Photo courtesy of GreenStreet

Labor Day has passed, football season is in full swing and pumpkin spice is once again an acceptable way to take your morning brew. Fall is so close we can almost taste it, and GreenStreet is gearing up to celebrate the season in style. As retailers BCBGMAXAZRIA and Forever 21 stock up for cooler temps and restaurants reveal autumn-inspired specials, the downtown mixed-use destination is loading its Events Calendar with outdoor activities to take full advantage of patio weather.

On Friday, Sept. 26 at 8 p.m., GreenStreet continues a season of Friday Flicks on the Lawn with Romy and Michele's High School Reunion on a 25-foot-wide screen on The Lawn. A classic comedy paired with complimentary popcorn and beverages provided by Zipcar make this perfect for a girls' night out — just BYO blanket or snag a prime viewing spot on a nearby patio. Mark your calendar for the next film in the series: cult classic Ghostbusters on Friday, Oct. 24.

Fall is so close we can almost taste it, and GreenStreet is gearing up to celebrate the season in style.

Spice up your weekend and thrill your taste buds at Houstonia Magazine's inaugural Sunday Bloody Sunday on Oct. 12. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., some of the city's finest bars and restaurants — think Andalucia, Mia Bella, Batanga, Beaver's, Brick & Spoon, Hearsay, Line & Lariat and Lowbrow — will compete for the title of Top Bloody Mary. A $25 ticket grants you the ultimate Sunday Funday: unlimited tastes of Bloodies, plus good food, live music and yard games on The Lawn. Admission is for 21 and up.

Fall is so close we can almost taste it, and GreenStreet is gearing up to celebrate the season in style.

The 6th Annual Barkitecture Houston, benefiting Pup Squad Animal Rescue, takes over GreenStreet on Oct. 17 and 18 with a weekend full of fun, fundraising and Fido. From 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, October 17, McCormick & Schmick's hosts Yappy Hour on the patio, a pet-lover's dream with live music, raffle prizes and other free entertainment on The Lawn. On Saturday, October 18, from 12 to 5 p.m., the public is invited to browse and bid on one-of-a-kind, custom-built doghouses designed by local artists, designers and architecture firms. The event is free and open to the public — and pets too, of course.

All funds raised at Barkitecture benefit Pup Squad, an organization that rescues orphaned puppies, kittens and nursing litters from the streets and other life-threatening situations and matches them with permanent adoptive homes. The organization hosts adoptions at GreenStreet every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Downtown foodies can enjoy eclectic lunch hour eats throughout September and October with GreenStreet's Food Truck Program. Some of the city's most popular trucks — The Golden Grill, Ladybird, Reign's, Coreanos and Sumo Dog — serve savory (and sometimes sweet) dishes on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the corner of Main Street and Dallas Street, just a short walk or a Metro stop away from many downtown office buildings. Tables and chairs provided.

Looking for after-work fun? Join GreenStreet for Games on the Green every third Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. On Thursday, September 18, The Lawn will be transformed into an outdoor adult playground, with giant Jenga, bocce ball, live music and more, plus an extended happy hour at nearby McCormick & Schmick's and an interactive Lucky Strike booth featuring games, giveaways and prizes.

BYO blanket for Friday Flicks on the Lawn. The next film — Romy and Michele's High School Reunion — is on Friday, September 26.

Photo courtesy of GreenStreet
BYO blanket for Friday Flicks on the Lawn. The next film — Romy and Michele's High School Reunion — is on Friday, September 26.

Happy hour haven: Skip the after-work rush at GreenStreet with great specials

Destination GreenStreet

Foodie fever in Houston is at an all-time high, with new restaurants opening each week and local chefs gaining national recognition for dynamic fare, and among the don't-miss dining destinations is GreenStreet. This downtown mixed-use destination is surrounded by office buildings and high-rise apartments, and is just blocks from Discovery Green and the George R. Brown Convention Center. For downtown employees, residents and visitors alike, it's easy to turn rush hour into happy hour at GreenStreet — great deals at great prices are just a short walk or a METRO stop away.

Guadalajara del Centro offers happy hour deals from 3 to 7 p.m. daily at its downtown Tex-Mex outpost. Think ceviche nachos, fried avocados, flautas and quesadillas for $5 each, along with $4 bottled beer, $5 house margaritas, $6 hand-crafted mojitos and $7 skinny-ritas and sangria.

For a Spanish spin on tapas, try Andalucia for $4 bites like chicken breast skewers, empanadillas and fried calamari, and affordable wine flights daily from 3 to 7 p.m.

