Booze

Fine-Dining on the Bayou: First Look at Dickinson's Newest Restaurant Marais

Decadent creme brulee satisfies your sweet tooth.
Decadent creme brulee satisfies your sweet tooth. Photo by Jennifer Fuller
With a population of around 20,000 people, the residents of Dickinson, Texas are in the loop about anything and everything going on in their little city. One of the most recent local interests is a new Cajun-fusion restaurant, Marais, pronounced mah-rey and meaning swamp or bayou, appropriately named since it is located right on Dickinson Bayou. Marais just opened this April, so the Houston Press decided to take a first look at this new area gem.

click to enlarge Dickinson's newest gem. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FULLER
Dickinson's newest gem.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller
There is a lot of history surrounding the location of Marais. Many locals remember Garcia’s Grill, which was a Tex-Mex restaurant in the old Emmite House, built in 1946. The Emmites were one of the original families of Dickinson and a few Emmites are still living in the bayou city. The Emmites opened up Bayou House restaurant, and after only about two years ended up closing it. The property changed hands a few times and eventually became Garcia’s Grill. After many successful decades, Mr. Garcia decided to retire and sell his restaurant. Keith and Holly Lilley, owners of Dickinson BBQ next door, jumped at the opportunity and purchased the property from Mr. Garcia. The old Emmite house was over half a century old and needed to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up.

click to enlarge Indoor bar inspired by the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FULLER
Indoor bar inspired by the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller
Two years later, Marais opened its doors. Keith and Holly Lilley have always loved the French Quarter vibe and old-school New Orleans. A stay at the Roosevelt Hotel on Mrs. Lilley’s 50th birthday inspired the look and feel of Marais. The Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt inspired the beautiful bar in the main dining area. The bar is lined with statuary marble surrounded with custom-made tufted barstools. Elaborate chandeliers hang overhead and giant windows and old French architecture are spotted throughout the dining area. Authentic working gas lanterns made by Bevolo on Conti Street in New Orleans are also hung throughout.

click to enlarge Fun bar swings hang in Benson's Bar inside of Marais. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FULLER
Fun bar swings hang in Benson's Bar inside of Marais.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller
In addition to the main dining area, there are several other areas in which to play. Yes, play. The Lilleys wanted Marais to be a fun, casual, playful place to relax and unwind. Benson’s Bar, named after one of the founder’s of Dickinson, is decorated with saddle stools, mid-century German chairs, and amazing bar swings made by a local Dickinson firefighter. These bar swings are on cables and trolleys so they can be moved from one side or the other if a traditional barstool is desired. Since they are hung on one-ton cables, all shapes and sizes are easily accommodated. Wine barrel tables made by a local lady also add a rustic touch to this unique room.


click to enlarge View of The Plank deck and the bridge where the bats fly out at dusk. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FULLER
View of The Plank deck and the bridge where the bats fly out at dusk.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller
The Emmite Room is a room designed to hold private events and can accommodate 50-60 guests. Downstairs, below the main dining area, is the Plank Bar. Pirate Jean Lafitte who is said to have hidden his treasure in Dickinson Bayou is the inspiration for the bar. Pirate memorabilia and used wine barrels from Haak Vineyard in Santa Fe fill the relaxed space. Large garage doors open up towards the bayou, allowing a breezy indoor/outdoor feel. Old doors with crystal doorknobs from Garcia’s Grill have been turned into bar tables and even the nostalgic donkey and little old man statue from Garcia’s Grill decorate the property.

Outside there is an area called the Dickenbach Biergarten, inspired by Luckenbach, Texas. Colorful picnic tables shipped all the way from Germany’s Oktoberfest are lined up and games like giant Jenga and cornhole can be played. The Lilleys plan to also use this area for shrimp and crawfish boils. Fire pits and a large shade tarp will also be added.

click to enlarge Comfortable swings hang from the majestic old oak tree. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FULLER
Comfortable swings hang from the majestic old oak tree.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller
A more peaceful spot to hang out is on the shaded patio under the 120-year old oak tree. Swings and chandeliers hang from the mature tree branches stretching towards the bayou. Sit outside and enjoy cocktails and order a cheese board, loaded with different fruit and varieties of cheese. At dusk, bats fly out from the bridge under FM 517, inspiring Marais’ Daily Bat Flight Special Happy Hour from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. During these hours, Bat-Tini cocktails are only $5 or for $2 order a Bat Out of Helles Beer.

