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Old 05-16-2011, 10:06 AM
 
580 posts, read 1,278,982 times
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Hey, folks.

I just returned from a weekend in Houston. I was joined by my Austonian girlfriend. After living here for four years, I thought it was time to visit that city and see what it has to offer. I wanted to share some of my reflections, partially in response to those who suggest that Houston has much more to recommend it than San Antonio. (I just had a particularly annoying conversation with an arrogant Houstonite about a week before we headed over there.)

First off, let me say that we did our research. We're both educated thirty-somethings that love a good drink, good food, good music, and quirky, "hip," yet low-on-the-pretentiousness locales. We have a good handful of friends who are either from Houston or live there. Based on their advice, we stayed in the Neartown/Montrose area, and made some excursions into The Heights and other places.

To make a long story short, we were not impressed.

Houston is a really strange landscape compared to San Antonio. You have giant new buildings peppered throughout the city in no discernible pattern. The lack of zoning makes it all feel extremely spread out with no real center. (Both Austin and SA have real downtowns, with interesting neighborhoods surrounding them.) Houston has HUGE highways--and I must say I loved the fact that people actually drive fast there, especially in the left lane. On the whole, however, Houston appeared to be even more car-dependent than SA. There was very, very little pedestrian traffic anywhere--only cars buzzing, buzzing by. It was as if San Antonio's most interesting neighborhoods--whether Southtown or the St. Mary's Strip or even downtown--had four-lane roads running through them with people doing 40mph and virtually no one on foot. It was really bizarre.

Houston's sprawl puts SA's to shame. So many strip malls! So many parking lots! Such a HUGE expanse of suburb-as-city! So flat! So much of it reminded me of my least favorite parts of the Chicago suburbs. Lots of "new" buildings that looked straight out of the 1980s, with few trees and little historical character. (There were a few lovely streets in Montrose--Audobon comes to mind. It reminded me of a nice street in Alamo Heights, more or less.)

For the "hipster" crowd, there didn't seem to be too much to offer. My favorite bar was Catbirds, which was sort of like The Mix in SA, but without the horrible live bands. Poison Girl was a cool space that wouldn't be out of place in Austin, but the dude bro to indie rock kid ratio was about 9 to 1. (160 whiskeys available was pretty awesome.) Sadly, Montrose is supposed to be the gay district, but there's only one gay bar left there. (That was according to a local bartender.) Boondocks is sort of like Houston's version of Limelight, but it looks like an old BBQ restaurant.

One good thing: nearly all of the bartenders and locals we met were very friendly. They were super willing to give us advice and tell us about the local spots of interest. (We missed one or two that were suggested, but basically hit everything else.)

Coolest spot by far was the little area around the Menil Collection, and especially the Rothko Chapel. Beautiful little space, and although the art wasn't amazing, the layout was. (Didn't make it to the fine art or contemporary art museums, but we strolled through Herman Park, which I would never trade for Brackenridge.)

Food and drink: The one placed people recommended for a good cocktail in the Montrose area was Anvil. Decent, but a really horrible crowd--like people dressed up for prom but ten years after the fact. And the drinks weren't nearly as good as what you'll find at Mon Ami, Bohannon's, or The Esquire in SA. We ate at the places that locals recommended in Montrose/The Heights for Vietnamese, Italian, and "fusion" (?) (Brasil), and all were underwhelming. In no way did they outshine SA. Not even close.

By far, the strangest thing about the young going-out crowd in Houston's "hip" area was how white and conservative everyone seemed. We saw so many people in boat shoes, tucked in polo shirts, bermuda shorts, and women with high heels and dresses fit for country club galas. Really, it was like a caricature of the preppy crowd in a John Hughes movie! My girlfriend, who's an Alabama native, said that it all just screamed "THE SOUTH."

Well, Houston is surely bigger. It has more shiny tall buildings. And it has more money. But it was a let-down on the cool and quirky front. So, young San Antonians, do not feel bad that you're not there. It was a relief to return to my home neighborhood of Tobin Hill, grit and all. If you're an ex frat boy or want to work your way up the ladder at an oil company (and drive an SUV), you might prefer it. Thankfully, I'm neither of those things.
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Old 05-16-2011, 12:55 PM
 
Location: San Antonio
105 posts, read 199,258 times
Reputation: 91
As a Black person, growing up here most of my other Black peers wanted to move to Houston because they made vague assertions that it was "better." For the most part, 10 years later, they still think the same way. I moved back here from Houston in 2009 (was living in New Orleans prior to that but became a Katrina victim), and I do like some things about Houston because as a young Black then-single professional, I could do more ethnic/cultural things I can't do in San Antonio, but I can tell you I am happy I moved.

