prestigious West University Place.

Boxed in by “Kirby Drive to the east, Union Pacific St. Louis Southwestern Railway railroad track to the west, Bellaire Boulevard/West Holcombe Boulevard to the South, and Bissonnet and Law Streets to the north,” the Neighborhood City has become home to the area’s affluent professionals over the years. (Family Median Income: $157,312.)

Despite its illustrious ranking as Houston’s third most exclusive neighborhood, West University houses the Rice Village shopping center, whose patronage, matched in variety only by the stores within itself, runs the gamut from scenesters to soccer moms.

The Village’s wingspan stretches out over nearly sixteen blocks now and houses over 300 shops, boutiques, and restaurants ranging from specialized local shops to national chains. It’d take a few days to traverse, chronicle (and read) a walking tour of the Rice Village in its entirety, so we’ll focus on a two block venture.

Several of the streets in the nearly century old locale are named for poets, scholars, and institutions of higher learning (because of its proximity to Rice University); accordingly, this walking tour begins on University blvd, headed east away from Kirby.

First stop, a little light reading at Half Price Books.

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West University's Rice Village Walking Tour- Half Price Books and Swirll

Shea Serrano

There are over a dozen stores/shops/cafes heading east on University, but the first one of any substance is the pleasantly oversized Half Price Books near the intersection at Kirby. They may have every book ever written available here (or not) and it’s everyday sidewalk sale affords a great opportunity to feign interest in whatever memoir is popular that day on the book blogs for the sake of looking cool; always a plus.

Continue in the same direction on University and you’ll soon run into Swirll, one of the finer yogurt shops in the area. October saw the place receive a much needed renovation, and doing so has given the Swirll a nice little pick-me-up. They even offer Fruit Loops as a topping to their assortment of flavors now, which doesn’t seem weird at all.

Half Price Books
2537 University Blvd
Houston, TX 77005
(713) 524-6635

Swirlls
2531 University Blvd
Houston, TX 77246

Other notables in the area: Fu’s Garden Hunan Cuisine, Crossroads Coffee Next stop: Urban Outfitters

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West University's Rice Village Walking Tour- Urban Outfitters

Shea Serrano

A must for every maturing hipster (at least, too mature to bother wasting time looking for ironic t-shirts and worn down jeans at a thrift store) is Urban Outfitters. They carry all the essentials: neon colored backpacks, skinny ties, retro sunglasses, little keychain pigs that poo when you squeeze them, and an assortment of Vans tennis. The staff here is surprisingly genuine, too. Ask for Cecilia when you visit. I’m not sure if anyone by that name works there, but if there is, I bet she’ll be nice.

Urban Outfitters
2501 University Blvd
Houston, TX 77005
(713) 529-3023

Next stop: Mi Luna Tapas Restaurant and Bar

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West University's Rice Village Walking Tour- Mi Luna

Shea Serrano

Slide on over one strip slot (still heading east) and you’ll find Mi Luna Tapas and Restaurant Bar. It’s a near perfect fit for the area, and visiting with a group of friends is an almost guaranteed good time. I mean, you know you’re going to enjoy yourself when you can order octopus, tapas, and a pitcher of mojitos all in the same place.

Mi Luna
2441 University Blvd
Houston, TX 77005
(713) 520-5025

Other notables in the area: Method (women’s clothing boutique), Safari Imports

Next stop: Little Woodrows

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05 of 10

West University's Rice Village Walking Tour- Little Woodrow's

Shea Serrano

Head past the assortment of national chain shopping stores that make up the heart of Rice Village (Gap, M.A.C, Talbots, Banana Republic, American Eagle, Bath & Body Works and stores of that corporate nature), and turn south on Morningside and soon you’ll make your way to the steps of Little Woodrow’s, a great, neighborhood hangout type of place.

There’s nothing terribly interesting or original about Little Woodrow’s --it’s pretty much what every “We are so a neighborhood bar and laid back” looks like around these parts—but I think that’s what makes it enjoyable. The large outdoor patio and expanse of beers available don���t hurt its cause either.

