A section of John Nova Lomax’s new Texas Monthly essay on Montrose’s continuing “it was better in the old days” rap chronicles a sequence of prominent changes to the neighborhood from the last decade. That it’s possible to find at least one Swamplot story corresponding to each noted example speaks to the longterm vigilance of this site’s tipsters — if not the author’s research methods. (Lomax in fact wrote a few of our stories himself; he’s a former Swamplot contributor and editor.)
Here’s the passage, altered by a peppering with Swamplot links to provide an annotated and illustrated version of Montrose’s recent journey from former counterculture haven to . . . uh, former counterculture haven:
In my view, Old Montrose has perished not from a single death-blow, but rather by a thousand cuts, most coming in the last few years. Mary’s, long the city’s most iconic gay bar, gave way to a high-end coffeehouse. Chances, Montrose’s only full-time lesbian bar, morphed into Underbelly, the city’s “it” restaurant of the most recent oil boom. The last bastion of Felix, the old-school, family-friendly Tex-Mex chain, closed down and was reborn as an outpost of Austin’s chic Uchi sushi empire. Ruchi’s Taqueria (a musician-friendly home of way-late-night beers served in red iced tea tumblers) and quirky-bordering-on-insane jewelry boutique Fly High Little Bunny were razed to make way for a CVS. La Jalisciense, another late-night taqueria beloved of musicians, was replaced by a more upscale Mexican restaurant. A Raising Cane’s outlet landed like a spaceship from suburbia smack-dab on Westheimer, and Texas Junk Company, for years a staple on lists of “quirky things to do while in Houston,” closed down, its owner decamping for Moulton, Texas.
Meanwhile, all over the area, lawns and antique bungalows have given way to tall, lot-filling Texas Tuscan condos and McMansions. Seventies-era garden-style apartment complexes have been replaced by luxury mixed-use mid-rises.
In one of the more definitively Houstonian real estate happenings I’ve seen in 47 years of observation, H-E-B bought and razed [actually, the demo was completed more than 6 months before the purchase] a lovely (if crumbling) live oak–shaded apartment complex from the Forties directly across the street from a Fiesta supermarket, one beloved by Montrose’s artsy set for its cheap and lovingly selected wine selection, international foods and produce, great seafood counter, and simply amazing in-store music playlists. (You’d hear everything from Bo Diddley to relatively obscure Beatles tunes like “Hey Bulldog” to Otis Redding to Poco in its aisles.) Faced with the shiny new store across the street, Fiesta closed down and was soon replaced by . . . a luxury mid-rise apartment complex. So, if you are keeping score at home, Houston tore down a historic apartment complex to build a grocery store across the street from where we tore down a grocery store to build a brand-new apartment building.
- Montrose Is Dead. Long Live Montrose? [Texas Monthly]
- Previously on Swamplot: The Death, Life, and Continuing Obituary of Montrose, Still Texas’s ‘Coolest Neighborhood’