After what felt like Houston’s longest winter, the sun has finally arrived. Spring is here and summer is right around the corner. Couples are looking for waterfront fun and parents are looking for fun with the kiddos. Many Houstonians are making the trek down south to enjoy the waterfront carnival feel of the Kemah Boardwalk. Among the colorful chaos of roller coasters, zip lines, souvenir shops and carnival games, large corporate restaurants line the boardwalk, one after another, many filled with pricey mediocre food. Believe it or not, small businesses with quality food, unique drinks and some extra fun are just steps away. Check out this list of locally owned gems within a half-mile of Fertittaville.
Bradford & Main 501 Bradford
This chef-driven restaurant is only a few yards from the large uncovered parking lot of the boardwalk. Bradford & Main is a two-story stand-alone building, bright and cozy and sister restaurant to Main Street Bistro in downtown League City. The décor is a good mix of glam and rustic, with shiny wooden walls and a chandelier above the open stairwell. It’s quite all right to stop by in casual clothes and sandals. Bradford & Main is a full-service, full-bar restaurant with menu items ranging from fried green tomatoes to decadent butter poached lobster. A gourmet burger, filet Oscar, chargrilled Blue Point oysters and shrimp and grits are also on the menu. Each dish is gorgeously plated and overwhelming feedback from the locals confirms the food is as good as it looks.
Antonini’s Subs 602 6th
This little sandwich shop isn’t new to the bay area, but it’s new to Kemah. Antonini’s Subs opened its third location in April. Known for its hulk-sized sandwiches, Antonini's Subs offers Kemah locals and boardwalk tourists a real treat. The bread is fresh and brought in from Colosseum Bakery in Webster. The steak used for the cheesesteak sandwich – not to be confused with a Philly cheesesteak – is USDA certified sirloin, hand-cut at the shop; even the meatballs are fresh and hand-rolled. Quality deli meats are used and any sandwich can be made into a salad for those limiting carbohydrates. The restaurant is bright and clean and a patio is in the works. Antonini’s in Kemah now serves beer and wine, so grab an Italian sub, a cold beer and relax.
Paradise Tropical Wines 503 Bradford
Attention all wine lovers. Paradise Tropical Wines has a fix for anyone looking for a light and refreshing wine cocktail. The wines are gluten and tannin free and are made using tropical fruits instead of grapes. Blueberries, guava, pineapple, mango and citrus fruits are just a few fruits used to create the cooling wines served here. The wine smoothies are like slushes for adults, perfect for munching on crushed ice soaked in a wine smoothie bath while walking the pier and checking out the bay view. Flights of any four wines are available for those who can’t decide which one to try. For beer lovers, Ballast Point Brewing out of San Diego lines a wall of its own in the shop with the newest addition being Moscow Mule Ale. Don’t forget to check out the boutique filled with unique gifts for any wine lover.
Stuttgarden Tavern 609 Bradford Suite 203
Thinking about enjoying a cold German beer, large upper deck patio and a warm, salted pub-style pretzel? Then head over to Stuttgarden. This full-service, full-bar German restaurant makes all its food from scratch, including its bratwurst. Grab the bratwurst sampler to try a few or order a plate of homemade Jaegar pork schnitzel. Stuttgarden is kid-friendly and pet-friendly on the patio, so bring the pups and kiddos and show the little ones how Mom and Dad rule in the extra-large Connect Four game on deck.
Bakkhus Taverna 605 6th
Not feeling German food? How about skipping on over to Bakkhus Taverna for some of the best Mediterranean food in the area? Bakkhus offers menu items from an appetizer of fire feta served with crispy, chewy fried pita to a rich dish of pastitsio. Other traditional dishes like souvlaki, moussaka, rack of lamb and gyro are also available. Bakkhus offers seafood items and purchases its seafood daily from Rose’s Seafood in Seabrook. The freshness is obvious; the shrimp tastes like shrimp, mild and sweet – no bland, rubbery shrimp here. Bakkhus is full-service, casual, kid-friendly with a full-bar and a large fully shaded patio. Indoor seating is also available. Don't forget to try the pineapple upside-down cake martini.
Art of Coffee 609 Bradford
Having a rough time keeping up with the kiddos on the boardwalk? Stop into Art of Coffee for that extra jolt of energy. Coffees and teas are served along with a variety of cakes, brownies and other pastries. While sipping on a second wind, check out the art displayed on the walls. Local artists sell oil paintings, watercolor paintings and other creations while also decorating this cozy coffee shop. The coffee served here is purchased from Geva, a local brewery in Houston. Grab a seat at a table in front or disappear to the back and find a comfy spot on one of the couches. There is also a shaded patio out back surrounded by tropical landscaping. Two new locations are opening up, too; one in LaMarque and one in LaPorte. Stay tuned.
Skallywag Suds and Grub 600 6th
Skallywag Suds and Grub is a bar just a hop, skip and a jump away from the boardwalk — but there will be no kids skipping here. Ages 21+ only. The back chalkboard lists the large selection of craft beers available. For those having trouble making a decision, grab a flight. Aside from the selection of adult beverages, Skallywag dishes out some superior grub. This bar cooks up a variety of burgers, tacos and appetizers. Check out the brisket burger, listed as one of the top ten burgers in the bay area in last year’s Houston Press article. Other menu items include smoked chicken wings, avocado fritters, piled high pulled pork nachos and several unique sandwich combos.
OUI Boba Tea 609 Bradford Suite 109
Brand new to the area is OUI Boba Tea. Boba tea is flavored milk tea, pretty popular around here these days. This little shop just opened up May 5. In addition to boba tea, other items are available like smoothies, coffees, flavored iced teas, ice cream treats and a couple of hot menu items, like the classic Vietnamese sandwich, Banh Mi, and Vietnamese egg rolls. However, the star of the show is the boba tea. Several varieties are available such as lychee, mango, taro coconut, matcha and jasmine.
The Tin Box Bistro @ Voodoo Hut 511 Bradford
Hidden between Voodoo Hut bar and Bakkhus Taverna restaurant, sits this black and red food truck full of goodies. Since The Tin Box Bistro is parked on Voodoo Hut’s property, this spot is for guests ages 21+. Order a few menu items, grab a cocktail from Voodoo and pop a squat over on the colorful, breezy patio. Menu items include a mound of loaded beef fajita nachos, a pork tenderloin sandwich with a Texas-sized piece of meat, fresh jumbo fried shrimp, a bacon cheeseburger or a basket of crawfish boudin balls. Daily specials like sweet and spicy bang bang shrimp and a flavorful soft shell crab sandwich pop in often so look out for those. All of the seafood comes from Rose’s Seafood in Seabrook. How’s that for a food truck?
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Escape Kemah 609 Bradford Suite 213
For those still revving with energy after a day at the boardwalk, head over to Escape Kemah. As the name suggests, people pay a $25 a person to be locked in a room with a few other people with the task escaping. There are several rooms to choose from and the rooms change a few times a year to keep the game fresh. Currently, the escape rooms are the Bomb Room, Studio 99 and the Fear Room. Ages 10 and up are welcome, so grab the kids and work on some team building and mind exercising together. The Escape rooms are also available for private events any day of the week. No food or drinks are available here; it’s just a fun spot!