It sounds like you were almost exclusively in Midtown. I've worked all around the city, but for most networking and social events I attended (for the mid-20s to 50s--I was 20-22 then) were in Midtown, so I saw everything you're talking about constantly. A colleague from my previous job there was always talking me into living in Heights (basically north of I-10 to N 610), and others wanted me to live in sprawl Hell in West Houston, especially since I'd worked there for the last two years I was there. Houston sprawl is incredible. It took me 75 minutes one-way to commute to work, which would be like living in Schertz and driving a little south of Lackland AFB in SA. Developers didn't appreciate nature as much, because they paved everything, so except for Memorial Dr, and the far north areas like The Woodlands and Kingwood, natural beauty wasn't important. Add to Houston's flatness, I was happy to return to some hills.

Probably the biggest issue was of course dealing with the typical attitudes when I told people I was from San Antonio. From a people/cultural standpoint, I don't find the people in Houston much different than San Antonio. Many people I knew were either very educated and at times sheltered from reality or very uneducated with little ambition. I remember discussing the complacent attitudes of Houstonians with one of my professors one year and how disappointed I was considering Houston's much larger, yet the generalized goals are to get a good job in oil, get a house, and be done. When I started visited SA more often from Houston, I at least met individuals who were very eager to change the status quo in town, but in Houston it wasn't like that. I did find a gem in living in the suburb of Atascocita, but I hardly got to spend much time there because of working, events (both in Houston and SA), and I met my wife in SA, so I was rarely home. I went back there a few months ago, and there was nothing to miss about Houston.
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Old 05-16-2011, 01:07 PM
 
1,066 posts, read 3,185,321 times
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I dont think there is much to compare, since most of San Antonio's "Younger Crowd" are grandparents by the age of 30.
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Old 05-16-2011, 01:25 PM
 
6,431 posts, read 9,948,829 times
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You should move to Austin. There is nothing to do here in San Antonio. As life doesn't really progress so to speak. Unless you consider a big house in Stone Oak progressing. Houston is too hot and humid to last. Go to Austin.
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Old 05-16-2011, 01:25 PM
 
Location: San Antonio
105 posts, read 199,258 times
Reputation: 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Primo View Post
I dont think there is much to compare, since most of San Antonio's "Younger Crowd" are grandparents by the age of 30.
Apparently Houston has also joined in on the fun:

Houston leads nation in births among young mothers | Houston & Texas News | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle
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Old 05-16-2011, 01:51 PM
 
580 posts, read 1,278,982 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by allenk893 View Post
You should move to Austin. There is nothing to do here in San Antonio. As life doesn't really progress so to speak. Unless you consider a big house in Stone Oak progressing. Houston is too hot and humid to last. Go to Austin.
I had an apartment in Austin for two years, "in the heart of it all." I'm still there most weekends because my significant other works there. I like it--and I could easily live there and be happy--but it's overrated. Too crowded, too pretentious, and it all feels like a little playground for 20/30-somethings who want to be "cool" and avoid interacting with anyone who isn't "cool." In the part of Austin that makes Austin "Austin," there are few children, few old people, few blue collar people (aside from students and trust fund kids), and there's very little ethnic diversity.

San Antonio certainly lacks a lot of what Austin has, but it's very livable. More livable than Houston, or at least the part I've seen. (And that's a small part, I admit.) From my house in SA, I can easily bike--or even walk--to good bars, restaurants, museums, parks, etc. etc. etc. I actually find much more in the immediate vicinity of my home here than I did in Houston, and it's plenty to keep me happy, aside from the random touring band that doesn't make it down to SA (but that ends up in Austin).

I'm from Chicago. I have a PhD. I have a great job and no debt. I've lived and traveled all over the world. I think I have a pretty good basis for comparison, especially as I know Austin as much if not more than most Austonians do. I'm just so sick of people writing on here, "Have you considered Austin, Houston, or Dallas?"--especially when that wasn't even part of the original poster's question.

It's also great when people talk about how there's nothing to do here for "young people," and then somewhere down the line admit to living in some far-out subdivision, where they remain ensconced with their three children and two SUVs, except for the occasional excursion to Costco or The Rim.

Hands down, the worst thing about San Antonio is people who are depressed/lonely, blame it on the place they live, and love to whine about it, either in person or online. The problem is especially pronounced here for a couple of reasons: the proximity of Austin (the supposed "mecca"), and an underlying racism and classism, mainly exhibited by people who think that the great portions of this city that are blue collar and Hispanic-dominated (such as my part) are "the ghetto."

To "makiten": I have heard that Houston has a much better scene for young black professionals. Could be true. But, that's outside my realm of familiarity. I would never slight someone who chose to live there because of the social life, business networking, and sense of culture/history that such a demographic might entail.

