The Thresher's Rice Recs
Are you a freshman new to Houston? Technically a sophomore but lived remote last year? A senior looking for new places to try before you graduate? And whatever the juniors are up to, we’ve got you covered. Our staff has compiled H-Town recommendations for you, from bars to barber shops and everything in between.
Tacos: Brothers Taco House
If you’re looking for tacos beyond Rice Village, steer away from Torchy’s for something more authentic: Brothers Taco House, a tiny but mighty joint with affordable offerings. Despite the ordering line’s resemblance to a servery, the food is infinitely better. Individual tacos clock in at $3 or less, depending on the taco, and include breakfast tacos as well. We recommend any of the tacos with meat filling, as well as the meal plates.
Runner-up: Tacos Tierra Caliente
Thrift store: Family Thrift Center
If you’re able to make the trip and looking for a large selection of clothing at low prices, Family Thrift is the perfect place to find your new fall fits. Well-organized by clothing type, size and color, this brightly-lit store makes finding exactly what you need easy, and rotating sales on already well-priced merchandise means a trip to any of Houston’s four locations will prevent some wallet strain.
Tip: At outlet stores — prices start at $2 on Thursday, with various additional drops throughout the week.
Coffee shop: Slowpokes
A short drive from campus, this cute cafe is the perfect spot to grab a sweet pastry for breakfast with friends or a latte to sip on while studying. The quaint space has plenty of seating and features portraits of the coffee shop’s popular slow animal characters, Patches, Mash and Tasker Alexander. But if you prefer to be outside in the fresh air, you can take your coffee to go across the street to Levy Park.
Staff pick: Caramel macchiato
Vegan spot: Local Foods
Self-described as “hyper-local,” Local Foods has a variety of fresh and tasty dishes, including their famous Garden Sammie sandwich. Their menu caters perfectly to vegans, vegetarians and people who like eating seasonal alike, with sides rotated seasonally. The restaurant chain has four locations across the Houston area, including one in Rice Village right next to campus and within walking distance.
Staff pick: Quinoa burger
Burgers: The Burger Joint
Located in Montrose, the Burger Joint is a must-try for any burger-lover in Houston. The menu offers classic burgers, as well as burgers with a twist. But what really stands out is their wide range of sauces, perfect with a side of fries. Head outside with your order for a seat at the outdoor patio. If you’re looking for a nontraditional burger, we recommend the Opa! or the Kimchi burger.
Runner-up: Hopdoddy Burger Bar
Sushi: Kura Revolving Sushi Bar
Everyone should experience a sushi conveyor belt, and Kura offers a fun take on the concept that’s only a few METRO stops away. Plenty of delectable items will pass by, and with the affordable prices and good quality, you won’t regret your impulsive selections. To top it all off, you get to see cute animations when you slide in your empty plates — rack up enough and you’ll even get a bonus prize.
Staff pick: Golden crunchy roll and sesame balls
They certainly aren’t lying when they say, “Here, Everything is Better.” H-E-B offers the quality and ambiance of a higher-end grocery store, while maintaining the prices even a college student can afford. There are two locations just a short drive from campus, one in Montrose and the other on Buffalo Speedway. Whether you’re looking for their freshly made sushi or the rich homemade brownies, you’ll never leave H-E-B disappointed.
Runner-up: Trader Joe’s
Doughnuts: Voodoo Doughnut
Have you ever wanted a doughnut in the shape of a joint? What about one with the star of Satan on it? Whatever your unique doughnut craving, Voodoo Doughnut is the place for you. Home of a Voodoo doll-shaped doughnut, and so much more, this Portland-based shop has every doughnut you can imagine exists, and so much more. But don’t worry, if you’re looking for a plain, boring doughnut, they have that too.
Drive time: 10 minutes
Bar: Wooster's Garden
With a variety of fun mixed drinks to choose from and a louder atmosphere, Wooster’s Garden is the perfect bar for a livelier Friday night out. Have a seat across from your date in their hanging chairs, or for a bigger group, gather in one of their cozy corner booths. The majority of the space is outdoors, though warning — it can be a bit crowded during peak times, so use your discretion to be COVID-safe.
