HOUSTON – Montrose is expensive, it’s true. But on any given day, you can explore one of the city’s most charming and storied neighborhoods without breaking the bank.
Here’s our shortlist on Montrose cultural offerings under $15.
There are many fine coffee shops in Montrose where you can read, chat with friends or people watch in peace. Below I list a few of my favorites. They’re special, quirky places where time slows and a great cup of coffee comes with a table and a chair.
I come to this coffee shop on Westheimer and Dunlavy nearly every Saturday and Sunday. I really love the place. And by no means am I alone in my affection for it. Decorated with vintage furniture that looks like it was just pulled from an attic, Agora has been beloved for years by strung out city dwellers who come to eat its incredible pastries and drink its rich coffee (I urge you to try to the freddo cappuccino). Parking is a problem. Finding someplace to sit is a struggle. But Agora is worth the effort and more. There’s something in the atmosphere. The aroma of coffee, the hum of conversation, Nina Simone belting in the background. It’s a simple joy to savor a cup of coffee here.
What I order: Freddo cappuccino ($5), almond shortbread cookies ($4).
📍 1712 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098
Black Hole Coffee House
Another Montrose coffee shop I frequent. It’s a friendly place of refuge and peace, a sort of sun-filled sanctuary where one can be alone without exactly being alone. Black Hole Coffee House has a kind of effortlessly cool vibe, too -- mismatched mod furniture, smooth jazz, serious coffee. It has the right proportion of comfortable seating to electrical outlets, there’s wireless internet, convenient parking, a food truck stationed just outside, and lovely tables out front that fill up when the weather is nice.
What I order: Nitro cold brew ($4), iced antidote ($4.50).
📍 4504 Graustark St, Houston, TX 77006
This hardcore coffee shop in Montrose is named for its specialty brewing method, which involves a halogen heating element, glass globe, and wooden paddle. The spectacle is quite entertaining and results in a brew so striking I’m sure FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper would describe it thusly: “You know, this is – excuse me – a damn fine cup of coffee.” The beverage is $10, takes around 10 minutes and results in two servings.
To boot, Siphon is a sweet study spot with free Wi-Fi, working outlets, good grub, comfy chairs, and ample counterspace. All in all, it’s a great place to unwind.
📍 701 W Alabama St., Houston, TX 77006
🎨 Absorb the art
There are several cultural attractions in Montrose with very agreeable admission fees. How does $0 sound to you?
Completed in 1971, Rothko Chapel was designed in collaboration with American painter Mark Rothko. The interior serves both as a non-denominational chapel and a major work of modern art. On its walls are 14 dark black and blue paintings by Mark Rothko. Philip Johnson, Howard Barnstone, and Eugene Aubry are the architects.
Outside the chapel, Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk sits above a reflecting pool. The sculpture is dedicated to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The chapel is free and open to the public daily from dawn until dusk.
📍 3900 Yupon St., Houston, TX 77006
The Menil Collection
The museum opened to the public in June 1987 and houses John and Dominique de Menils’ privately-assembled collection of 20th century art including over 19,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, and rare books.
Make sure to take a turn through the Menil’s surrealist galleries. The Menil’s began collecting Surrealism in the late 1940s and their holdings eventually grew to include over 300 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper. Three artists form the core of their surrealist collection: Victor Brauner, Max Ernst, and René Magritte. The couple ultimately amassed the most significant holdings of these artists’ work in the United States.
The Menil Collection is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.
📍 1533 Sul Ross St, Houston, TX 77006
Houston Center for Photography
Free to the public, this exhibition gallery displays works of contemporary photography.
📍 1441 W Alabama St, Houston, TX 77006
In Montrose, a host of eclectic boutiques, consignment stores and thrift shops offer antique treasures and Texas-made gifts on the cheap. Fellow spendthrifts, visit these locales for good-quality goods sold at guilt-free prices.
More than 200 artists and makers -- the majority of whom are from Texas -- are featured at this Montrose gem nestled between Agora and Common Bond. Opened in 2012 by husband-wife duo Carlos and Leila Peraza, the shop proffers a quirky-cute assemblage of giftable goods including plushies, apparel, stationery, face masks, mugs, and art prints. New artists and offerings are added to the shelves constantly.
📍 1706 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098
The Guild Shop
Since the 1962, this Episcopal Church-run resale shop has donated its profits to various charitable causes. There’s plenty here to peruse: clothing, furniture, jewelry, art and more.