Dine at Mia Bella Trattoria from Monday through Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. to get half off appetizers from the dinner menu. Antipasti plates like gnocchi, strudel, risotto and bruschetta cost less than $7 each at this relaxed Italian eatery, and on Tuesdays, Mia Bella offers 20 to 50 percent off of bottles of wine.

Turn rush hour into happy hour with great deals at even better prices at one of the distinctive on-site establishments at GreenStreet.

Enjoy happy hour every day from 4 to 7 p.m. at III Forks Steakhouse, where $5 martinis pair perfectly with affordable appetizers like Kobe beef sliders, bleu cheese beef croustades and ahi tuna. Or stop by McCormick & Schmick's from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 4 to 7 p.m. on Sunday for bargains on beer, wine and cocktails and a happy hour menu that puts the restaurant's surf and turf specials in the forefront.

Crossroads Restaurant and Bar at the House of Blues showcases American and international dishes created by celebrity chef Aarón Sánchez. Happy hour offerings include pulled pork sliders, street tacos with blackened chicken or char-grilled citrus marinated steak, chicken wings, loaded cheese fries and much more. Enjoy these mouthwatering menu items — plus specials on domestic and import beers, house wine and call cocktails — from 4 to 7 p.m. every day of the week.

For fine dining, check out the venerable music venue's Foundation Room, perfect for a business dinner or a romantic night on the town. House of Blues' hidden gem is participating in Houston Restaurant Weeks with a rich three-course menu through September 1. Prix fixe options include steak tartare, cauliflower tempura, grilled pork chops, roasted chicken and fresh market fish in meuniére sauce with spinach and artichoke.

If you're seeking upscale after-hours entertainment on Wednesday through Saturday, look no further than Pete's Dueling Piano Bar for showtime tunes and signature schooners. Pete's newest cocktail, the All Nighter, is aptly named: Pinnacle Berry Vodka, Blueberry Red Bull Special Edition, 7-Up, Angostura bitters and lemon will cure any nine-to-five blues.

Cut your commute while hitting the lanes at Lucky Strike. Weekday drink specials include $3 Bud Light drafts, $4 premium drafts, $5 house wines and $6 Lucky Shots from 3 to 7 p.m. Stick around for starters like Soft Pretzel Dippers and Momma's Mac N Cheese, customizable to your taste with toppings like truffle oil, avocado, bacon, chicken and slow-braised short rib; or opt for one of Lucky Strike's signature burgers, each served on a toasted brioche bun with a side of crisp, house-made potato chips.

Happy hour deals this good are sure to keep you coming back for more.

III Forks offers $5 martinis and affordable appetizers.

III Forks offers $5 martinis and affordable appetizers.
Photo by Joel Luks

Downtown Houston's revamped shopping, dining and music destination: GreenStreet promises fun

Video Tale

GreenStreet is abuzz with energy with locals and visitors flocking to the heart of downtown Houston in search of delicious dining, sophisticated entertainment, retail therapy and live music day and night.

Perhaps it's this rebranded urban destination's proximity to popular venues such as the George R. Brown Convention Center, Discovery Green, Minute Maid Park, BBVA Compass Stadium, Toyota Center and Market Square Park, in addition to a convenient stop on the METRORail line, that has contributed to its revitalization.

In this adventure (watch the video above), we gallivant to a handful of GreenStreet vendors in search for insider intel.

We begin at Guadalajara Del Centro, a Tex-Mex restaurant where the quality of ingredients has made this eatery a hotspot for corporate clients at lunch time and for dining before and after sports events and concerts at nearby venues. With areas for large gatherings, intimate booths, two bars and a comfy lounge upstairs, this restaurant that's known for strong margaritas and enchiladas offers several dining options to enjoy its comprehensive menu.

"It's a large menu and there're many great items on the menu," general manager Ryan Johnston says. "We do a jalapeno shrimp and grits that is out of this world."

"We do a jalapeno shrimp and grits that is out of this world."

Another tip from Johnston? Always leave room for the red velvet tres leches.

A short walk from Guadalajara del Centro, on the second floor, is a sophisticated fashion boutique that caters to the needs of the modern woman who's looking for outfits that easily transition from professional to evening wear. BCBGMAXAZRIA designs combine classic features with edgy details such as zippers and leather trims to craft wearables that are fun and comfortable.

Floor manager Whitney Myckel is drawn to BCBGMAXAZRIA's accessories and statement pieces.