Runner-up: Holman Draft House
Korean food: Tofu Village
Located out west in Chinatown, this Korean food spot is worth the drive from campus. Serving traditional and flavorful Korean soups along with delicious Korean barbecue, the restaurant also has great options for vegetarian diners. And with generous portion sizes, you’ll have leftovers to save you from a couple additional servery meals.
Runner-up: Ohn Korean Eatery
Ramen: Ramen Tatsu-ya
When you pass Ramen Tatsu-ya, it’s hard to miss the human-sized maneki-neko waving you in. Although they only provide one vegetarian ramen option, Tatsu-ya’s menu offers a variety of ramen with pork-based broths — a real favorite among customers. The true gem, however, lies in the add-on “flavor bombs,” which can add either spice or various flavors to any ramen of your choice.
Staff pick: Tonkatsu original ramen with a very spicy fire bomb
Boba: Hella Bubble
Hella Bubble is a favorite among local Houstonians (awarded the Best of the Best Boba in Houston by the Houston Chronicle) and is a must-try. Their signature milk cap is creamy yet airy, sweet with just the right hint of savory that perfectly balances all of their teas. The menu is stacked with cute and delicious drinks, and they offer a large selection of favorite flavors.
Staff pick: Matcha latte with red bean
Pizza: Romano's Pizza
Everyone has opinions on what they think is the best pizza place. While we can’t say definitively that Romano’s is the best pizza in Houston, it’s pretty damn close. Owned by two cousins who grew up in Italy and lived in NYC before relocating to Houston, Romano’s is as close to authentic New York-style pizza as we can find in the 713.
Drive time: 12 minutes
Haircut: Bích Nga Hair Design
Who else will give you a full service haircut and wash for $12? Bích Nga has been giving fades to Rice boys for years and they’ve always kept their prices low. It’s just a short ride on the METRO and you usually don’t have to wait too long even if you didn’t make an appointment. It is cash only but you won’t find anyone who does it better at this price point.
Runner-up: Times Barber Shop
Late night: Yoyo's Hotdog
Undoubtedly the most popular late-night food truck near Rice, Yoyo’s Hotdog doesn’t disappoint. Their only vice: its absurdly long line from the moment it opens till 3 a.m., but even that has its redeeming quality. Whether you’re in your PJs or just left a party, the line can be a delightful spot to socialize. Plus, those black-sauced, crunchy, fried onions on top… Yum.
Walk time: 15 minutes
Dessert spot: Van Leeuwen
At Van Leeuwen, you get what you pay for. With unique flavors like Mac and Cheese and Honeycomb ice cream, plus the classics, you won’t be disappointed. Van Leeuwen also offers tasty vegan ice cream made from oat and cashew milk. This place can be a bit pricey, so if you’re looking to get some high quality ice cream and can share it with friends, we recommend splitting a pint.
Runner-up: Dessert Gallery
Outdoor spot: Hermann Park
Just across Main Street and the METRO tracks from campus is one of Houston’s gems, Hermann Park. With a number of trails, two flowerful gardens and open grassy spaces, it’s the perfect spot for a run, picnic or any outdoor activity. The park is also home to the Houston Zoo, a large pond with pedal boats available for rent, and an outdoor theater with free music performances. There’s even a public, 18-hole golf course and driving range, if you’re into that. Hermann Park is ideal for a weekend excursion, or if you just really need to escape campus for a few hours.
Runner-up: Memorial Park
More from The Rice Thresher
According to Germaine Franco (Baker College ‘84), her time at Rice was a terrific experience that prepared her for the unexpected. Despite the incredible success of the Disney animation “Encanto” last fall, the nomination for an Academy Award for Best Original Score still caught the composer by surprise.
Even though McMurtry College senior Isabel Sjodin was raised in Houston, she didn’t know much about Rice until her junior year of high school. She said the first time she was scheduled to tour Rice she ended up chatting with a Rice student on campus and missing said tour. However, that conversation and a later overnight visit at Sid Richardson College made a strong impression on her.
In his almost 18 years at Rice, President David Leebron said he’s never taken more than four weeks off at a time, despite having the option for a sabbatical every seven years. While he doesn’t know what his future career plans are after stepping down this summer, he plans to take full advantage of his delayed sabbatical.