click to enlarge Enjoy a $5 Bat-Tini during Marais' Daily Bat Flight Special. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FULLER
Enjoy a $5 Bat-Tini during Marais' Daily Bat Flight Special.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller
Once seated, start off by choosing a cocktail. A specific section lists only absinthe drinks like the Absinthe Frappe made with Copper & Kings Absinthe, simple syrup, and club soda or A Perfect Pear made with Lucid Absinthe, pear vodka, peach schnapps, club soda, lime, and mint. Reasonably priced bottles of wine and signature drinks are also available. Order a Sazerac made with Knob Creek Rye, Demerara, Copper & Kings Absinthe, Angostura and Peychaud’s Bitters or a Bywater made with Bacardi 8 Rum, Green Chartreuse, and Foro Amaro.


click to enlarge Enjoy this refreshing Lump Crab and Shrimp Tower before your main entree. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FULLER
Enjoy this refreshing Lump Crab and Shrimp Tower before your main entree.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller
Off of the Social Starters menu, choose from several appetizers designed to share. Try some blue crab beignets, deep fried pastry filled with lump crab and served with house made remoulade or the gorgeous lump crab and shrimp tower made with fresh lump blue crab and shrimp atop diced avocado, mango, red onion, cucumber, pea shoots, dressed in ginger lime and unagi sauce with a nori cracker and plantain chips. This appetizer was refreshing, light, and full of flavor.

Varieties of oysters on the half shell are also available. Rich seafood gumbo is offered and there is a different soup made daily. Cajun-inspired dishes include Cajun grits mes amis with blackened shrimp, creamy smoked gouda grits and Cajun cream sauce, mushrooms and spinach or chicken Pontchartrain with a blackened marinated chicken breast on Creole rice covered in crab Pontchartrain sauce.

click to enlarge Order the seafood platter when you want a bit of everything, fried! - PHOTO BY JOE PEREZ
Order the seafood platter when you want a bit of everything, fried!
Photo by Joe Perez
Seafood dishes include a seafood platter with golden fried catfish and fried shrimp, flash fried oysters, crab beignets served with fries, chipotle shrimp slaw and remoulade sauce or the bronzed sea scallops seared and served over creamy lobster and wild mushroom risotto and topped with Cajun hollandaise.

click to enlarge Perfectly seared scallops on top of a mound of creamy risotto with chunks of lobster and wild mushrooms. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FULLER
Perfectly seared scallops on top of a mound of creamy risotto with chunks of lobster and wild mushrooms.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller
A menu of a la carte Steaks and Chops stands on its own with items like a 16-ounce Delmonico style rib-eye that is hand cut in-house or veal ossobuco, braised veal shank over pan toasted gouda grits with red wine sauce and braised greens. Also available are premium sauces to add to your entrée. Sauces available are rich Ponchartrain sauce (lump crab meat in a brown butter sauce) or Marais creamy peppercorn (Brandy-laced rainbow peppercorns). Side dishes offered are creamed spinach, fried green tomatoes, truffle fries, smoked gouda grits, creole rice and several others, including a truffle and lobster mac and cheese.

Ready to finish off your meal with a rich dessert? The crème brulee du jour which comes in a daily flavor, the key lime pie from a 102-year-old original recipe in Miami, or the Bananas Foster bread pudding scratch-made from croissants with golden raisins, served with rum sauce, bananas and Chantilly cream are just a few options.

click to enlarge Enjoy the beautiful sunset while dining under the old oak tree. - PHOTO BY JOE PEREZ
Enjoy the beautiful sunset while dining under the old oak tree.
Photo by Joe Perez
As with most new restaurants, there is an initial period of trial and error. Some of the servers are experienced and brought over from the Lilleys' sister restaurant Dickinson BBQ and other servers are new and still being trained. Whether you’d rather hold off and give this new spot a chance to address any issues over the next few weeks, or if you’d rather just jump right in and see what this place is all about, there is no doubt you will love the ambiance and vibe of this area's newest gem.

2015 FM 517 Dickinson, TX (218) 534-1986
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4 to 11 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Monday.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jennifer Fuller is a freelance writer for the Houston Press. Jennifer grew up in Clear Lake and currently resides in League City where she spends her time enjoying seafood, salty air and sunshine.