After a colleague of mine in Seattle told us he was leaving for a job in Houston, my first reaction wasn't "oh I'm so sad to see you go," but "oh, how cool!" Then I discovered some of my family may be moving to Austin. My instinct wasn't, "oh how sad, your moving 1000 miles farther away," but "awesome! I can't wait to visit ya'll!" Here are a few of our favorite places in Houston (and Austin). I'm going to edit this in a couple of days to incorporate a list that Katherine B gave me. If you have anything to add, let me know and I'll add it as well:
(Note - Rachel and I lived "in the loop." There should rarely be a reason to leave the inner loop)
Jog or walk, or just enjoy: Memorial Park, Hermann Park, Rice University
Our favorite pizza places: Collina's (the best), Star Pizza (what other people think is the best … very deep dish)
Tips about University Village: Enjoy discovering the restaurants, they're eclectic and very interesting. Black Walnut Café (Veggi, NW-style food), Mi Luna (Great tapas), Hungry's Bistro (Great brunch, Mediterranean, humus), Benjy's Restaurant (I forgot… maybe I liked the happy hour and fancy cocktails), Yum Yum Cha (Cantonese, dumplings, hole-in-the-wall place), Some other café on the corner of Rice and Chaucer (across the streat from Hungry's Bistro) is great, veggi, NW-style food, great deserts, Goode Company BBQ
Best supermarket in the world: Central Market in Highland Village. Like Whole Foods but much, much better
Tips about the big exciting mass of restaurants between Highland Village and Montrose (on a map, between Wesleyan, Montrose, above I-59): Amy's Ice Cream (classic, a must go place. Try Guinness Ice Cream or sometimes Avocado ice cream), Freebird Burrito (another TX classic place, a yuppie version of Chipotle, yes they have veggi), Hobbit Café (Seriously, this is an earthy place taken right out of a Tolkien novel), O Porto (Portugese, Tapas, hole-in-the-wall place), PF Changs in Highland Village (Sadly, the best Chinese place we found), Lupe Tortilla (Oh, how we miss Lupe… the best tortillas, plus excellent margaritas, very popular), Luling's BBQ (A great authentic experience), Ragin Cajun (A wonderful and bizarre cajun restaurant, one of those places with LSU paraphernalia and license plates adorning the walls), Empire Café (Great coffee, veggi, brunch, conversational place), Katz's Deli (Really good, one of the best kosher deli's you'll find anywhere in the country), Starbucks in River Oaks (See the Starbucks across the street from the Starbucks on the corner of Shephard and Gray), Teala's Mexican & Tila's Bistro (Both sound the same, both in same area of River Oaks, both really good), Chuy's Mexican (An insanely popular place, especially for the UT alumns), Taco Milagro (A very, very popular place on Thursday afternoon happy hour time, big patio, a great place to meet people. It's actually nicer than it sounds… it isn't a "taco cart" or anything), Pappas, Seafood, Pappas BBQ, etc… Anything from the Pappas people (See the giant armadillo)
Galleria area: The mall itself is friggin huge, with lots of great shopping, but alas it has become a hangout for the punk yuts (youths), America's restaurant (Very nice, expensive), McCormick and Schmicks (Yey! $2 happy hour food menu!), Just drive around and be amazed at the commercial activity going on. You'll find something interesting.
Kemah: A tourist trap, nonetheless, a great selection of seafood places. Go to the original Landry's. Get a water view and watch the power boats go through the canal.
Miscellaneous: Houston's Restaurant (on Kirby), Carisma $4 Car wash (on Kirby. Seriously I miss Houston just because of this place, near the corner of Kirby and Bissonnet), Make a friend who has a beach house in Galveston, Downtown - Market Square historic area, good bars… Flying Saucer bar. Tunnels in downtown Houston (A strange sight to see all of downtown scurrying around underground), Drive around River Oaks at Christmas (look at Christmas lights), Go to San Jacinto Monument (Even though it is sort of silly, it is higher than the Washington Monument. A Texas Thing)
Day Trips: Drive to College Station (Aggie Land), go wine tasting, visit the 1st G Bush presidential library (surprisingly interesting and interactive), go to the Dixie Chicken (a nasty dive of a place), Drive to Fredericksburg and surrounding areas (really fun, gem of a place pleasant wine country)
Austin favorites: Trudy's (mexican, great margaritas, UT hangout), Kerby Lane Café (Best breakfast in Texas (we think), great pancakes), Mozart’s Café (Not good coffee, but a really great hangout, good deserts, huge porch on the water), Bats under Congress St Bridge (Go in August or September. Better yet, go to the nasty TGIF, ask for a patio seat, and watch the bats while enjoying an ice tea and mozzarela sticks! (we've done that, it's surprisingly fun), Jog around Town Lake (between Lamar Blvd and Congres St … it's a great walking / jogging loop. Walk down the trail a little farther to see all the turtles!), Look at the turtles! They’re so cute!, Barton Creek Pool (natural pool, it's awesome), Barton Creek Greenbelt (I can't stress enough how cool this place is. It’s free. The creek is crystal clear, big swimming holes, fun little rapids, popular with the college crowd, you feel like you're in the wilderness, but you're still inside the city limits), Malaga tapas bar, Walk around UT (It's an impressive place, find something to do), and last but not least, Whole Foods World Headquarters (get lost in their giant flagship store)