"By adding one of our statement necklaces, you can elevate any outfit to a completely different level," she says.

A stone's throw away from the BCBG boutique is Lucky Strike, a contemporary, posh entertainment venue that offers premium, state-of-the-art bowling, billiards, a made-from-scratch kitchen, specialty cocktails and craft beers — and there's something happening all the time.

Lucky Strike hosts happy hour Monday through Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. Lunch menus, offered from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., start as low as $5. A resident DJ ups the lounge's energy on Friday and Saturday nights. Bottomless bowling is available on Tuesdays from 9 p.m. until close for $15.

"My favorite item on the menu is the chipotle quesadilla,"general manager Luis Rabo says. "It's a warm tortilla filled with white cheddar, Oaxaca cheese and chipotle aioli. I like to top that with roasted chicken and our slow-braised short ribs."

"The entire redevelopement is reinvigorating the whole area."

No visit to GreenStreet is complete without stopping at the House of Blues for either good tunes or good grub. Whether you're in the mood for casual dining at Crossroads or fine cuisine at the Foundation Room, this five-year-old Houston institution has you covered. With 300 shows attended by 200,000 guests plus 400 special events that can range from fundraisers to corporate meetings yearly, House of Blues adds tuneful zest to GreenStreet while giving back to the community.

Membership fees for the Foundation Room benefit the House of Blues Foundation, the nonprofit arm that underwrites art and music programs in underserved schools.

"The entire redevelopement is reinvigorating the whole area," marketing and promotions director Terri Norman says. "We celebrated our fifth anniversary last year and hope to see many more here."

Many more merchants such as Andalucia Tapas Restaurant and Bar, III Forks, McCormick and Schmick's Seafood and Steaks, Mia Bella Trattoria, Pete's Dueling Piano Bar and XXI Forever complete this lively getaway.

Discover more online as you plan your next outing.

GreenStreet's proximity to popular venues has contributed to its revitalization.

Photo by Joel Luks
GreenStreet's proximity to popular venues has contributed to its revitalization.

Redeveloping downtown: GreenStreet grows with dynamic events and amenities

Destination GreenStreet

Downtown Houston has a re-energized, mixed-use destination for office, retail, dining and entertainment: GreenStreet, formerly known as Houston Pavilions, has undergone a dramatic 10-month transformation to its 568,294 square foot property and, in the process, created a new linear urban park in the city's premier retail and entertainment center.

"There's no questioning the boom of development and revitalization in downtown Houston, and GreenStreet is proud to play a role in downtown's continuous growth," said Jonathan Brinsden, Midway CEO.

"We've always recognized the tremendous potential a property such as GreenStreet can bring to the downtown community and being given the opportunity to mold it into a new and unique experience for visitors, in addition to knowing the impact it will have on the surrounding area, has made redevelopment of this particular project so exciting," Brinsden said.

Putting GreenStreet on the map

Over the past year, GreenStreet has added new tenants like Salata, a fast-casual new generation salad bar set to open this summer, while continuing to provide quality service to visitors with long term tenants including the House of Blues, a flagship Forever XXI, III Forks Steakhouse and Lucky Strike. All the while, renovations have enhanced the interconnectivity of the three-block development, expanded outdoor dining spaces and improved visitors' overall experience with infrastructure and signage upgrades.

GreenStreet is proud to play a role in downtown's continuous growth.

"We are pleased with the progress that has been made at GreenStreet," said Courtney Ray, Midway's marketing coordinator. "With its pedestrian-focused design, unique onsite events program, and prime proximity to major businesses and leisure destinations in the area, GreenStreet has been transformed into an exciting and fun urban retreat, perfect for any resident or visitor who's looking to escape the hustle of a busy downtown environment, or simply wanting a place to enjoy premium shopping and exciting dining and entertainment options."

The last improvement to come is The Lawn, an open green space on the block between Fannin Street and San Jacinto Street that will be activated with vibrant programming for office tenants, downtown residents and day visitors alike. First up on the calendar is the July 4 Concert Series, which features a culturally dynamic line-up of musicians on Thursday, July 3 through Saturday, July 5 from 5 to 8 p.m. — think Mark Towns Flamenco Jazz, classic rock/country tunes from Tommy Rogers Band and The Revelators performing funk/R&B/soul.

