Your Expert Guide
Garden Oaks + Oak Forest: The best-kept secret near the loop
There are so many great places to live in Houston that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.
Real estate agent Mark Fontenot has been living in the Garden Oaks and Oak Forest area for nearly a decade, and he loves showing it off to prospective buyers.
And it appears they're listening — property values here have continued to rise at a healthy pace as word gets out about the good schools, oak-canopied streets, and and ease of getting to and from downtown, the Med Center, and Galleria area.
"There is a lot we love," Fontenot shares. "The curbed/sidewalk streets, the ease of navigating the area, the ranch-style homes that dominate the neighborhoods, subdivisions with cul-de-sacs, and the many parks and social spaces that promote life outdoors. The massive oak trees make it feel like home."
He points out that many great restaurants and amenities are coming north of the Heights and into the neighborhood, helping to draw more attention to this "known but underrated" neighborhood.
Fontenot, an LSU alum whose family has deep Louisiana roots, grew up in Houston and enjoys helping others make the Bayou City home.
"Many first-time homebuyers cannot afford the Heights but want to stay near that area," he says. "I recommend Garden Oaks and Oak Forest because they can get a home with a yard for less and still be five minutes from the Heights without having to buy a three-to-four-story patio home."
Fontenot offered up a few of his personal favorites about life in Oak Forest. Here's his guide to the area:
Where to eat & drink
No matter what you're in the mood for, it's here: Gatlin's BBQ, Luloo's Day & Night, Ploughman's Deli, Cottonwood, Walking Stick Brewery, D'Alba, SlowPokes, and Flying Saucer Pie Co., to name a few.
But keep an eye out for the Taqueria Mi Leo food truck at the Mr. Foodmart, on the corner of 43rd and Glebe, says Fontenot — it's a real hidden gem, but note that it's cash only.
Where to play
Spend an afternoon at Stomping Grounds, where you can shop, drink, and dine surrounded by 8,000 square feet of green space.
To truly get back to nature, head to Oak Forest Park or TC Jester Park, the latter of which boasts an excellent hike and bike trail plus a disc golf course.
Where to live
The large majority of Garden Oaks and Oak Forest are 1960s ranch-style homes, meaning one-story construction with more open floorplans. However, in the last five years Fontenot says he's been seeing a lot of new construction as older homes in original condition are being torn down.
"The bonus to this area is that the lots are mostly larger than what can be purchased in the Heights and significantly less expensive," he says. "Most ranch-style homes have flexible renovation/add-on capabilities and the brick homes are typically salvaged rather than being torn down, so it keeps the older charm of the neighborhood."
Fontenot also points out that most of Garden Oaks and Oak Forest is not in a flood plane, so there is more peace of mind in buying or building on slab construction here, along with the conveniences of being close to the city.