Little Woodrow’s 5611 Morningside Dr Houston, TX 77005 713-521-2337

Other notables in the area: The Ginger Man, Brian O’Neils Restaurant and Irish Pub, Bronx Bar

Next stop: The Bead Shop and Thai Village Restaurant

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West University's Rice Village Walking Tour- The Bead Shop and Thai Village

Shea Serrano

You can’t really walk past a place that advertises itself as having “Beads Of Every Description” and not go in, and that’s what you’ll come across when you aim west on Times. True to their word, The Bead Shop had every bead I had ever tried to describe (which didn’t reach much further past “those ones that hang from your bedroom door,” but still, if I ever decide to try to describe some other types of beads, I’m sure they’ll have it here. I mean, they have beads made out of bone. Bone.)

Continue walking west and you’ll wander right into the enjoyable Thai Village Restaurant, easily one of the more Asian restaurants in the area. Be forewarned, their food gets spicy quick, so amateurs shouldn’t stray too far past mild.

The Bead Shop
2476 Times Blvd
Houston, TX 77005
713-523-9350

Thai Village Restaurant
2512 Times Blvd
Houston, TX 77005
713-524-8682

Other notables in the area: Indian Sun, Japon Japanese Restaurant, and, for the geek in you, G&G Model Shop

Next stop: Shiva Indian Restaurant

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West University's Rice Village Walking Tour- Shiva Indian Restaurant

Shea Serrano

Just a few hundred feet away from Thai Village Restaurant is another satisfying place to dine: Shiva Indian Restaurant. Now, in the interest of honesty, I’ve never been a big Indian food guy, but this place was unexpectedly pleasing to visit. And it turns out, I’m not the only person to think so. Shiva has won all kinds of restaurant awards, including those from the Houston Press (Best Vegetarian, Best Indian, Reader’s Choice, etc), the Houston Chronicle (Ultimate Indian Restaurant), Citysearch.com, and Yelp.com. Give the Boti Kebab Shahnaz a try. You’ll have a considerably better time eating it than you will trying to pronounce it.

Shiva Indian Restaurant
2514 Times Blvd
Houston, TX 77005
713-523-4753

Other notables in the area:Lot 8 (clothing), Beautique Day Spa and Salon

Next Stop: Bicycle World of West U.

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West University’s Rice Village Walking Tour- Bicycle World of West U.

Shea Serrano

On the opposite side of the street of Shiva is Bicycle World of West U., a nifty little bike shop that helps to maintain The Village’s character in spite of the increasing corporate presence. The verdict is still out on this one, because I’ve been in there twice and once I was greeted with a hearty hello and a smile (which is what you’d expect from a tiny, neighborhood bike shop) and once I was completely ignored. Biases aside, the selection of bike-related merchandise is unexpectedly thorough for such a small shop, and next day turnaround on bike repairs is status quo.

Bicycle World of West U.
2519 Rice Blvd
Houston, TX 77005
713-529-0140

Last stop: Main Street Theater

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09 of 10

West University's Rice Village Walking Tour- Main Street Theater

Shea Serrano

Live performances are always fun, even when they’re bad (sometimes, especially when they’re bad) and this quaint theater is a great little place to get your fix. The nondescript exterior is not quite indicative of the quality of theater held inside, as this Main Street Theater (there is another, larger version in Chelsea Market) books everything from touring shows to youth theater and most of it is quality stuff. Immediate parking can be a bit of a hassle, but that’s common to all the Village establishments.

Main Street Theater
2540 Times Blvd
Houston, TX 77005
713-524-6706

Getting back to the beginning

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West University's Rice Village Walking Tour- Back to the Beginning

Shea Serrano

Despite having walked nearly two miles, all you’ve got to do is head north through the shops paralleling Kirby and you’ll be back at the beginning of the tour in about four minutes.

Thanks for coming along. Hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to seeing you on the next one.

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