Houston Neighborhood Profile: River Oaks and the Galleria

Veterans utilizing the VA jumbo loan should be interested in the River Oaks and Galleria area of Houston. With a median home value of $1.5 million – and a number of houses worth many times more – this fabled expanse of oak-shaded lawns and jaw-dropping mansions ranks among the most luxurious in Texas, if not the United States. Some of the city’s richest and most prominent characters have called River Oaks home since it was founded in the 1920s around a country club that shares its name. Just across I-610, the Galleria provides the well-to-do a huge, air-conditioned mall that manages to retain the feel of a high-end shopping district.

While the original subdivision is smaller, the areas bounded by Buffalo Bayou and Westheimer Road, Shepherd Drive and I-610 are usually considered River Oaks. The Galleria refers to the densely developed shopping, office and residential areas surrounding the mall at 5085 Westheimer Road.

Most of the neighborhood consists of large, single-family houses on generous lots. Many contain at least 5 bedrooms and as many or more baths. Most houses come complete with pool, gate and circle drive, and listings tend to range from just under $1 million to over $10 million. Definitely a place to take advantage of the cost savings brought on by the VA jumbo loan.

Much like the shopping, the evening scene around the Galleria is decidedly high-end, with a few notable exceptions. To take in some mod styling and fabulous people getting their dance on, check out upscale Belvedere (1131 Uptown Park). For a wine bar twist on the club concept, there’s Club 26Ten (2610 Sage). The DJs keep the young crowd at Club Roxy (5351 Alabama) dancing into the wee hours. By contrast, if you just want a cheap beer, country music and old-school Texas fun, Wild West (6101 Richmond) has you covered.

Well traveled Veterans take note, this is one Houston’s hottest neighborhoods for dining. Hip, delicious Gigi’s Asian Bistro shares the north side of the mall with the Cheesecake Factory and white-tablecloth eateries like Oceanaire Seafood Room and Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse. Across the street, build your own frozen yoghurt concoction at Swirll (5000 Westheimer). In the same shopping center, you’ll find Morton’s The Steakhouse and the Grand Lux Café. The surrounding blocks feature dozens of notable eateries, among them RDG+Bar Annie (1800 Post Oak). Closer to River Oaks, Kiran’s (4100 Westheimer) offers some of Houston’s finest Indian cuisine and one of the best wine selections in town.

High-end department stores, classy boutiques and an indoor ice skating rink attract 24 million visitors each year to this impressive shopping center beneath the Williams Tower. Among the 375 stores at 5085 Westheimer Road are: Nieman Marcus, Macy’s, Tiffany and Co., Saks Fifth Avenue, Cartier, Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton, and Ralph Lauren. All brands which the discerning Veteran will appreciate being locally available.

The Museum of Fine Art Houston curates museums within two historic mansions in the neighborhood. Situated among beautifully maintained gardens, the Rienzi Center for European Decorative Arts (1406 Kirby) is packed full of historic furniture, sculpture, ceramics and paintings. The Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens (1 Westcott) offers a similar trove of American art in the carefully preserved manse donated to the museum by Ima Hogg more than 50 years ago.

While the cost associated with living in the River Oaks and Galleria are high, for those who can afford living in the area, the rewards associated with savings brought on by the VA home loan are vast.