Last edited by JuneOf48; 05-16-2011 at 02:26 PM..
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Old 05-16-2011, 02:14 PM
 
Location: West Des Moines, IA
392 posts, read 626,549 times
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Folks have got it greatly here in Texas... I love my homeland of Louisiana, but heck I don't care what city in Texas I live in. They're all pretty sweet. I'm lovin' San Antonio right now and it's got a lot going for it right now compared to Baton Rouge. If I have to move to Houston one day, that'll be fine too! I'd miss the pretty countryside, but oh well!

*You may talk about your Clementine and sing of Rosalie, but the Yellow Rose of Texas is the only girl for me!*
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Old 05-16-2011, 10:13 PM
 
824 posts, read 1,605,080 times
Reputation: 597
Quote:
Originally Posted by JuneOf48 View Post
I had an apartment in Austin for two years, "in the heart of it all." I'm still there most weekends because my significant other works there. I like it--and I could easily live there and be happy--but it's overrated. Too crowded, too pretentious, and it all feels like a little playground for 20/30-somethings who want to be "cool" and avoid interacting with anyone who isn't "cool." In the part of Austin that makes Austin "Austin," there are few children, few old people, few blue collar people (aside from students and trust fund kids), and there's very little ethnic diversity.

San Antonio certainly lacks a lot of what Austin has, but it's very livable. More livable than Houston, or at least the part I've seen. (And that's a small part, I admit.) From my house in SA, I can easily bike--or even walk--to good bars, restaurants, museums, parks, etc. etc. etc. I actually find much more in the immediate vicinity of my home here than I did in Houston, and it's plenty to keep me happy, aside from the random touring band that doesn't make it down to SA (but that ends up in Austin).

I'm from Chicago. I have a PhD. I have a great job and no debt. I've lived and traveled all over the world. I think I have a pretty good basis for comparison, especially as I know Austin as much if not more than most Austonians do. I'm just so sick of people writing on here, "Have you considered Austin, Houston, or Dallas?"--especially when that wasn't even part of the original poster's question.

It's also great when people talk about how there's nothing to do here for "young people," and then somewhere down the line admit to living in some far-out subdivision, where they remain ensconced with their three children and two SUVs, except for the occasional excursion to Costco or The Rim.

Hands down, the worst thing about San Antonio is people who are depressed/lonely, blame it on the place they live, and love to whine about it, either in person or online. The problem is especially pronounced here for a couple of reasons: the proximity of Austin (the supposed "mecca"), and an underlying racism and classism, mainly exhibited by people who think that the great portions of this city that are blue collar and Hispanic-dominated (such as my part) are "the ghetto."

To "makiten": I have heard that Houston has a much better scene for young black professionals. Could be true. But, that's outside my realm of familiarity. I would never slight someone who chose to live there because of the social life, business networking, and sense of culture/history that such a demographic might entail.
Excellent, excellent post.

Austin & Houston are both great cities, with lots to offer. My wife & I constantly remark that people who can't have a good time in SA either live in the wrong place or don't get out much. I get the exact impression as you: people who complain that there's nothing for people to do in SA really don't have the first damn clue about what's actually going on in SA. Living in the generic sprawl-burbs (which, of course, exist in every city in the USA) isn't generally conducive to that.

Oh, and yeah, Anvil is totally over-rated.
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Old 05-17-2011, 09:05 PM
 
Location: Maui County, HI
4,131 posts, read 6,302,275 times
Reputation: 3364
If you aren't gay why are you interested in gay bars?
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Old 05-17-2011, 10:48 PM
 
231 posts, read 731,347 times
Reputation: 237
Quote:
Originally Posted by dvlpr View Post
Excellent, excellent post.

Austin & Houston are both great cities, with lots to offer. My wife & I constantly remark that people who can't have a good time in SA either live in the wrong place or don't get out much. I get the exact impression as you: people who complain that there's nothing for people to do in SA really don't have the first damn clue about what's actually going on in SA. Living in the generic sprawl-burbs (which, of course, exist in every city in the USA) isn't generally conducive to that.

Oh, and yeah, Anvil is totally over-rated.
The problem with San Antonio is that this city does not have a lot of "corporate jobs", at least not enough compared to the other large cities in TX. Less corporate jobs translates into less young professionals wanting to move here. San Antonio does have a smaller population of young educated professionals than it should have considering its total population. With that said, generally speaking SA does not cater to this demographic and this why many young educated people do not like living here in SA.

I have met TONS of people both transplants and natives who want to move out of SA as soon as possible. There are a lot of people who do complain about living here and I don't blame them either. Many are here for work and will leave once the economy picks up. I think SA is a great place to raise a family but it does lack the hip/cool factor that other large cities in TX have. Many of those complaining about living here, complain because they want to see and experience what they had back home (transplants) here in SA and they will never be happy until they come to the realization that SA is different.

I moved here to get specific work experience and plan to move on to another city/company to gain experience because I work in a niche field and quite frankly SA does not cater to young educated professionals.
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