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A Pizza Puzzle

If it pulls the pieces together, The Strand Brewery could have a powerful pie

Nor did a misleadingly named artichoke ravioli improve our humor. Instead of the seductive artichoke filling we had fantasized, we were presented with cheese ravioli of a genre familiar to those who shop grocery-store freezer cases; token processed artichoke hearts swam in the surrounding sea of thin cream sauce. If this dish represents what LPK does with pasta, I'll pass. The menu also includes a number of dishes to satisfy the Galveston tourist trade -- nachos, fried seafood poorboys, etc. -- but the examples I glimpsed on nearby tables looked thoroughly resistible.

Resistible, too, were what our waiter identified merely as the brewery's light beer (blah is the word) and extra-light beer (watery is the word). The dark Brown Pelican Ale was again missing in action. We clung to our Karankawa Gold as if it were the waters of life.

By now, the two giant Sysco trucks I'd seen parked next to the brewery when I walked in had begun to seem like harbingers of doom -- to say nothing of the giant Kraft truck that had pulled up a few minutes later. My friends, to whom I had promised great things, were regarding me with cautious pity. In a bid for redemption, I ordered one last roasted garlic pizza, and it came close to saving the day.

Our disenchantment gave us too much time to carp about what is basically a pleasant setting. One expects a classy renovation job from George Mitchell, Galveston's Medici prince, luxury hotelier and Mardi Gras patron extraordinaire. And The Strand Brewery is, in the end, pretty classy: full of Island daylight and exposed brick and open ductwork, with high old ceilings above and distressed concrete floors below. Too bad, we grinched, that they'd chosen a wan, pale yellow for the interior paint job; and where were the baseboards to offset all that old-fashioned detailing and beer bric-a-brac higher up?

Finally, during a self-guided tour of the two upper floors, our ungrateful grumblings were stilled. A splendidly situated terrace just off the poolroom-and-fermenting floor afforded a bird's-eye view of The Strand historic district and the Galveston docks -- or the harbor, as Mr. Mitchell prefers to call it. (He actually induced the city to rechristen the street running behind the brewery Harborside Drive, which sounds a good bit grander than its old name, Port Industrial Road.) Perched even farther up in the sharp, salt breeze of the rooftop biergarten, with its picnic tables and sweeping vistas, we felt as if we owned the Island -- huge freighters, colossal deep-sea drilling rigs and all.

For the moment, I was as giddy as I had been over that original roasted garlic pizza, two floors below. The otherworldly feeling that smites Houstonians on this curious, Gothic-tropical island settled over me. And I could see how, if the brewery's circumstances fell into place, I could grow to love the place.

The Strand Brewery, 101 23rd Street at Harborside Drive, Galveston, (409) 763-4500.

The Strand Brewery:
roasted garlic pizza, $6.25;
smoked salmon pizza, $6.95;
16-ounce Karankawa Gold lager, $2.75.

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