With the last weekend of Mardi Gras coming up, we thought we would share our favorite bars on Galveston Island. Most of the action during Mardis Gras happens on the historic Strand and we are sharing a few bars located down there, as well as bars located elsewhere in Galveston, as the whole island should be jumping.
Not a fan of big Mardi Gras crowds? No problem, these places are great to visit year-round.
10. CROW'S SOUTHWEST CANTINA This colorful party bar on the Strand serves beer and wine but no liquor; bar food fare includes burgers, pizza, sandwiches, wings and nachos. It attracts a loyal regular crowd of locals, including bikers and musicians as well as tourists. Live music is played here seven days a week, ranging from karaoke and open-mike nights to acoustic and band jams. Check out the many curious knick-knacks throughout the bar when you visit, including a motorcycle made out of wicker and giant Mardi Gras beads. The place is lit up like a Christmas tree inside at night and you get the feeling Jimmy Buffett would feel welcome here; Hawaiian shirts would be a good fashion choice when visiting.
2408 Strand, facebook.com/crowssouthwestcantina
9. THE WIZZARD Galveston is a small town, and The Wizzard feels like the ultimate small-town/hometown bar. Friendly owner/bartender Glynda Oglesby makes you feel as though you are a guest in her home, rather than just a customer. She will be happy to share her wealth of knowledge about Galveston's past and present, including the history of the building the Wizzard occupies, which dates back to the late 1800s.
The Wizzard has a CD jukebox, which seems more common in Galveston than Houston these days; it's full of music from Texas country, blues and rock artists as well as a Fightin' Texas Aggie Band album. A big patio out back accommodates patrons who like to smoke.
2325 Church, facebook.com/The-Wizzard
8. TSUNAMI EXOTIC TEQUILA EMPORIUM As you might gather from the name, Tsunami Exotic Tequila Emporium serves a lot of tequila -- more than 45 different types, to be exact. Several specialty margaritas are available, including the Jalapeno Margarita, Margarita Mojito and the Margarita A Mi Manera (Margarita My Way), which customers create themselves by choosing which ingredients they would like.
A full bar is also available, and patrons can order appetizers from nearby Yaga's Cafe, which shares its owners with Tsunami, and they will bring it over to you. When you drop in, check out the cool, large painting of a tsunami on the wall, as well as the bar's collection of official Galveston Island Mardi Gras Posters. Don't resist the urge to play The Champs' "Tequila" on the Internet jukebox, either.
2314 Strand, yagaspresents.com/tsunami
7. MEDICINAL PURPOSES BAR & GRILL This East End bar serves up a generous selection of Texas craft beers and liquors made in the Lone Star State. Try signature cocktails like the Beach Bum, a Texas twist on the Brazilian caipirissima made with Treaty Oak rum; or the 1845 Margarita, which honors Texas independence and is made with Republic tequila.
Medicinal derives its name from Prohibition days, when medical doctors could legally prescribe alcohol as long as it was for "medicinal purposes only." The crowd here is pretty laid-back and friendly, often bringing along their dogs, which are welcome out on the patio. The food here, consisting of burgers, pasta, sandwiches, salads, spaghetti and more, is good and reasonably priced.
712 7th Street, medicinal-purposes-bar-and-grill.com
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6. SAFARI BEACH CO. Safari Beach Co. has a bit of a Tiki Bar theme going on, and the front patio gives you a decent view of the beach and Gulf of Mexico. The clientele is made up primarily of local regulars, yet the bartenders and patrons are friendly to tourists and newcomers as well. A nice mix of age groups frequent the place, from retired senior citizens who like to hang out all afternoon to the young twentysomethings who stop by late at night.
Yet another place in Galveston that still has a CD jukebox; Safari's is loaded with blues, classic rock, and old-school country hits. There is no kitchen here, but frequently customers bring in food to share; most Sundays and some Saturdays, employees make food like chicken and dumplings, Frito Pies, pork roast and chicken wings to share.
910 Avenue M, facebook.com/Safari-Beach-Co-BarDeli
5. COWBOY'S CAJUN KITCHEN This restaurant/bar on The Strand is stocked with a variety of bottled Abita beers from Louisiana, including recent arrivals Abita Strawberry Lager and Abita Mardis Gras Bock. The food here is just right for your Mardis Gras celebration as well; Cowboy's has authentic Cajun and Creole cuisine prepared by native-Louisiana chefs.
Try a slice of King Cake (or the entire cake) or what Cowboy's calls their Mardi Gras Hangover Cure: a Cajun Chili Dog, consisting of smoked sausage on French bread topped with alligator chili, cheddar cheese and diced onions. The vibe here is friendly, and you get a hybrid mix of Texas/Louisiana hospitality.
1919 Strand, facebook.com/CowboysCajunKitchen
4. OLD QUARTER ACOUSTIC CAFE The Old Quarter is a historic place that continues on the tradition of the original Old Quarter in Houston; located downtown at the corner of Congress and Austin, it's where Townes Van Zandt recorded one of his best albums, 1973's Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas. Van Zandt was close friends and bandmate to owner Wrecks Bell, who opened this "new" Old Quarter in Galveston in 1996 and resurrected it yet again thanks to the series of fundraisers thrown by patrons and musicians after the bar was shut down for several months in 2008 following Hurricane Ike. This is a non-pretentious place where you can drink some beer and wine and witness some great musical performances of the singer-songwriter variety, from the local bartender who writes songs on the side to prominent regional and national touring artists.
413 20th, facebook.com/Old-Quarter-Acoustic-Cafe
3. BREWS BROTHERS BREW PUB Brews Brothers is the place in Galveston to visit if you love craft beers, and the convenient flatscreen TV behind the bar displays the names of all of the brews available and their respective alcohol by volume numbers and prices. The staff here is very friendly and knowledgeable (as are many of the customers), and will answer any questions you have and help you select the right beer for you.
Brews also makes its own beer and has a new flavor out each Friday; equal care is put into the food preparation, including the in-house burgers made with Black Angus beef obtained from a small farm north of College Station. Fine wine and cigars are also available.
2404 Strand, facebook.com/BrewsBrothersGalveston
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2. THE POOP DECK The Poop Deck is Galveston's ultimate dive bar and you can bet there will be some hardcore partying going on there during Mardi Gras; then again, it is always pretty much like that every time we have visited. Some rowdy bikers and friendly regulars are usually hanging out and playing pool while listening to classic rock on the jukebox; you will doubtless meet some colorful characters who are all in it to have a good time. The second-story deck, with its Statue of Liberty replica up above, gives patrons relaxing in authentic boat seats a nice view of the Gulf of Mexico and the scene down below on Seawall Blvd.
2928 Seawall Blvd., facebook.com/ThePoopDeckClub
1. O'MALLEY'S STAGE DOOR PUB This friendly and lively historic Galveston pub is located next door to the Grand 1894 Opera House in what was part of a red-light district known as The Line from the 1890s into the 1960s. One side of the bar, in fact, used to be part of a brothel itself.
More than 100 craft beers are sold at O'Malley's in addition to the pub food, which includes old-fashioned hot dogs, Frito pie and what the staff claims is the best Reuben sandwich in Southeast Texas. The gregarious customers and bartenders here will make you feel welcome when you visit, but along with the colorful regulars, check out all the colorful items on display above the bar as well as the Hurricane Ike high-water-line mark.
2022 Post Office, facebook.com/OMalleys-Stage-Door
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