I don't know if it's the hot weather or the recent atrocity befalling the Gulf of Mexico or what, but lately I've found myself taking any and every excuse to make the trek down I-45 to visit our island neighbor to the south. Now, I'm not claiming to be a local who knows every great little undiscovered gem in town, but I have spent many a weekend pre- and post-hurricane in Galveston, and the following are my favorite places to grab a bite.
10. Fish Tales (2502 Seawall Blvd.)
Okay, no one is suggesting that Fish Tales should win a culinary originality award, but if you want straightforward seafood served with an icy piña colada on a great patio overlooking the water, this is the place to go. The Shrimp Scampi is flavorful and big enough to share, and the salads are a good option if you're wanting something lighter to make up for the fact that your beverage choice set you back a thousand calories or so.
9. Queen's Barbecue (3428 Ave. S)
Sometimes you want some barbecue on the beach, and if that happens to be the case, head to Queen's. It's cheap, it's casual and you can take all the kids. Order a big, smoky brisket platter with potato salad and baked beans or a giant baked potato stuffed with smoked turkey and all the fixin's. Both you and your wallet will leave full and happy.
8. The Spot (3204 Seawall Blvd.)
The Spot is another seawall favorite that works well when you want some comfort food in a typical island setting. The hamburgers, shrimp po-boys and French fries are all satisfying when you're feeling brave enough to consume that much bread in a swimsuit-friendly setting. Bonus points if you order the Zachburger with Fritos, chili and cheese. Plus there are good drink specials, like $3 Frozen 'ritas on Sundays, which is certainly not a bad way to end the week.
7. Cajun Greek (2226 61st St.)
With a name like Cajun Greek, you're know you are either going to be in for a great fusion or a terrible disaster. I'm going with the former, though it took many years to become brave enough to find out. Treat your palate to some unusual flavor combinations by noshing on spicy boiled shrimp and crab, refreshingly cool Greek salads, and homemade chocolate pecan cake. It's a bit off the beaten path, so the prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is friendly and casual.
6. Shrimp 'n' Stuff (3901 Ave. O) If you want really tasty, cheap and casual fare, head to Shrimp 'n' Stuff. They don't claim to do anything fancy, but what they do, they do right. Hand-battered jumbo shrimp are amazing, as are the deliciously addictive popcorn shrimp, fried oysters and catfish. There's boiled seafood, but their fried stuff is the best around. Get it with a bowl of their secret-recipe remoulade sauce, and you'll be in for a real treat. The po-boys aren't half bad, either.
5. Clary's (8509 Teichman Rd.)
When you think of Galveston, you think seafood, and that's exactly what Clary's does well. Although its spot right on the water on one of the first exits off I-45 made it a prime target for the hurricane, Clary's survived. They're only serving dinner right now because of construction, but it's worth waiting until 5:30 p.m. to eat some of the freshest shrimp and crab around. The fettuccini alfredo is amazing too.
4. Saltwater Grill (2017 Post Office)
Saltwater Grill is great on those occasions when you want something a little nicer than the plethora of deliciously casual beach options. The lobster bisque and breaded asparagus with Dungeness crab are both excellent ways to kick off a nice meal. Then enjoy some Little Neck Clams simmered in a savory, garlicky broth. And definitely save some room for the outstandingly creamy crème brulee.
3. Di Bella's Italian Restaurant (1902 31st St.)
DiBella's offers up classic Italian comfort food in a traditional old world setting complete with red-checkered tablecloths and soft candlelight. It's a great date-night spot with good service and a romantic ambiance. The ribeye with crabmeat is a favorite, as is the Tuna Steak with Tortellini DiBella. Capellini tossed in olive oil and garlic is a good vegetarian option.
2. Olympia Grill (4908 Seawall Blvd.) Though this is a restaurant facing the ocean, Olympia Grill doesn't rest on its prime real estate laurels. Instead, it serves up a Greek-inspired menu heavy on seafood and fresh ingredients. Start with the Zeus Sampler to get a taste of several dips, cheeses and dolmas, and then move on to one of the delectable daily specials, fresh fish sticks dusted in cornmeal, or award-winning lamb shanks. They also have a ton of great vegetarian options. The best part? The food is light enough that you'll leave still feeling confident enough to strut your sexy bod on the adjacent beach.
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1. Mosquito Café (628 14th St.) Galveston offers up a lot of seafood, as well it should. But if you want something a little different, definitely try Mosquito. It's a quiet little house with a cozy interior and charming patio that's located closer to the Strand than the Seawall offering gourmet food in an easygoing atmosphere. Warning: When you walk up to order you food at the counter, you will be tempted to order one or more of the amazingly delicious desserts. Do it! Though the pastas, sandwiches and inspired daily specials such as Cajun Pasta with locally made sausage are some of the most original food on the island, the desserts are also not to be missed. There's also several fresh brewed iced teas and a good selection of wine and draught beer to quench your thirst.