📍 2009 Dunlavy St, Houston, TX 77006
A longtime Houston fixture serving the city’s pagan set, The Magick Cauldron bills itself as “Houston’s premier pagan religious supplier.” A purveyor of all things occult, the Montrose shop offers everything from unusual herbs, custom incense, candles (some skull-shaped), talismans and crystals to well, actual cauldrons, Ouija boards, wands, alter pentacles, tarot cards, rune sets and chalices. The Magick Cauldron also carries jewelry, Renfest paraphernalia, steampunk garb, armor and an array of medieval weaponry.
📍 2424 Montrose Blvd, Houston, TX 77006
🍔 Feed the beast
The Pit Room
Though in its relative infancy when compared with the other longstanding stalwarts in Montrose, The Pit Room (established in 2016) is already a much-beloved neighborhood institution. Powered by two, custom-made, barrel-style offset smokers, the cafeteria-style concept offers three kinds of house-made sausage, brisket, beef and pork ribs, pulled pork, sandwiches, tacos, Frito pie, chili and a slew of sides. The eatery routinely appears on “best of” lists and has been featured in several publications both locally and nationally. Overwhelmed? No clue what to order? If you’re not sure where to start, take on a brisket taco (just $6!) while you think on it. View the menu here.
Whatever you get, know you honest-to-goodness cannot go wrong. That said, I urge you try to the Frito pie. Their “cheffed up” version of the walking taco is all that and a bag of chips -- a hearty, Texas-sized heap comprised of a dense layer of chips, hearty smoked brisket chili, your choice of chopped beef or pulled pork, chopped raw onion, and a generous serving of sour cream. Grab a few pickled onions, carrots and jalapenos from the well-stocked condiment bar and *chef’s kiss* baby, you’re in business. Simply stated, it’s wicked good. At $16, it’s a bit over budget per the parameters of this article, but trust me, it’s worth the splurge and you can easily split it. I’ve never managed to eat the entire thing in one sitting and I’ve tried plenty of times.
Lankford’s Grocery & Market
Okay, so Lankford’s sits between Montrose and Midtown and you could argue, rightfully, it belongs in either neighborhood. For the purposes of this article, I’m claiming it for Montrose. If I were writing about Midtown, I’d claim it for Midtown. The burgers are that good. They’re burger bucket list good. Okay, geography aside complete. Let me introduce you to Lankford’s.
It opened in 1937 and continues to operate out of its original location -- a converted garage -- located at 88 Dennis St. Initially opened as a fruit stand, Lankford’s grew into a grocery store before evolving into its current iterations as a burger joint in the 1980s. Third-generation family members operate the longstanding establishment to this day. The beloved, off-the-beaten-path burger joint routinely appears on “best of” lists and Lankford’s menu sums up the eatery best: It serves “nothing small, nothing healthy, and nothing fast. We never give you a check but that does not mean it’s free. You pay at the register as you leave. If you do not have 30 minutes to spend, you should try us another day. WE have great food, but it’s not fast food. Everything is made to order just like you like it!” View the menu here.
Price-wise, the menu items hover around $10-14 and the most expensive item, the chicken fried steak, is $16.95. Pricey, but heavenly.
📍 88 Dennis St, Houston, TX 77006
🍦 Sugar up
Because ice cream makes everything better.
This Montrose mainstay serves handcrafted, lovingly made gelato in hundreds of rotating flavors like Blueberry Cobbler Cheesecake, Coconut Kulfi Sorbet and Turkish Coffee. Like coffee? Order the affogato. It’s heavenly.
📍 3939 Montrose Blvd, Houston, TX 77006
milk + sugar
This ice cream parlor specializes in “mix-ins” that are made in-house and are folded into the ice cream as it’s churned. Think brownie chunks, pecan streusel, a cinnamon-sugar blondies. Mouthwatering flavors include PB Cookies & Cream, Dulce de Horchata, and Strawberry Almond Cheesecake.
📍 1848 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098
West Alabama Ice House
A Houston institution, West Alabama Ice House has sat at the same spot since the 1920s. It’s undergone surprisingly few changes over the years. Here, you’ll find cold beer, outdoor seating and an on-site taco truck. What more could you ask for?
Want a good drink sans pretension? Try Catbirds, the local watering hole for cool cats and dive birds. The Montrose bar doesn’t look like much on first glance, or second, for that matter. It’s in a nondescript gray building off Westheimer and inside, there are mismatched chairs, stools, rickety tables, a yellow piano and not much else, well except liquor. There’s lots of that. It’s all very casual and cool.
Good people of Montrose and beyond, what would you add? This list is by no means comprehensive and I’m grateful for recommendations. What Montrose shops do you frequent for affordable eats and fun? Drop your recommendations in the comment section and I may include them in a future update to this article.