To Market in Houston

By Kristi Willis
Photography by Jenna Noel 

Houston boasts many enticing attractions and activities—from its world-class museums and the Johnson Space Center, to cheering at the Astros and Texans games or dining on exquisite cuisines from the corners of the globe—there’s a lot to see and do. And now, a collection of burgeoning farmers markets and food artisans spotlighting local culinary treasures have been added to the list, giving lovers of food, community and culture even more reasons for a road trip.

On any given weekend, bustling farmers markets stretch from The Woodlands to Clear Lake City to Sugar Land. Urban Harvest, a nonprofit organization that supports growing food in the city, hosts five area markets alone, including “the largest direct-producer farmers market in greater Houston.” Tucked in between two office complexes not far from the West University neighborhood, Eastside market is an oasis of local food in an otherwise unremarkable parking lot. Booths packed with produce, meats, cheeses and chocolates beckon shoppers to linger and sample. Two seafood vendors bring their catch up from the Gulf and several vendors, including acclaimed chef Monica Pope’s Green Plum Kitchen, sell prepared foods and bakery items to enjoy at the market while listening to live music.

Local chefs have been known to elbow in for a chance at the peak produce, as well—coming to the market to stock their kitchens and establish relationships with the farmers. On a recent visit, a chef from Backstreet Cafe scooped up all of the kumquats for a weekend special, and Chef Justin Yu of Oxheart—who recently did a cooking demonstration at the market—met a farmer whom he now contracts with directly.

On the other side of town, one of Houston’s newest markets, the Farmers Market at Imperial, is another great success story. Housed at Sugar Land’s now-defunct Imperial Sugar refinery, the market on the soon-to-be-redeveloped property is returning a vibrant pulse to this sleepy area of the suburban community.

When finished, the Imperial Sugar property will provide mixed-use residential and commercial spaces including a boutique hotel, condominiums, retail outlets, restaurants and a baseball stadium for a new minor league team. While waiting for the various phases of construction to be completed, the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce wanted a way to engage the community and get people excited about the project. They planned a 10-week farmers market starting in October 2011, and invited 70 vendors to participate.

When they launched the market’s Facebook page, 1,000 people showed quick support with a page “like” within the first two weeks, and it was clear that the community was looking forward to the kickoff. Even so, organizers were unprepared for the 5,000 people who showed up the first Saturday. Most of the farmers sold out of produce within an hour.

“Everyone who came afterwards was walking through disappointed, asking where the vegetables were,” recalls Keri Schmidt of the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce. “The next week the farmers showed up with trailers full of produce and said they wanted the market to be year-round.”

With a diverse group of vendors selling to a growing crowd of regulars, the Imperial Sugar silos towering over the stalls are the only things casting a shadow on this market, which now runs weekly, indefinitely, in response to popular demand. Shoppers stroll between booths in the large outbuilding and the covered walkway that stretches up to the old Imperial offices—listening to music, sipping coffee and snacking on tamales and sandwiches.

“This historic site means a lot to our community,” says Schmidt. “One of our original vendors came to the first planning meeting and had tears in her eyes. She said that she remembered coming to this factory when she was a little kid and that it’s amazing that she is now working on a brand new farmers market in the same place.”

Aside from hitting the markets while in town, be sure to explore Houston’s farms and food artisans in the Heights neighborhood just northwest of downtown. With a slew of new restaurant openings and two retail stores promoting local food, the Heights is quickly becoming a key stop for food enthusiasts.


The earthy aroma of cheese permeates the air just inside the door of the district’s Houston Dairymaids warehouse, while a tasting list greets customers with a selection of the featured cheeses of the day. The coolers are packed with prime cheeses from around the world, including a half-dozen from Texas dairies. The Dairymaids warehouse also sells cheese-friendly bread, honey, beer and wine.

Just a few miles away, on Heights Boulevard, is Revival Market, a butcher shop and market specializing in local and artisan foods. The brainchild of rancher Morgan Weber and Chef Ryan Pera, the store brings together the popular meats from Weber’s Yoakum ranch and Pera’s deft culinary and butchery skills.

Shoppers can order from the daily menu, buy prepared dishes from the case or purchase the ingredients to whip up a gourmet meal at home. The butcher case is filled with cuts from Weber’s heritage-breed pork and beef, Gulf Coast lamb, rabbit, chicken, ducks and eggs, and the store shelves offer an ample selection of dried goods and produce from around the state—even salt from Galveston County.

Whether it’s exploring the flourishing Houston farmers markets or the retail markets and restaurants working with and celebrating local farms and foods, there’s plenty to tempt the taste buds. Don’t forget to pack a cooler to bring home some of the bounty.

See following guide for selected markets and local food-friendly restaurants in the Houston area. Markets are located in Houston unless noted.

Houston Local Food Source Guide

Retail stores
featuring local foods

Georgia’s Market
420 Main St.

12171 Katy Freeway

Houston Dairymaids
2201 Airline Dr.

Hubbell & Hudson Kitchen
4526 Research Forest Dr.
The Woodlands

Hubbell & Hudson Market & Bistro
24 Waterway Ave., Ste. 125
The Woodlands

Revival Market
550 Heights Blvd.

Highland Village Shopping Center
Artisan Marketplace
4060 Westheimer Rd.
June 16, July 21, August 18, noon–4 pm

Houston-area farmers markets

City Hall
Wednesdays, 11 am–1:30 pm
901 Bagby (across from City Hall)

Clear Lake Shores
Saturdays, 8 am–noon
1020 Marina Bay Dr.
Clear Lake

Saturdays, 8 am–noon
3000 Richmond Ave.

Grogan’s Mill Village
Saturdays, 8 am–noon
Grogan’s Mill Center
7 Switchbud Pl.
The Woodlands

HCC Southwest Campus
Fridays, 3–7 pm
5601 West Loop Freeway

Highland Village
Sundays, 10 am–1 pm
Highland Village Shopping Center
2720 Suffolk Dr.

Saturdays, 9 am–1 pm
198 Kempner St.
Sugar Land

Thursdays, 3–7 pm
8 N. Main St.

Nassau Bay
Saturdays, 10 am–2 pm
Erma’s Nutrition Center
18045 Upper Bay Rd.
Nassau Bay

Pearland Old Town Site
2nd and 4th Saturdays, 8 am–noon
Zychlinski Park
2243 Grand Blvd.

Rice University
Tuesdays, 3:30–7 pm.
2100 University Blvd.

Spring Branch
Wednesdays, 2:30–6:30 pm
Southeast corner of Wirt and Westview

Sugar Land Town Square
Thursdays, 4–7 pm
2711 Town Center Blvd.
Sugar Land

Saturdays, 9 am–1 pm
Corner of FM 2920 and Cherry St.

Wild West Richmond
Sundays, noon–4 pm.
5005 FM 359

Restaurants Sourcing from Area Farms and Ranches

Backstreet Cafe
1103 S. Shepherd Dr.

2310 Decatur St.

5922 Washington Ave.

2424 Dunstan Rd.

Down House
1801 Yale St.

219 Westheimer Rd.

2502 Algerian Way

Hay Merchant
1100 Westheimer Rd.

Hugo’s Restaurant
1600 Westheimer Rd.

Local Foods
2424 Dunstan Rd.

1302 Nance St.

2800 Kirby, Ste. B132

2520 Amherst St.

2600 Travis St.

Roots Bistro
507 Westheimer Rd.

1972 Fairview St.

3701 Travis St.

1100 Westheimer Rd.

Bars serving seasonal craft cocktails

Anvil Bar & Refuge
1424 Westheimer Rd.

5175 Westheimer Rd.