10 Best Spots to Check Out on Galveston Island

Memorial Day is here and if you’re thinking of spending the holiday with sand in your toes, salt in your hair and good food in your belly, this list is for you. Houston Press spent a few days in Galveston and dined at some well-known favorites, and also checked out some island jewels you might not have heard about.

The chicken fried steak sandwich, the PMS Burger, and a Boho Salad at Gypsy Joynt.EXPAND
The chicken fried steak sandwich, the PMS Burger, and a Boho Salad at Gypsy Joynt.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller


Gypsy Joynt, 2711 Market

Step into this eclectic bohemian paradise decorated with quirky chandeliers, colorful tapestries, mismatched chairs and strands of flashy beads dangling from the ceiling. The menu at this counter-service cafe is just as groovy, with items like oven-baked sandwiches, gourmet pizzas, creative tacos, huge burgers and gorgeous salads. The colorful Boho salad is loaded with fresh greens and topped with whole grapes, diced pineapple, sliced strawberries, cranberries, walnuts and salty chunks of feta.

Or choose from one of the crazy-named burgers, all served on fresh, homemade focaccia. The Ziggy Up burger comes with peanut butter, fresh mozzarella, homemade jam, bacon jam and the housemade Sriracha-based yunioshi  sauce. If you have all kinds of cravings, try the PMS Burger, served with homemade barbecue sauce, bacon, caramelized onions, jalapeños, and loads of mac and cheese and topped with potato chips. It's also served with a chocolate-dipped blue ball. Choose from one of Gypsy Joynt's oven-baked focaccia sandwiches or make it a wrap.

Gypsy Joynt also has vegetarian options, including the Cosmic Clover sandwich, made with mushroom, spinach, green peppers, onion, provolone, tomatoes, pesto, mixed greens, cucumber and Italian dressing. Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Mondays.

DiBella’s Italian Restaurant 1902 31st

A setback from Hurricane Ike in 2008 and a fire in 2009 weren’t going to stop owner Charley DiBella, whose restaurant has been open since 1989, from serving Galveston locals and hungry tourists authentic Sicilian food. DiBella’s is running strong and still preparing some of the richest, savory traditional Italian favorites. Have a seat at one of the romantically lit, cozy booths with old-school Italian red-and-white-checkered tablecloths while checking out the framed old black and white photos on the walls. Order a glass of wine and nibble on an appetizer of crab claws or French bread pizza while deciding on what else to sink your teeth into.

The menu is loaded with succulent entrées, like a tender marinated Angus rib eye either pan-fried or grilled and served with a side of pasta. Or try the ravioli combo with pillows of pasta stuffed with chicken and cheese, porcini mushrooms and goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and cheese with your choice of sauce. Meat and vegetable lasagna is on the menu along with other vegetarian options like cheese tortellini, fettuccine alfredo and an eggplant parmesan sandwich. Chicken dishes and seafood options are also available, including seafood-stuffed pasta shells with your choice of sauce. Entrée portions are a nice size, so plan a nap after this Italian feast. Hours: Thursday to Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m. Lunch, Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed Mondays.

This Shrimp 'N Stuff location downtown offers broiled seafood options, like this colorful dish of broiled stuffed shrimp served on beautiful tableware from Mexico.EXPAND
This Shrimp 'N Stuff location downtown offers broiled seafood options, like this colorful dish of broiled stuffed shrimp served on beautiful tableware from Mexico.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller

Shrimp 'N Stuff Downtown, 216 23rd

Jeff Antonelli creates a new feel for Shrimp 'N Stuff — this location, which opened in 2014 at the former Phoenix Bakery, is quite different from the seawall location — with tableware made in Mexico and broiled versions of fresh fish and shrimp. Choose from broiled snapper, flounder, salmon and redfish, or try some broiled stuffed shrimp. Po-boys and fried items are also available, as well are non-seafood items like chicken poblano, chicken-fried chicken or a classic burger.

On the lighter side, several entrée salads are available and some are gluten-free. The Strand Salad, with mixed greens, tomatoes and cucumbers tossed in raspberry mango vinaigrette with fried Brie and dried figs, is colorful, fresh and also gluten-free. Breakfast is also served on weekends from 7:30 a.m. to noon, with items such as eggs Benedict, pancakes, chicken and waffles, and a spicy Bloody Mary. Enjoy dining on the patio overlooking a perfectly manicured green space. Hours: Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 9 pm.

Caribbean shrimp tacos are just one of the many varieties of tacos served at BLVD Seafood.EXPAND
Caribbean shrimp tacos are just one of the many varieties of tacos served at BLVD Seafood.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller

BLVD Seafood, 28th & Seawall

You’d never think that this hip, modern restaurant operates in a building that was once a convenience store. The clean, industrial feel, the great view of the ocean, and the delightfully plated food make dining here a pleasant affair. Executive chef Chris Lopez has created a crafty menu with a variety of sliders, tacos, seafood plates and steaks.

Choose from the Mambo Italiano sliders with 100 percent Angus beef that has been soaked in red wine, along with fresh mozzarella, basil and pesto aioli, roasted red peppers, and greens, or the BLVD sliders topped with guacamole, greens, cheddar, applewood smoked bacon, tomato and red onion.

