In April 2020, we were all still reeling from the daily bombardment of bad news about the coronavirus epidemic with no idea the actual toll it would take on us over the next year. Most of us did not expect that hundreds of thousands of lives would be lost to the virus and millions of people would suffer economic hardship because of it. And let's not even go into the trauma of a unprecedented presidential election in which facts were twisted and partisanship flourished.
Perhaps this isn't the most uplifting way to describe a pleasant day of imbibing and dining. The past year has been a tough one and the prospect of social gatherings, dinner dates and live music again is filling us with hope. The vaccine roll-out has meant that many of us have been immunized and hopefully protected from COVID-19 or at least, its severity. While wearing masks is still the protocol for most of us, going out to dinner no longer feels like a life or death gamble.
Which is why Classic Rock Bob and I found ourselves making the drive south to Dickinson on a beautiful afternoon to hook up with friends. Originally, it was to be a bro date for my husband and his friend but we wives wanted in on the fun so we invited ourselves. I suggested we try Pier 6 Seafood and Oyster House since I had written about its opening a few months ago and our friends suggested we try one of their favorite haunts, the Bayview Duck. So, with two destinations lined up, our double date began.
When we arrived at Pier 6, there was already a steady stream of people walking in. We were on a happy hour mission so we made our way to the outside bar. The view of the bay was marred a bit by the backhoe busily moving dirt for the upcoming marina. Still, it was a nice afternoon temperature wise and we were eager to make the most of a day with friends.
We had chosen well for happy hour because Tuesday and Wednesday there are 50 cent oysters on special. Classic Rock Bob is a fool for raw oysters but our companions were not. However, my friend was game to try them since I told her that the restaurant's owner Raz Halili, also owns Prestige Oysters and that if there was anywhere that they would be fresh, it was Pier 6.
We ordered a dozen oysters to start and some drinks. My friend and I split a frozen flight. Unfortunately, due to the fact that it was a Tuesday, the frozen machines were not on at the outside bar. The bartender had to retrieve them from the inside bar resulting in a bit of lag time which meant the frozen drinks were a bit melty by the time they made it to us. Still, they were a pretty sight and put us in a tropical mood even if we were in San Leon. My friend liked the blend of rum, coconut and lime in the Ocean Water and I liked the Mangonada with its sweetness cut by the salty chamoy rim. For $14, the flight let us sample four tasty drinks.
A look at the bar bites menu had us wanting everything and we almost ordered it all. Then, we all had a go at the oysters. I am not a huge fan of raw oysters but these were slightly briny, juicy and fresh. I put a dab of the mignonette on mine, enjoying the garlic and vinegar combination. My friend, who had never eaten raw oysters, savored her first one with a bit of horseradish, pressing it against the roof of her mouth. Her eyes widened with pleasure as she lost her oyster virginity. The oysters at Pier 6 unleashed a new passion in her. She ate a half dozen more.
Then, our food arrived. We started with the Lobster Quesadilla, conveniently served in four triangles. It was loaded with lobster meat and the restrained use of cheese let the lobster shine through. The Shrimp Hushpuppies were a bit too sweet for my friend but that left more for her husband and myself. The remoulade sauce added a little kick to them and they were a nice munchie. The Seafood Fondue was served with a loaf of bread, a happy thing to see. So often, such dishes are served with a handful of measly toast points or some dried out bread. The bread here could stand on its own. Smeared with the parmesan-heavy fondue, it was decadent.
The favorite dish, though, was the Deviled Crab Claws. Crab is one of my most favorite foods. I put it above lobster. However, as a child, I refused to eat the blue crabs my family had spent the day catching with strings of chicken necks. Ah, the regrets of youth.
The Deviled Crab Claws at Pier 6 are a must-have dish for crab lovers. I avoid stuffed seafood usually because it's mostly breadcrumbs and seasoning. At Pier 6, the crab claws are stuffed with even more sweet crab and perfectly fried, which is no surprise considering the fact that Joe Cervantez is the executive chef at Pier 6. They held up well, nothing was falling out and they were truly one of the best things I have ever eaten. Sipping a frozen cocktail, laughing with friends and enjoying delicious seafood- could life get any better?
Well, yes. It could. The service at Pier 6 gets some mediocre reviews online. Our bartender was very young and friendly enough. We discovered that he had left college and his football career in Wisconsin to come to Texas and be with his mother who was going through a major medical situation. Knowing that made us a little more sympathetic to the fact that he could have had a little more hustle in his game. That seemed to be the case with the rest of the staff as well. Our bartender was not getting much help despite there being a few servers doing little more than checking their phones. The staff here is very young. I would card all of them. Perhaps it's the long drive down 517. Perhaps older industry professionals aren't ready to go back to work due to the pandemic. Whatever the case, Pier 6 has fabulous food, a nice view (sans backhoe) and a comfortable ambiance. With a more vibrant and engaging staff, it would be perfect.
We would have loved to stay and watch the sun set but we had another stop to make. Our friends know what we like and they were sure that we would love the Bayview Duck.
The pub has been a mainstay for Bacliff residents for decades. It's situated right off the road and its pseudo-Tudor facade is incongruous with the area in which it is located. And it has no view of the bay. Or ducks, for that matter.
We walked into the dark interior, loaded with kitsch and memorabilia, just like a proper English pub. We chose a table by the windows, facing the non-working outdoor fountains. There were no ducks but there were plenty of feral cats. The landlord, Alec, came to take our drink order. Alec likes to mix beers so we put ourselves in his capable hands. We each were delivered something different. Mine was the Dubliner, a mix of Guinness and Smithwick's. We continued to let Alec take charge and just enjoy our pints as they arrived.
The husbands got a few games of darts in while my friend and I chatted. I checked out the restroom and took a tour of the interior. Alec is British and his establishment reflects the heart of a genuine pub rather than the gastropub trend that is ruining much of England's pub culture. There are photos of the British Royals, odd paintings and a mish-mash of porcelain figurines. It's cozy to those of us who are comfortable with clutter, books and Labrador retrievers but probably a nightmare to minimalists.
We began to feel peckish and decided to get an order of Scotch Egg. While the seafood dishes at Pier 6 had us moaning with pleasure, the food at Bayview Duck was hearty and homey. The Scotch Egg arrived pre-sliced for us and we each enjoyed the boiled egg wrapped in a slightly spicy ground sausage. Few things go better with a pint, except of course, Fish and Chips, which we also had to try. We split a large order and Alec threw on an extra filet to make it an even four. The fish was crispy and delicious, cooked by Alec's wife, who is actually an American. Together, they have created a welcoming place for residents who have made this spot their 'local'. Alec is the type of pub landlord that engages with regulars and visitors alike. He even brought out a well-thumbed book to show us the listing for his pub. It was a decade-old copy of Houston's Best Dive Bars: Driving and Diving in the Bayou City by former Houston Press writer, John Nova Lomax, and sponsored by the Houston Press.
Soon, it was time to go home. The four of us were just happy to be out together but the fact that we had such wonderful experiences at both Pier 6 and the Bayview Duck made a fun evening more spectacular.
Get your shots and round up some vaccinated friends. It's time to have fun again.
Pier 6 Seafood and Oyster House
San Leon, Texas 77359
Baclifff, Texas 77518
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