This casual spot is a great place to drop in for Gulf oysters on the half shell after a long day strolling the Seawall. If you want to get your hands dirty, the “U-Peel-Um” shrimp and buckets of crawfish are fun ways to kick back while you watch the waves, and both come served with corn and potatoes.
Despite the fancy-sounding name and neon-accented marquee, this eatery is decidedly laid-back. Locals love owner Rudy Betancourt’s po-boys and barbecued shrimp, but the real draw here is the selection of chargrilled oysters. The oysters Haelen, topped with crabmeat and bacon, is our favorite dish.
Continental, Eastern European
This charming café owes its rotating menu of schnitzel, goulash, beef stroganoff, stuffed peppers and other Eastern European specialties to Czech-born owner Ladislav Klos, who built the place himself in the 1990s to mimic the Old World restaurants of his youth. As a sign proclaims near the front door: “Try the wiener schnitzel; you’ll never eat chicken-fried steak again.”
Andrea Hunting’s colorful café is known for its “sensational sandwiches,” though we’re just as taken by her specials: smoked trout salad with apples and horseradish cream one week, Jamaican carrot soup with pear relish the next. Also on offer: wine, beer, tea and coffee. The latter pairs particularly well with Hunting’s outrageous pineapple upside down cake.
Sisters and island natives Ryanne Duzich and Rosmond Duzich Thormahlen might serve “a little bit of everything,” as their motto states, although people flock here for mainly one thing: the po-boy, with your choice of shrimp or fish, grilled or fried. But don’t miss the weekend brunch, which boasts over-the-top specials like pancakes topped with chicken fried steak, gravy and a fried egg.
Seafood, New American
Galveston’s most famous restaurant somehow retains the same high-quality seafood and service that’s made it a destination since 1911. That’s thanks in part to chef Ross Warhol, who in 2013 overhauled both Gaido’s and its next-door companion, the previously members-only Pelican Club. Favorites like the famous Watkins seafood bisque are still on the menu at Gaido’s, while the Pelican Club now boasts intriguing items such as parmesan-crusted Gulf snapper over risotto with chimichurri sauce. No flip-flops here, folks.
Breakfast, Diner, Southern/Creole/Cajun
A former Kettle coffee shop has been reborn as the cutest and coziest spot on the Seawall for all-day beignets (and other all-day breakfast items, though the grits are best avoided). As the name would suggest, this is also a reliable destination for gumbo and other Cajun-inspired dishes like the “jacked-up jalapeños” stuffed with crab, shrimp and crawfish.
The same family that once brought The Balinese Room to Galveston is still active on the island generations later, now specializing in much-loved muffalettas at its namesake downtown deli. Do yourself a favor and drop by for a sandwich, and while you’re there, poke around the shelves of spices, jars of Italian home-style tomato gravy and more. (Of note: you can also find the muffalettas for sale at Galveston Island Brewing Co. during its weekend brewery tours.)
One of the island’s newer fine-dining destinations, Number 13 is tucked away on Offatts Bayou, giving it a waterfront view different from most on the island. You might be tempted to linger on the lovely outdoor terrace for drinks and appetizers, but then you’ll miss chef de cuisine’s Chris Loftis’s indulgent dinner menu. From local grouper with potato galette and leek crème to a 28-day-aged porterhouse, to the extravagant Tsar Imperial Ossetra caviar service, there’s something for every level of decadence here.
Despite the casual-sounding name, Rudy & Paco enforces a strict dress code: no flip-flops and no shorts except at the bar (?). Call it a breath of fresh air for many islanders who seek refuge in the elegant, warm atmosphere encouraged by friendly Paco Vargas himself. The Nicaraguan native’s heritage is abundantly present in the eatery’s empanadas stuffed with Gulf shrimp, and refreshing ceviches.
Locals and tourists alike have been coming to 39th and Avenue O since 1976 for po-boys overflowing with fried Gulf shrimp and plates of crab balls with homemade remoulade. Like the sauce, almost everything here is made in-house, from the gumbo to the freshly breaded seafood—not a frozen fish stick in sight.
Despite its location inside a seaside complex that also houses sister establishments such as Rum Shack (a rum bar), Squeeze (a tequila bar) and Sideyard (a hammock bar with cocktails in mason jars), The Spot is actually a family-friendly destination with a build-your-own-po-boy bar as its signature attraction. Simply order shrimp or fish and load up on all the fixings your sandwich can hold. The place also offers great burgers and dogs too.
It goes without saying that meat is the thing to order at chef Phil Bouzo’s highly acclaimed steakhouse inside the grand San Luis Resort, and it rarely disappoints. But if you prefer seafood (or both), this is still your place—the whole-roasted seasonal catch is impressive indeed. Either way, don’t miss the inventive salads, especially the Caesar with Bluebonnet Farms baby romaine and delicate, white Spanish anchovies, which is as transcendent as a salad can be.