Next door to the old Commodore Hotel on Seawall Blvd. in Galveston, there was once a small diner called Dutch Kettle. It was unforgivingly grim, with a tattered paper banner above the entrance advertising breakfast 24-hours a day, and the word "Kettle" scrawled across the front windows in a peeling Old English font that looked as though a street gang called Kettle had marked the restaurant as their territory. I ate there once in the early 00s, hungover as hell and wincing throughout my meal—and not just because of my pounding headache. I found no reason to return.

The Gumbo Diner
3602 Seawall Blvd.
409-762-3232
thegumbodinner.com

This past weekend, however, as I drove down Seawall Blvd. on my way to Cafe Michael Burger, I was shocked to see something shiny and new in its place: The Gumbo Diner, which opened in early 2013. A colorful marquee advertised all-day beignets and I pledged to return as quickly as possible. The next morning, though I'd made reservations for the famously massive Sunday brunch at The Galvez, I woke up early to have first breakfast, Hobbit-style, at The Gumbo Diner.

Not wanting to completely spoil my appetite for brunch later, I stuck with a small order of beignets and a side of grits, which I'm compelled to order every time I see them on a menu. They are almost always disappointing, and the instant grits at The Gumbo Diner—which also suffered a crippling lack of salt—were no exception. The beignets, on the other hand, were excellent.

Hot and fluffy, the beignets had only a slightly dense chewiness on the outside edges—just enough to give them a little character. A generous snowfall of powdered sugar ensured that I covered the table with sugar dust on nearly every bite. They weren't served with a side of honey, and although I could have asked the darling waitress (who, by the way, could have played Alice were Mel's Diner set in Galveston), the beignets didn't need any additional sweetness.

I don't recall a thing about the service at Dutch Kettle, though I'm willing to bet The Gumbo Diner is a step up in that department as well. As with most of the locally-owned restaurants in Galveston, the service at The Gumbo Diner was warm and welcoming—just the sort of service you want in a cute little diner. Even better, most of the seats offer a beautiful, unobstructed view of the Gulf of Mexico across the Seawall, giving The Gumbo Diner the distinction of having the best scenery of any all-day breakfast joint you'll find in Houstonia.

Galveston has recovered from the destruction of Hurricane Ike in admirable fashion, using the opportunity to rebuild in bigger and better style since the 2008 storm wiped many of its slates clean. The Gumbo Diner—owned by the same restaurant group that runs the equally outstanding The Saltwater Grill and Nonno Tony's, among others—is just one example of this welcome growth, and one more reason you should take a trip down to Galveston if you haven't ventured south lately. That, and the aforementioned brunch buffet at The Galvez. Did I mention it offers all-you-can-eat crab legs and oysters?

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