Looking for a free and effective way to get your body in gear for swimsuit season? GreenStreet Bootcamp kicks off on July 9 from 6:30 to 7 a.m. and meets every Wednesday morning throughout the month. Classes are open to all skill levels; no equipment is required

GreenStreet also introduces two recurring programs in July. Live music will be offered on The Lawn every Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m., and Games on the Green — featuring free field games, live music, extended happy hour at McCormick & Schmick's and more on the third Thursday of each month — kicks off on Thursday, July 17, from 5 to 8 p.m. Keep an eye on the Event Calendar for more upcoming events and activities.

More to come

Just as the ground-level improvements are coming to a close, GreenStreet is moving upward — and into the luxury hotel business.

"As renovations to the property near completion, our teams are also excited to begin the next phase to GreenStreet's transformation, which is the addition of a 225-room luxury brand hotel, Hotel Alessandra, slated to be complete by late fall 2016," said Stephen J. "Jamie" Bryant, Midway Executive Vice President. "As the lead developer of this project, our task is to realize our visitor's experience and deliver a unique, urban oasis that brings luxury in downtown to new heights."

Midway has partnered with Valencia Group for Hotel Alessandra, which answers a growing need for hotel accommodations in downtown Houston near the George R. Brown Convention Center, the Toyota Center and Discovery Green. The hotel's design will be contemporary and impactful, with sweeping views of the city and lavish indoor-outdoor spaces.

Welcome to GreenStreet, Houston's downtown mixed-use destination for office, retail, dining and entertainment.

Welcome to GreenStreet, Houston's downtown mixed-use destination for office, retail, dining and entertainment.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Towering downtown skyscraper and former headquarters for oil giant set for new high-rise apartment conversion

fins and all

An empty downtown skyscraper harking to Houston's energy capital brand may soon reignite the high-rise living trend in downtown.

The tower formerly known as the Humble Oil headquarters and now the Exxon building (800 Bell St.) has been sold to an out-of-state developer with plans to convert the structure to residential units. Ralph Bivins, a former CultureMap scribe, was first to break the news on Realty News Report.

Bivins reports that the 1.2 million-square-foot building was sold to a New York investment group affiliated with CMI Developers. Notably, the group boasts experience in historic redevelopment and apartment conversions. Bivins adds that the age of the Exxon building (it was completed in 1962) and its high local profile might yield available historic preservation tax credits for the developers.

As downtowners may recall, the former Exxon HQ at 800 Bell for around eight years when the company relocated to its modern new campus.

Culturally, the building has been significant as a towering symbol of Houston's energy powerhouse status. At the time of its opening, Bivins notes, the building was considered the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. Its famed Petroleum Club atop the building was the site of myriad power deals, and later, special events.

Looking forward, the building presents numerous opportunities for adaptive reuse. The first floors of the building, once open to neighbors who utilized the Exxon cafeteria, can be an ideal mixed-use locale for restaurants and even retail. One hopes the building's signature "fins," crafted to block the hot Houston sun, remain a design feature.

Exxon building 800 Bell fins A close-up shot of the building's fins.Photo via CALpix; copyright 2023

The large scale of the Exxon tower raises the opportunity for placing a significant amount of retail or restaurants in the lower levels of the building, located between Milam and Travis. The old Exxon parking garage, located nearby, comes with the deal, Bivins point out — always a boon for parking-scarce downtown areas.

Given the green-light status of the hotly contested I-45 expansion project and plans to redevelop Midtown and areas near the Pierce Elevated, the high-rise residential could be an epicenter of new downtown growth.

Globally famous diner dishing out "world's rudest service" headed to Texas...like, whenever

Displeased to serve you

Imagine you’re at a restaurant and the server rolls her eyes because you don’t like ice in your water. What a pansy you are. First, you order a chocolate milkshake, but on second thought, you’d like vanilla. You apologetically ask her to change it on the ticket and she threatens to spit in it. On your way out, you tip her 20 percent and leave a review: “5 stars. Rudest service I’ve ever had.”

Karen’s Diner provides the worst service for the best experience, at least according to cheeky clientele who appreciate the campy comedy of a long-suffering server who just can’t smile through it anymore. The Australian restaurant concept exploded in popularity in the last few months, largely from viral videos of funny quips and embarrassed customers (who are usually in on the gag).

Part subversion of the sweet neighborhood waitress trope and part revenge fantasy for off-duty service industry people who find relief in watching other servers speak their minds, this is an exercise in improv comedy wrapped up in a classic diner meal. There are now 14 locations in the United States according to the restaurant’s locations page, including one that has quietly popped up online in Austin.