Choose from many taco options, like the Asian tacos with tuna or crispy chicken, soft-shell crab with jalapeño coleslaw, or Caribbean-style with jerk shrimp and colorful salsa. Entrées range from a 14-ounce cowboy bone-in rib eye and a double-cut blackberry pork chop to several samplers with choices of andouille-crusted redfish, baked oysters, scallops and more. Don’t forget to order a refreshing cocktail from the stocked bar. Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Colorful creations of sushi and sashimi are available at this unique Galveston gem.
Colorful creations of sushi and sashimi are available at this unique Galveston gem.
Photo by Yamato Japanese Seafood

Yamato Japanese Seafood Sushi & Steak House, 2014 61st

Walk through the doors of Yamato and you suddenly feel like you’ve left the island. The dimly lit, cozy dining area is warm and enchanting, decorated in colors of deep red and soft gold. A long sushi bar lined with bar stools and a few bar tables and booths sit on one side of the restaurant, and the larger family-style hibachi area on the other. There is a small room set up for special events or large parties, equipped with its own hibachi table and decorated with colorful Asian art pieces arranged within glass displays inside the walls. From an entertaining hibachi show, available only at dinner service, to fresh sushi and sashimi prepared right before your eyes at the long, glass sushi bar, it’s no surprise the Lo family has been pleasing islanders and tourists since 1988.

Choose from chef Lo’s beautiful creations, like the tuna tartare, which is a spicy tuna tower tossed with toasted pine nuts and served atop a bed of sushi rice. Or try one of the stunning sushi rolls, like the traditional Texas Roll or the Tiger Eye — smoked salmon, cream cheese and jalapeño, tempura fried in soy paper. A variety of sashimi and nigiri come two to an order. Bento boxes and Japanese noodle dishes are also available. Add a sake bomb or try the sake sampler, which includes Jumai, Ginjo and Nigori, Asian pear and lychee sakes. For dessert, choose from items like fried green tea ice cream, Mississippi Mud Pie or a mini cheesecake sampler. Hours: Lunch, Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner, daily, 5 to 10 p.m.

Beautiful Batida de Coco at craft cocktail lounge, DTO.
Beautiful Batida de Coco at craft cocktail lounge, DTO.
Photo by DTO

DTO (Daiquiri Time Out), 2701 Market

Okay, men and women. Ready to have some adult-only time? Native Texan Brad Stringer has brought craft cocktails to Galveston at Daiquiri Time Out Bar (or DTO) on Market Street. No food is sold here, but if you get hungry, Gypsy Joynt (first on this list) is right next door. Stringer creates a menu of cocktails every season using local ingredients and boutique spirits. Delicious creations include the Thai Bowl, an edible cocktail served with chopsticks. Dark rum, coconut water noodles, turmeric and ginger syrup, coconut cream, lime cordial, and lime fill up this pretty bowl for you to enjoy however you’d like.

Other cocktails include The One With Cucumber, a refreshing concoction of gin, dill aquavit, lemon, pimento dram, cucumber cordial and salt. Or try a Batida de Coco, described on the menu as a funky vacation, with cachaça, lime, coconut cream, passion-fruit syrup, banana liqueur and Mahina coconut liqueur. Whichever cocktail – or cocktails — you choose, DTO is sure to deliver you a fun craft cocktail celebration. Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 4 p.m . to 2 a.m.

Enjoy family entertainment and gorgeous views at Olympia Grill at Pier 21.
Enjoy family entertainment and gorgeous views at Olympia Grill at Pier 21.
Photo by Olympia Grill at Pier 21

Olympia Grill at Pier 21, 100 21st

Inspired by their grandmother’s healthy style of cooking using whole foods and fresh ingredients, Larry and Tikie Kriticos opened up Olympia Grill. There are actually two locations. One serves mostly Greek food, and the location at Pier 21 serves primarily seafood. If you’ve got a fresh catch, bring it over and they’ll cook it up for you. Dine inside this beautiful restaurant or outside on the large patio with views of the harbor and the Carnival Cruise ships.

On Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., Olympia Grill’s belly dancer offers exciting but family-friendly entertainment. The view of the harbor and the sunset is breathtaking and perfect for a romantic evening on the island. The menu has something for everyone. Seafood lovers can choose from baked stuffed shrimp, seared sesame tuna, or a mixed seafood platter with fried shrimp, baked stuffed shrimp, shrimp kisses, fried seafood crab balls and flaky white fried fish fillet. Non-seafood lovers have options like filet mignon, braised lamb shank, pastitsio, or chicken Santorini pasta with sautéed chicken breast and garlic, kalamata olives, green onions and fresh tomatoes, topped with feta cheese over angel hair pasta. Also among Olympia's menus, you’ll find a vegetarian menu with items like a falafel pita, lentil soup, or an avocado Greek salad topped with creamy avocado.

