May 15, 2006
That Austin feeling in Houston

At the risk of making my Austin readers giggle, this article about Houston businesses that remind people of Austin is a good read. Mostly, I like it because it gives some love to our neighborhood hangout the Onion Creek bar and coffee house.

[L]ocal entrepreneurs like Onion Creek owner Gary Mosley have shown that Austin-style businesses can originate in Houston.

Many of his patrons describe the Heights cafe as pure Austin. Onion Creek has a fireplace and cozy clubhouse ambiance. Outside is a lot of deck space.

Onion Creek is among the first places in town to host a Saturday organic farmers' market.

Houston native Mosley fell in love with Austin and surrounding Hill Country when he attended the San Marcos Baptist Academy. He'd go river rafting and notice that people around Austin "had smiles on their faces."

In contrast, Houston is a more rigid, money-driven town, said Mosley, who wore a T-shirt, a pair of shorts, sneakers and a boyish grin.

"For a town to be so close to Austin," he said, "I didn't understand why there weren't more businesses with an atmosphere and mind-set like Austin's."

He decided to create a haven from the Houston rat race: "I wanted people coming in flip-flops. All different races. People enjoying the music, just being themselves.

"A business is a reflection of the employees and ownership," he said: "Are they uptight or are they laid-back?"

The Heights is an ideal Houston spot to cultivate the Austin feel, said Mosley, who opened Onion Creek more than three years ago.

You know, some of us who remember favorite old places in Montrose and the Heights would say that Onion Creek is building on what they once cultivated. That's what I think of when I go to Onion Creek, anyway - Austin has never entered the equation for me, though I can see what Mosley and author Kaplan are getting at. But hey, whatever works. I just sometimes wish Houston would get credit for being what it is, which is more than meets the eye and different things to different people, instead of always talking about what it isn't.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 15, 2006 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack

Funny, I like to think of Austin as a bigger version of the Heights.

Posted by: Marie on May 15, 2006 10:45 AM

One the Austin Metbloggers had a post about this today. I agree though that you can find pockets with a similar feel in other larger cities. I always thought the East Village in NYC had a somewhat similar feel to Austin when I lived there, although without the greenery. The Raleigh/Chapel Hill area has some similarities as well.

Posted by: ttrentham on May 15, 2006 2:16 PM

I'm an Onion Creek regular who grew up in the Texas Hill Country and I don't know of any place in Austin or its surrounding communities that has created Mosley’s atmosphere. I feel that he’s shortsighted and he’s underestimated the Austin concept. Yes, Houston is the rat race of rat races but it's also a melting pot of culture - which Austin is not.

Posted by: Michelle on May 16, 2006 6:26 PM