What else are you going to eat in Galveston? Put aside your craving for Ethiopian or Canadian cuisine for a few days and savor the local flavor. Fresh seafood is everywhere in Galveston and several of the best places are right on the bay just a few blocks from the Strand district.
There’s something about arriving in a seaside town that creates an instant yearning for enjoying a plate of shrimp or oyster or snapper—sometimes all three—while overlooking the water. If you’re in the downtown area, satisfy this urge at the low-key yet high-quality Willie G’s (2100 Harborside Dr. at Pier 21, 409/762-3030). Opt for bayside seating and let your ocean vacation begin. Order some peel-and-eat shrimp to start—squeeze fresh lemon on top and dip them in tangy cocktail sauce—and proceed to the fresh catch of the day, from blackened snapper to grilled flounder to fried trout. Welcome to Galveston!
Next door is the larger and consistently dependable Fisherman’s Wharf (Pier 22 and Harborside Dr., 409/765-5708, $7–29). Red snapper is the specialty here, but feel free to cast your eyes at everything on the menu—shrimp kisses, oysters on the half-shell, calamari, and even the steak and pasta are all tempting and tasty. Be sure to ask for a table with a view of the bay, where you can sit on the deck and watch the shrimp boats slowly glide by.
About a half-mile inland you’ll find one of the finest (and most expensive) restaurants in town. The fabulous Saltwater Grill (2017 Post Office St., 409/762-3474, $8–39) feels urban and sparse like Houston but tastes fresh and flavorful like a Gulf Coast restaurant should. At Saltwater, fresh isn’t just an appealing adjective, it’s a genuine approach to food preparation. The restaurant utilizes a bizarre yet effective steam-kettle device that’s linked to a large heater, pipes, and steel buckets that cause water to boil in merely three minutes. The result is rapidly cooked fresh seafood as opposed to reheated or perpetually boiling (and soaking) fare. Enjoy the results with a plate of mussels, clams, or shrimp, and be sure to order the grand gumbo. Another must-taste is the appetizer dish with fried asparagus topped with crab meat and entrées such as the grilled yellowfin tuna, red snapper, and seafood linguini. Reservations are recommended.
The Strand is filled with confectioners’ shops and small eateries that come and go, but several have become mainstays for lunch breaks during prolonged bouts of shopping. Among them is Fullen’s Waterwall (2110 Strand St., 409/765-6787, $6–24), a family-friendly spot with character that specializes in burgers, steaks, and a few noteworthy Mexican dishes. The restaurant’s namesake waterfall is in a pleasant courtyard, which serves as an ideal setting for the comfort food on the menu. Burgers are the big thing here, with many appetizing varieties such as turkey, shrimp, pork, grilled tuna, and even ground beef. Po’ boys and tacos are other popular choices.
Step back in time at the charming and moderately priced Star Drug Store (510 23rd St., 409/766-7719, $4–9). The historic neon/porcelain Coca-Cola sign out front sets the tone for this establishment, featuring an ancient (well, more than a century old) horseshoe-shaped lunch counter with soda fountain. Not surprisingly, the menu options are typical old-time lunch fare: burgers, Reubens, pimiento cheese sandwiches, chicken salad, dilled pasta salad, and ice-cream floats. The drug store’s signature item is a tasty tomato-basil soup.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition