A few weeks ago I celebrated my 35th birthday. That milestone made me question - when was the last time that I did something for the first time? Like most people I tend to gravitate to the same things in the same places, which is why I was thrilled when Midtown invited me to take a bike tour to explore their area. So just to clarify where exactly Midtown is located- it’s the central neighborhood of Houston, located west/southwest of downtown Houston. When I’m in the area I tend to go to the same spots and do the same things, so it’s safe to say I really didn’t know Midtown that well.
Now about the bike ride. As an adult, the bikes I ride are stationary and come with a towel as most cycle studios do, so I was nervous about riding a bike for the first time in well over a decade. Much to my surprise and somewhat shock, I not only remembered how to ride a bike ( as the saying goes) I loved it! Here are even more reasons why I wheelie ( pun intended) loved my Midtown experience.
Of course I don’t own a bike so I used the Bcycle bike share system located all around Midtown. The two-wheel experience gave me a more unique and appealing perception of my surrounding, versus the monotony of driving. I could smell the food from restaurants around me and feel the wind on my face, while really taking in my environment in a more mindful way. Another bonus of the bike is avoiding the challenge of finding parking as you move from place to place around Midtown.
The process to rent a bike is super simple. You can purchase time at the bike station, or you can download the B Cycle app like I did. Monthly membership is only $9, or there is the option to purchase annually for only $99. Students also get a discount. Here is a screenshot of my phone so you can see how simple the process is to download the app.
Step 1: Download the Bcycle app
Step 2: Click the UNLOCK button to find the bike station closest to you.
Step 3: Select a bike by choosing from the number of bikes available.
Step 4: Enter the dock number of the bike you want.
Step 5: The bike automatically releases from the dock.
Now that I had my bike I was ready to head to my first location, and at 9am that had to mean some place with coffee. First stop - Retrospect Coffee Bar!
Retrospect Coffee Bar
3709 La Branch St, Houston, TX 77004
So fun fact - the Retrospect Coffee Bar originally opened in 1921 as one of the city's first neighborhood gas stations. It closed for about 40 years until 2017 when it was renovated and reopened into the coffee bar that it is today. It’s actually a historical landmark in Houston with the plaque to prove it. You green girls will also be happy to know that sustainable and energy efficient building materials were also incorporating into the remodel.
The sweet smell of fresh made crepes invited me in, and the sultry smell of freshly brewed coffee gave me hope that I would be fully awake soon. This coffee bar is modest in size, but big on quality and service. While waiting for my friend to arrive I spent the majority of my time talking to Stephen the manager of Retrospective, and one of the coolist human beings ever! I could tell that he took great pride and attentiveness is the creation of every drink, and understood the chemistry and romance that is the perfect cup of coffee. A big plus for this coffee bar is their roasters and vendors are all local, and include some of my favorites like Boomtown coffee.
I placed my standard order of a cortado with almond milk, and of course had to try one of the crepes that everyone was ordering. I ordered the Lady Bird crepe which comes with goat cheese and turkey, but I also had them add a balsamic vinaigrette.
The seating at Retrospect is all outdoor and on benches. It’s not a fancy place, but I find that some of the best places to eat and drink focus on the quality of the food versus decor, which is definitely the case here. Retrospective Coffee Bar also serve a rotating list of craft beers in addition to coffee and crepes. I have every intention of returning to Retrospective this week, tomorrow actually.
Now that I had my coffee and crepe I was ready to go onto the next stop - the Midtown Houston Farmer’s Market.
Midtown Houston Farmer’s Market
Elizabeth Baldwin Park - 1701 Elgin St. ,Houston, TX 77004
I am a HUGE fan of Farmer’s Markets, and the thing I love most is you never really know what you’re going to find. Some of my best dishes were inspired by ingredients that I could only find from a vendor at the market. On this day I found a lot of premade goods like jams, pickled veggies, fruits, baked goods, and my favorite - natural soaps. I got to know the vendors and genuinely enjoyed hearing about the passion and talent that drives their businesses. One of these business in particular is run by kidpreneur, Kai of Kai’s Kookies.
The Midtown Houston Farmer’s Market happens every Saturday from 10am to 2pm. Good news for those of us that love our beauty sleep, as most Farmer’s Markets start and end earlier. The market is held in Baldwin Park which is incredibly picturesque and has a trail, so you could easily go for a jog, or take the dog for a walk before or after heading to the market.
With goodies in tow I was now headed to my final destination of the morning - Diced Poke.
917 Winbern St suite a, Houston, TX 77002
The last stop on my “wheelie” amazing and eye-opening tour of Midown was to the only restaurant in Houston to be featured in Yelp's top 100 Places to Eat - Diced Poke! Their menu features Poke bowls, Pokkiritos (Poke burritos), Spam Musubi ( yes it's made with Spam), Mochi Ice cream, and Acai Bowls. This fast casual restaurant only opened last year, and is co-owned by its head chef, Chef Jerry Jan.
My friend Raya and I tried a little of everything including:
- Custom Made Poke Bowl
- North Shore Pokkiritos
- Classic Spam Musubi
- Miso Soup ( which is complimentary)
Fun Fact: If you have any dietary restrictions or preferences, they can customize your entree to be Paleo, Keto, vegan, Whole 30, or gluten free. The food was incredibly fresh, and as an added plus I was excited to see microgreens on the menu. In case you don’t know microgreens are considered a superfood due to their high concentration of nutritional value as compared to fully grown veggies. Diced Poke has 40 different ingredients to choose from to create your own Poke bowl or burrito, but so far my favorite thing was the chef-crafted North Shore Pokkirito. All the sauces at Diced Poke are made in house which also gives the food incredible flavor that you can’t get anywhere else.
Diced Poke has a gorgeous interior design with a clean and modern style, i.e very insta-friendly for all you food bloggers looking for a place to get great food and good shots. Another important thing to note about Diced Poke is that they validate parking up to an hour! Diced Poke is attached to a parking garage which makes parking incredibly easy since street parking in the area can be hard to come by.
After Diced Poke it was time for me to dock my B Cycle bike and return to the 4 wheels of my car which now felt stuffy and confining after being on a bike all day. This was probably the most fun I’ve had in 2019 so far, and an experience that I would sincerely suggest you try. I saw a whole new side to Midtown and really Houston in general, and loved the nuisance of exploring from the sidewalk rather than the street. For those of you that love “the gram” I also made my experience through Midtown a Highlight on the MsIndependent Instagram page, so you can see even more photos and video from that day.
Midtown has other great restaurants, activities, and attractions, so be sure to check out their calender of events to see what’s happening next. You can also like and follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to see what’s going on in Midtown and hopefully some weekend inspo for your own great adventure through Midtown.
Now I want to hear from you. What do you think of biking through Midtown, yay or nay? Also if you know the area better than I do give myself and other readers some suggestions of places to try in the comments below.