DEFCON Dining: Vacation Edition

It's been a hell of a summer. Not in a good way. In the "I can't believe it's gone, and I didn't have enough time or energy to do anything fun" way. I transitioned into a new job right before the start of summer, and right in the middle of several major projects. Playing catch-up, running on a treadmill set at Warp-Speed, left me no chance to hop off and enjoy the season.

This wasn't so much of an issue for me; I'm a grownup, I know life is long stretches of drudgery highlighted by occasional moments of not-so-bad. While I'm mostly joking, it still wasn't for my sake that the boring summer bugged me. I was bummed on behalf of my kids, who spent their summer indoors, at home, fighting and trying to find something to do. While they enjoyed the change of scenery and the company, the week we spent hanging out with my grandparents didn't really fit the bill as summer vacation.

With the school year rapidly approaching, and the last of my major deadlines blessedly behind me, we decided to pack the kids in the car for a last-minute mini-retreat. With only a few days before the school year started, we had limited options. We discussed the kids' usual request, a few nights in Austin, but decided we needed to change things up a bit. Galveston seemed like just the ticket.

I fully expect to take flak for this, but I'm pretty sure I can count the number of times I've been in Galveston on one hand. As a result, I reached out to the Twitterverse, seeking dining advice. The winner, both by popular consensus and by the fact that it sounded good to me, was Benno's.

As soon as I saw the place, I knew it was going to be exactly right for a DEFCON 5 dinner. All was at peace; this was vacation. It's a dive, but a comfortable one. Most of the seating is outside, with a decent view of the water, but is thoughtfully shaded. A couple of cold shiners, a Gulf sunset, and room for the kids to roam a bit was just what we needed. Fried shrimp for the kids, grilled flounder for the wife, and a plate of beautiful softshells for me.

I knew I was going to get them as soon as I saw the specials taped to the wall. I didn't even need to look at the menu. You see, I have kind of a love/hate relationship with crab. I love crab, but am terrible at eating it. Thus, I don't order it very often, and the whole sad cycle perpetuates. I take softshells, then, as a sign that God loves us and wants us to be happy, to paraphrase Mr. Franklin. They remove technique from the picture. You just eat the whole damn thing.

The kids got a bit squeamish once they looked closely, and identified the shape of my dinner. I tried valiantly to persuade them to give it a try, but to no avail. They were far more interested in hoisting themselves up on their elbows at the edge of the patio, watching the sun dip below the waves, and trying to spot dolphins.

I don't think they saw any marine mammals, and I know they missed out on the crab. The coating was crunchy and not overly thick, with a potent spicing that still allowed the flavor of the crab to shine through. Sweet, buttery perfection; I ate every leg and claw, tearing the bodies apart. I know I need to make a point of ordering crab more often, so I can get better with the hard-shelled, hammer-necessitating little buggers. I fully intend to do so, but I will never stop loving the user-friendly version.

Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords