Destinations, Travel

(Re)discovering My Hometown


I never considered my hometown to be interesting or brag worthy. Magnolia, Texas is situated north of Houston, Texas. Magnolia (and the Houston area in general) has grown exponentially throughout the years but especially since I left in 2008. Every time I come home, I dread the traffic and seeing another new installment of infrastructure. I felt Magnolia no longer seemed familiar. My sister’s engagement party recently brought me back home. I wanted to have a better outlook on Magnolia. I didn’t want to highlight the buyout of Magnolia land to an ever-growing suburbia called The Woodlands, Texas. I wanted to see past the expansion of roads and construction of new apartment complexes from another oil and gas company moving in. I wanted to focus on the natural beauty I found wandering my parent’s property. I wanted to visit the local (famous?) burger joint. I wanted to discover the Magnolia I once knew and the Houston I never ventured to.  I visited the nightlife of Houston I never experienced. I came across local bands. I danced to ’80s music in a stylish club. Seeing Magnolia and Houston through a new pair of eyes encouraged me to appreciate local surviving business while also finding wonder in the diversified newness. I say with strong words I will never move back to Houston. A river can’t flow in a concrete jungle. Houston will always remain special. My family and best of friends live in Houston. I won’t deny I am glad I still have a reason to come back.

Taken in Magnolia, TX on my parent’s property:

Magnolia, TX

Magnolia, TX

Taken in Magnolia on my parent's property

I visited the local burger joint, Mel’s Country Cafe. Mel’s is only a five minute drive from my parent’s house. Mel’s, like Houston, expanded. I hadn’t walked into Mel’s since I was a kid. I just remember two things: the burger challenge and fried okra. Fried okra, at least to me, is a southern food staple. The okra plant thrives in the Texas heat. Pickled, fried, or in Louisiana gumbo, okra always reminds me of home. For the most part, Mel’s remained the same: same food, menu, location, and long wait.

Cheeseburger and Okra

Catfish, shrimp, and fried okra at Mel's Country Cafe.
Catfish, shrimp, and fried okra at Mel’s Country Cafe.
Could you do it? Must be under 2 hours! The 2013 champion was Daria Emmons a quite slender lady, completing in 20 minutes!
Could you do it? Must be under 2 hours! The 2013 champion was Daria Emmons a quite slender lady, completing in 20 minutes!


Behind my friend Ryan is a list of names of those who completed the Mega Mel Challenge.
Behind my friend Ryan is a list of names of those who completed the Mega Mel Challenge.

I left the Houston area before I was of age to experience the nightlife. I only knew the names of a few high volume clubs in Houston playing the top 40 songs of today. On my visit, I was introduced to two great places in Houston, Avant Garden and Barbarella’s. Both establishments stray from the norm, which I love.

Avant Garden

Located in the Fourth Ward, Avant Garden hosts bands regularly. Forget about getting carded upon entrance, Avant Garden is simply a house with a great feel and great music.

Band at Avant Garden
Band at Avant Garden

No, not the trippy ’60s sci-fi (although my life would have been complete if I would have spotted Jane Fonda). Barbarella’s Houston (also a location in Austin) provided my night with outstanding ’80s beats.

A quote from Barbarella’s website:

“Dedicated to playing dance music with integrity! In our opinion that means both RESPECT for the song (no unnecessary scratching or mixing) and TASTE in the choice of music (no top 40 or homogeneous techno beats).”

The hipster in me just couldn’t resist Barbarella’s.

Sunset near Mel's
Sunset near Mel’s

I loved discovering my hometown again.  I found natural beauty at my parent’s. I found familiarity at Mel’s. I found change while wondering through downtown.

 Pinch me, am I still in Houston?

I challenge you to explore your hometown, find something you always knew was there or discover something you never made time to seek out.

What can you (re)discover?

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