A gluten-free menu includes grilled shrimp, seared sesame tuna sashimi served with wasabi, seaweed salad and tropical slaw, or the restaurant's award-winning lamb shank served over a bed of angel hair pasta and more.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Brunch, Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The spicy Cajun Seafood Platter at Benno's satisfies seafood and spice lovers from all over.EXPAND
The spicy Cajun Seafood Platter at Benno's satisfies seafood and spice lovers from all over.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller

Benno’s Dining on the Beach Cajun Seafood Restaurant, 1200 Seawall

Looking for spicy Cajun seafood and a shaded patio overlooking the ocean? We’ve found your spot. Benno’s is a counter-service restaurant sitting right on the seawall with a wide-open view of the Gulf. Place your order at the counter and take a seat outside. Listen to the waves rolling in, the seagulls cawing and the cars driving by as the bay winds tangle your hair and carry salty air to your lips. This is what dining in Galveston is all about. Now add a basket full of fried seafood and hushpuppies, and you’ve found paradise.

Since 1983, Benno’s has been delivering tasty Cajun dishes to island folks. Try one of the classics like crawfish étouffée, fried oyster po-boys or a big bowl of red beans and rice with a side of boudin. Other seafood options include stuffed shrimp, seasonal fried crab fingers, blackened oysters or some barbecue Cajun crabs. Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Tender inside and crispy outside, this soft shell crab topped with lump crab meat and capers is a seasonal treat at Rudy and Paco.EXPAND
Tender inside and crispy outside, this soft shell crab topped with lump crab meat and capers is a seasonal treat at Rudy and Paco.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller

Rudy and Paco, 2028 Postoffice (21st and Postoffice)

If you’re still wearing your beach attire, be sure to check out Rudy and Paco only during lunch hours. Dinner service requires pants unless you're seated at the bar. The dress code becomes obvious as soon as you walk into this elegant restaurant with snow-white table linens, polished silverware set next to crystal clear wine glasses, and name-plated wine lockers on the walls. The back wall is mirrored, giving the appearance of a much larger establishment.

The server brings complimentary plantain chips with pico pacoand chimichurri to snack on while you're perusing the menu. Lunch options include appetizers of jumbo lump crab cakes and ceviche corinto, soup options of sopa de tortilla or sopa de poblano, salads, pastas and sandwiches. Lunch entrées include beef, pork, chicken and seafood options like ropa vieja, shredded beef sautéed with onions, tomatoes, bell peppers and garlic served with white rice, black beans and maduros, which are fried plantains.

Other dishes include pollosabroso, which is a plantain-encrusted chicken breast, pan-sautéed and served over a raspberry-chipotle sauce. Dinner options include more salads and several house specialties. Sea Scallops Granada is a dish of pan-seared scallops in a marsala dijon cream sauce, and the Vuelva a la Vida is a spicy seafood combination of crab claws, shrimp, and calamari sautéed in a white wine garlic butter with your choice of pasta or vegetables. Hours: Lunch, Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner,  Monday through Thursday 5 to 9 p.m and Saturday and Sunday, 5 to 10 p.m.

Cajun Greek, 2226 61st

Just as the name suggests, this local spot offers Cajun seafood and Greek options. Located off 61st Street in a small, brick shopping strip, Cajun Greek has been a local favorite for years. This casual, laid-back joint has a lot of island charm, with photos of smiling fishermen holding up their prized catches covering the walls, neon beer signs above the bar, and hung boat paddles and lifesavers throughout, with cute phrases etched into them like “Take a Leaky” on the oar hanging above the head. This is a full-service restaurant but does not have a full bar. Only beer and wine options are available.

Appetizers include ceviche and fried crab fingers or Greek options like Tammy’s Dolmas or Scotty’s Greek Lollipops, which are grilled lamb chops on a bed of tzatziki and grilled rustic new potatoes. Cajun Greek also serves up some of the sweetest, tender boiled crab with a sprinkling of Cajun seasoning and a side of clarified butter. Ultimate Salmon Mac & Cheese is a rich entrée of pasta noodles with spicy Gouda sauce, crawfish tails, andouille, blackened Gulf shrimp, calamari and salmon. Also on the menu are po-boys, gyros and burgers, so pleasing a large family of different appetites is a piece of cake here. Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Mondays.

Lie on one of the patio hammocks and enjoy the wide-open view of the water at Steve's Landing.EXPAND
Lie on one of the patio hammocks and enjoy the wide-open view of the water at Steve's Landing.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller

Steve's Landing, 1290 Bay Vue (Crystal Beach)

An honorable mention if you're up for a ferry ride to Bolivar Peninsula is Steve's Landing. This seafood restaurant has a full bar and is a fun spot with outdoor swings and hammocks on a large patio overlooking the water. The hot and spicy shrimp here are a must. Peel-and-eat Gulf shrimp marinated in Steve's spicy, savory seasoning is the perfect starter if you like spice that makes your eyes water. Other menu items include seafood gumbo, étouffée and signature dishes like shrimp tikka and grits, pecan-crusted snapper, and even chicken-fried steak. This casual spot has a dock for boats, but shorts and shoes are required to dine. Hours: Memorial Day 11-8:30, Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, 4 to 8:30 p.m. and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed Wednesdays.

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