The 3600 block of Main Street was once called “the island” because it seemed isolated from the rest of the city.
But these days, bustling Mid Main isn’t an island anymore, and for a decade it’s been celebrating its unique vibe with a regular block party that kicked off this month.
First Thursdays to Main midfielder is the name given to the monthly night festival. It’s eclectic and filled with art shows, musical performances, shopping and, of course, plenty of drinks and conversation.
The celebration focuses on commercial establishments 3,500 to 3,700 blocks from Main Street. The event runs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month from March through June for the spring, and again in the fall from September through November.
It became a great way for Mid Main to show off their character. Located between the Medical Center and Midtown, it’s a stop right next to the METRORail. Visitors to this playful slice of Houston can grab a bite to eat, grab a delicious cocktail, shop for one-of-a-kind items and records, or listen to live music every day, making the neighborhood’s slogan “Eat, Shop, Rock ” a reality.
It is also a region steeped in history. From the moment the history ensemble theater was founded in 1976, the block has grown significantly, becoming one of Houston’s most original places to enjoy nightlife.
Slowly taking off since the late 90s, Mid Main has become one of the city’s most walkable neighborhoods, where developers have largely maintained the 100-plus-year-old brick buildings and tastefully added new structures for stores, restaurants and venues, creating community.
The spring season of First Thursdays marks 10 years of outdoor fun which began in March with a number of live bands, DJs, local vendors and art car parade Vehicles. A $10 wristband allows visitors to attend all special performances, as well as sample free booze (like Frankly Vodka) and get a free beer from one of the sponsors, St. Arnold’s Brewery .
The fees are also donated to a different non-profit organization each month, such as the Orange Show for Visionary Arts. Wristbands also allow entry into the Continental Club for a special First Thursday performance. Wristband purchases can be made by Mid Main Lofts lobby or online.
The next Mid Main event is April 7. (Check the Houston Mid Main Events Instagram Page for sponsor and performance updates.)
The Mid Main Gallery in the lobby of Mid Main Lofts is where you can find lots of First Thursday energy. This is where a MAV Hawkins exhibition titled Momentum opened this year’s series of spring events. Each month the gallery will exhibit a new local artist, and all works are available for purchase.
The Winbern Night Market is another early Thursday tradition, occupying a gated street that runs along the Mid Main block. A variety of vendors stop, including farm produce at the market in Bald Hill Farm, Flying saucer farms and Green Green. Other small local businesses like Everything Con Queso, lorita does and 6 p.m. Candle Co. have all been sellers for the foreign market. Sometimes food trucks come out instead of market vendors.
First Thursdays are a great way for Houstonians and visitors to the city to experience this distinctive neighborhood and support local merchants. But if you can’t make it to the monthly event, keep in mind that the area is still a Houston gem that can be enjoyed any day of the week.
Here are some places you won’t want to miss during First Thursday and beyond.
The newest kid on the block is already making a name for himself and was recently listed on Texas monthlyfrom the “Where to eat now” list. Winnie’s offers craft cocktails and an extensive menu filled with po’ boys, oysters and more. The interior decor, cozy patio, and knowledgeable servers make for a warm and welcoming place that combines Houston and Louisiana charm. D-fi and the suitors played as part of the most recent First Thursday.
You can never go wrong with a good taco or two. Tacos A Go Go has been a staple since it opened with its classic, quality tacos and Tex Mex food and drink. It’s a perfect place to settle in for lunch or dinner, or to take out and enjoy food while listening to the music next door at the Continental Club’s Pachinko Hut in the backyard.
Some like it hot, and if you do, this is the place to go. With its award-winning Chinese cuisine, diners are sure to sweat and fill up with the restaurant’s authentic and comprehensive menu. Be warned; spicy is in the name for good reason.
Brass Tap offers over 150 beers on tap, including local, national and global options. In addition to its extensive beverage menu, patrons can enjoy a variety of snacks to share while sitting outdoors and enjoying the scenery of Mid Main’s bustling life.
Double Trouble makes some of the best cocktails in town and for those looking for a pick-me-up, it also has a full coffee bar. It’s the perfect place to start the night before going out to dinner or seeing a show in the neighborhood. The bartenders have great musical tastes and use the turntable in the quaint tiki bar, creating an ever-changing vibe. On the first Thursdays, local DJs usually spin records on the terrace.
Get ready to move fast and grab delicious sushi in this high-quality rotating sushi bar. With reasonable prices and a great selection of options, it’s a great place to stop for a snack during the First Thursday festivities.
Who doesn’t want a little sweetness? Baker’s Man’s delicious bundt cupcakes are the place to go if you’re looking for a tasty snack to share or eat on your own. These little creations come in a variety of flavors and were part of the first Thursday market before his brick-and-mortar shop opened in the neighborhood.
If you’re not ready for the rodeo, step into this custom western clothing store run by husband and wife Ben and Bonnie Kennimer. This little place can be easy to miss as it is located above Big Kat’s Barber Shop. It’s well worth the trip upstairs to see not only the unique creations, but also the crowded studio space where the pair work.
Walking through My Flaming Heart is a vortex of creativity and weirdness. With more little trinkets than grandma’s house, this unique shop has something for everyone as it’s brimming with estate sale finds, vintage clothing and cowboy boots, one-of-a-kind creations from the owner of the store Judy Masliyah and her team, and an extensive range of beads and materials for jewelry making and crafts. Prepare to spend some time soaking up every odd detail in this shop, which will be offering a 20% discount to First Thursday attendees.
The name says it all, as this shop is a fine collection of unique yet accessible vintage products. The shop is still filled with fashion from the past, with sections from the 50s to the turn of the millennium. It’s one of the few vintage shops with a men’s and housewares section with its wall of sunglasses to get you ready for spring with a first Thursday buy-get-one-free.
This record store is a real gem and a music history lesson. Perusing the walls and shelves provides an education for visitors, with newspaper clippings from Sundance Records of San Marcos, where major events in music history are preserved, including a piece of amplifier torn apart by no one else than guitar god Jimi Hendrix. This store offers records and CDs for all music lovers, ranging from modern bands to albums of yesteryear. Events on the first Thursday included an in-store art exhibit by Tess Doyle and the music of Tempting DJ.
the Club Continental
The legendary Continental Club opened its doors in 1999. Since then, the club has hosted a who’s who of musicians from Nick Lowe, young John Mayer and the late great surf rock pioneer Dick Dale. The club is a hotbed of local talent and nurtures Houston’s music scene. Reasonable drink prices, available seating, and friendly staff make this a Midtown favorite. The club also has a spacious backyard and Pachinko Hut where the Houston reggae band DEM appeared on a recent first Thursday.
This strange little place is like stepping into a strange dream. Housed in what was a toy store in the 1950s, the quirky circus-inspired mural can be seen on the wall, surrounded by Elvis memorabilia and clown-themed artwork that matches the theme of the marquee. There are Christmas lights all year round, adding a festive atmosphere to any night on the small stage. Luba Dvorak played an evening of honky-tonk for guests on a recent Thursday premier.