There is very little information about this location in particular, but there is an active listing on Hidden, which allows users to sign up for a waitlist and eventually gives access to the restaurant’s secret location. As of January 24, Hidden told CultureMap via email that it does not know the opening date.

Although the diner could rest on the laurels of its terrible attitude, reviewers seem to agree, the food is also good. The menu lists 14 burgers, including some traditional cheeseburgers, luxe twists, chicken burgers, and a few meatless options, in addition to other diner snacks like wings, floats, and fries. Prices may give visitors something to complain about (the burgers range from $16-28), but the price keeps the most creative instigators on staff.

Kids under 14 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian for lunch, while dinner’s raunchiness raises the accompanied age to 16. In general, the chain encourages minors to attend earlier in the day. Any actual Karens may show their ID for a free drink.

More information about Karen’s Diner can be found at bemorekaren.com. Check Hidden for changes, or sign up for the ticket release waitlist.

Ken Hoffman trashes Houston's No. 1 spot in 'dirty, rotten' new ranking of filthiest U.S. cities

here's the dirt

Great. Now we’re the Dirtiest City in America, too? It’s not enough that Houston is the serial winner of Fattest City in America?

Lawnstarter, a nationwide lawn care, landscaping and pest control company, ranked cities coast-to-coast by “32 dimensions of compatibility.” (No wait, that’s eHarmony.) Lawnstarter compared U.S. cities on the basis of: pollution, living conditions, infrastructure, and consumer satisfaction.

Houston came in dead last … or in this case, No. 1 for Dirtiest City in America. Of course, that’s a dirty rotten lie.

For this "study," Lawnstarter calculated publicly available data, like air quality index, gas emissions, percentage of smokers, population density, homes without kitchen facilities, homes with cockroaches, and number of landfills and junk yards.

Here’s a better way of determining if a city is dirty: open your eyes.

Important to note: Lawnstarter folks did not actually visit Houston to take a look around.

Garbage advice from non-visitors

The folks at Lawnstarter suggest that Houstonians stock up on air fresheners, mouse traps, and cans of Raid. Sure, we have some rough parts of town, where people use unlit back roads as an elephant burial ground for worn-out mattresses and rusty old appliances. But overall, Houston is a progressive, forward-thinking town that keeps up appearances.

I don’t have to hold my nose when I walk outside or wear a Hazmat suit when I drive downtown for a ballgame.

I’m not going to dispute Lawnstarter’s finding that Houston is No. 1 in cockroaches and No. 3 in greenhouse gas emissions. That’s the by-product of geography and industry. We’re working on it. But Lawnstarter says we’re No. 1 in overall filth and I ain’t buying it.

The five dirtiest cities in America, according to Lawnstarter, are:

  1. Houston
  2. Newark
  3. San Bernadino
  4. Detroit
  5. Jersey City

The cleanest city, or more to the point, the least dirty city is Virginia Beach, Virginia. Other spotless towns include Des Moines, Iowa and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

I don’t like to criticize other cities, but I once stepped in New Orleans and had to wipe my shoes. Chicago wasn’t exactly Tidy Town, either.

How Houston can clean up its act

I’m not saying that Houston is squeaky clean, either. There are some habits and things we need to clean up. They’re little things, but little things mean a lot. Here’s my top-5 list:

  1. Who are these deranged psychopaths who pick up their dog’s poop, then leave the plastic bag on the sidewalk or neighbors’ lawns? It’s not just unsanitary, it’s disgusting. And unlawful.
  2. How about people who put their garbage on the curb too early and then leave the empty trash bins out there for days after it’s collected? And thanks for putting your garbage out on holidays when you know it won’t be picked up. Merry Christmas. Makes the street look like a garbage dump for out-of-town relatives.
  3. I’m tempted to speed up and yell at drivers who throw cigarette butts out their window on I-10. But I don’t. I’m chicken.
  4. Is it too difficult or a physical hardship to return shopping carts to the parking lot corral?
  5. We build bike lanes to encourage a healthful habit like riding a bicycle, and then we allow them to become trash heaps. Here’s a million dollar idea: open “Fix-a-Flat” stations every 100 feet next to the bike lanes on Westpark.

Bonus: This one is close to home: raw onions on the ground in fast food parking lots.

I’m told that the No. 1 thing fast food workers have to sweep up at night is raw onions. People take off the onions and throw them out the window before driving away. I completely understand. I hate raw onions, too.

And yet, I love breaded and fried onion rings. I guess that’s what makes me such an interesting person. (Editors' note: Way to peel back the onion on that one, Ken.)