It’s only one city block, but the historic Crockett Street District is a fun little stretch of downtown that gives Beaumont an extra dash of flavor. The area was once the center of illicit activity, with bordellos and bars keeping roughnecks and port visitors plenty entertained. These days, most of the establishments are respectable bars and restaurants. If you’re only in town one day, go to Spindletop Seafood & Steak (290 Crockett St., 409/833-9688, $9–25). Housed in the city’s historic oil exchange building, the restaurant is a worthy representation of Beaumont, with photos, artifacts, and décor harkening back to the boomtown days. The real draw, however, is the food—a hearty sampling of local favorites, from thick flavorful steaks to perfectly prepared pasta to spicy gumbo. A word of caution: The soft, warm bread served before your meal is so tasty, you’ll be tempted to eat the whole loaf before your meal arrives. Enjoy it in moderation. Just a few doors down is Rio Rita’s Mexican Food & Cantina (230 Crockett St., 490/833-0750, $7–15). Be sure to request a table on the balcony, a pleasant wrought-iron second-story setting reminiscent of New Orleans. If it’s full (which it often is), the backup plan is perfectly acceptable: a table on the pleasant ground-floor patio with fountain. You can’t go wrong with the food here, either. Rio Rita’s specializes in classic Tex-Mex, with sizzling fajitas, stuffed enchiladas, and seasoned nachos among the locals’ favorites. Enhance your experience with a smooth and potent house margarita.
Beaumont is perhaps the best place in Texas to get authentic Cajun food, and the city’s proximity to the Gulf means the seafood is always immensely fresh and flavorful. A favorite among locals is the no-frills Sartin’s West (6680 Calder Ave., 409/861-3474, closed Mon., $8–19). Beaumonters can’t get enough of their fantastic barbecued crabs, and for good reason: These tasty morsels are succulent and slightly spicy, an ideal representation of Beaumont’s distinctive cuisine. Other popular menu items include the broiled seafood platter and any variety of shrimp (fried, grilled, or peel-and-eat). Another spot where locals line up is the consistently delectable Vautrot’s Cajun Cuisine (13350 Highway 105, 409/753-2015, www.vautrots.com, $6–16). Start with the tasty crawfish étoufée or jam-packed gumbo or go crazy and proceed directly to the ridiculously large and immensely flavorful Uncle Emrick’s Seafood Sampler, containing the gumbo and étoufée along with fried crawfish, fried catfish, fried shrimp, fried oysters, onion rings or French fries, and a healthy salad. The Texas Crawfish Company (12647 Highway 90, 409/866-1625, $6–12) is rather tame in comparison. You’ll find all the reliable standards here, from namesake crawfish and shrimp to oysters and catfish. The food here is a bit spicy, but the prices are quite mild.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition