Crispy fried okra, homemade banana pudding and crunchy catfish topped with stewed okra and tomatoes over creamy grits are just a few of the Southern-inspired dishes served at League City’s newest eatery, Southern BOI Café.
Hidden behind a gas station in a small shopping strip just off FM 518, this cafe wasn’t as busy as you’d expect for a Saturday afternoon. A long picnic table stretched down the middle of the restaurant separating the only two occupied tables. The décor was simple; concrete floors, tables with white linens set with fresh flowers and a wooden accent wall in the back of the restaurant. It was awkwardly quiet with music playing from a mounted radio by the kitchen, tuned in to a local country music station, commercials and all. A few more guests trickled in, one lady confused as to whether or not she seated herself or waited for a host.
Jana Salyers, co-owner and wife of head chef and co-owner Robert Salyers, brought out a menu and described the daily specials. She explained that everything on the menu is scratch made, even the salad dressings, and many ingredients are locally sourced. Katie’s Seafood in Galveston provides the restaurant with its seafood, minus the catfish. The beef is purchased from 44 Farms in Cameron and the microgreens are collected from Jeff’s Aquaponics and Farm in Santa Fe.
The menu isn’t overwhelming, so deciding what to order was easy. Appetizers first. Deviled eggs, fried pickled okra and shrimp and sausage gumbo sounded good. The eggs arrived. They were not traditional deviled eggs. The egg portion is comprised of egg whites cooked in a mini muffin pan and then topped with the perfectly tangy mustard and yolk filling and sprinkled with a good pinch of paprika and gorgeous microgreens. This was an interesting, pleasant twist. Each egg was about two nice-sized bites.
The okra was served in a tiny chrome bin that looked like a miniature fryer basket. Nice touch. It was full of golden fried pickled okra pods. They seemed to be fried in a tempura batter; crispy outside while the okra inside was warm and tender. A zesty homemade ranch is served alongside making this appetizer alone enough to justify repeat visits.
Sausage and shrimp gumbo arrived shortly after. This was the only disappointing dish of the afternoon. Puddles of red grease floated above the gumbo, making it unappetizing. The sausage and shrimp gumbo, however, has since been removed from the menu and replaced by Salyer's family recipe of seafood gumbo, which has received great reviews from Houston Press readers in the bay area.
Next, the chicken fried chicken and shrimp and grits arrived. Both were beautifully plated. The breading on the chicken was crispy and flavorful, nice and peppery. The chicken was moist and perfectly pounded to a nice thickness, not too thick and not too thin. Creamy jalapeno gravy topped the chicken and fresh green beans underneath. The spice from the gravy is mild, just enough to taste the jalapeno but not overpowering.
The presentation of the shrimp and grits was like a royal crown of shrimp goodness. A mound of spicy poblano grits sat in a pool of rich sauce with shrimp nestled head first in the grits with only the tails popping out. The grits were hearty and thick with intense spice from the poblano pepper, definitely not mild. The shrimp were cooked and seasoned perfectly, but at only one bite per shrimp, larger shrimp would make this dish even better.
Other menu items include the farmhouse mac n cheese served in a cast iron skillet and the thick-cut pork chop served over sweet potato noodles and topped with apples, walnuts and a balsamic reduction.
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Dessert options are banana pudding, carrot cake and pecan pie monkey bread, again all made in-house. The monkey bread is made to order, so it is about a 12-15 minute wait. Served on a little white plate, this warm bundle of dough ball heaven arrived, dripping with caramel sauce and sprinkled with chopped pecans. The warm, chewy pieces of bread were slightly larger than a donut hole. Order two and take one home. Trust me.
Southern BOI Café – BOI standing for Born On the Island and referring to Salyers who was born in Galveston, opened November 10. Because of its close proximity to a childcare facility, the café is BYOB, but with no cork fee. Otherwise soda, sweet tea and unsweetened tea are available.
Southern BOI Cafe
109 Meadow Parkway, Suite B
Open Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Sunday and Monday.