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Need Galveston recommendations


bhoward
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I am headed to Galveston late this week and need recommendations. Fine dining advice needed for at least one meal but, of course, any cuisine and price range welcome. Thanks in advance!

Many speak of my drinking but few think of my thirst.

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Most Galvestonians believe the best restaurant in town to be the Pelican Club, but you have to "know someone" to get in.

Galveston is an unusual little town. Actually, TWO unusual little towns - a town within a town - the old-timers there living in a parallel universe, stuck in the 50's. I have often heard people say things like, "for a town that earns its living on tourism, why is it so tourist-unfriendly?"

That's because the REAL "money" in Galveston has historically never been tied up in tourism; and in fact, views tourists with the same haughty disdain as one of our more famous EG dearly departed. What's important there? Who you're related to. The Junior League. The Galveston Historical Foundation. The "old money" families. Galveston embodies the very worst of every small cliquish southern town you've ever heard of. Very social, very snobby, very conforming. To illustrate, it doesn't really matter how long you've lived on Galveston Island, you're not really "one of them" unless you are BOI (born on the island) or related by blood to someone that is.

Galveston (at one point the largest city and even the state capital) was once one of the most important cities in all of Texas, if not the entire US southwest - big-time money, big-time politics, big-time corruption - cotton, commerce, shipping, finance. The terminus of the railroad. And gambling.

The current big players there (read, "old money") are involved in business, insurance, etc.

And one of their most-cherished goals is to not have to socialize or dine with the likes of you.

Hence the rise of Galveston's many private social clubs, like the "Artillery Club," to which the "fashionable" and "right" people belong.

And Galveston's supreme eatery.

Ever stood in the lobby of Gaido's (which famously does not take reservations), crammed in with dozens of the hot sweaty hungry bodies of other ordinary mortals?

Do you think the elite of Galveston Island would suffer such plebian indignation?

Well they damn sure don't.

Next time you go to Gaido's, note the parking lot in the back (away from the gulf). See the private entrance? That's the Pelican Club. Reservations? Mais oui. And snowy white linen and silver and crystal and fresh flowers. There's no raucous noise of the lower classes partying, no waiters yelling orders, no middlebrow singing of "Happy Birthday" to revelers blowing the budget to eat out on this one special occasion. There's only the cool tinkling of ice against crystal, polite civilized conversation, the subdued murmur of the upper classes at table.

And if you do manage to wrangle an invite, order the Crabmeat au Gratin. It's heaven in an enormous lump of fresh crabmeat heaped upon your plate.

Also good: Clary's (Clary used to be the Maitre 'd at the Pelican Club); Gaido's is always fun if you can't get in around back. The Wentletrap on The Strand is excellent for traditional "fine dining." Rudy & Paco's is the young, hip place (particularly tasty are the plantain appetizers served with red & green sauce); for Mexican, the Original Mexican Cafe is my favorite; there's a very popular newer restaurant, the Saltwater Grill, specializing in seafood (with wonderful gumbo); O'Malley's is a fun Irish pup; and Randall's West End is also good. Like most seaports, there are usually an excellent Greek restaurant or two, but it's been a while since I've visited one there, so don't have a name to recommend. If you're a fan of Greek food, ask around and I'm sure you'll find a good one.

Galveston. Strange place.

After your visit, as you're driving across the causeway, look into your rearview mirror and give it a raspberry for me.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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jaymes, what was the place you sent me to?  whatever it was, don't recommend it.  :biggrin:

No, Tommy, you said you DIDN'T go to the place I recommended, remember.... :raz:

And can't remember the name of the old guy at Gaido's - but am sure my kids would if it's important. All three of them spent at least one summer of their lives waiting tables there.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Reservations?  Mais oui.  And snowy white linen and silver and crystal and fresh flowers.  There's no raucous noise of the lower classes partying, no waiters yelling orders, no middlebrow singing of "Happy Birthday" to revelers blowing the budget to eat out on this one special occasion.  There's only the cool tinkling of ice against crystal, polite civilized conversation, the subdued murmur of the upper classes at table.

Cool. I'm there.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I hate galveston and there utter disdain for everyone not BOI. I mean who cares? I don't. The food is only avg at almost all there restaurants and the beach is absolutely pathetic. Why people go I don't know.

When I do have to go to this place one of my favorite places is the Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe. Beer and BYOL while you listen to great artists play in a relaxed atmosphere. For food I would echo Jaymes rec's and add the andouille sausage place on Broadway for sausage and Gumbo and the donut shop in an old blue building for breakfast tacos (the bronco taco which is basicall all the way).

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I forgot completely about the Pelican Club and Gaido's.  What was the name of the old guy who ambled around the dining room at Gaido's?

IML

ballast/regime

Could you be referring to a long-time Gaido's waiter named Mr. Brooks (his first name perhaps Charles)? He was my parents' favorite waiter as they all were senior citizens and had a rapport with them that only people of the same generation enjoy, I assume.

The last time I encountered him, he was only working a few lunch hours per week to supplement his Social Security payments. But he provided great service with all the wisdom of someone who had been there for decades and knew what the customers wanted. For example, he always brought my dad apple jelly for his bread, even before my dad mentioned it, because he knew the typical preferences of a man my dad's age, and he was ready with his opinions of the daily specials without being pushy. And he made it known that he especially appreciated customers who tipped in cash, rather than adding it onto the credit card total. :biggrin:

FWIW, if Gaido's has a long line and you don't know a Pelican Club member, I'd go next door to Casey's. It looks like a coffee shop but it shares an extensive menu of seafood specialties with Gaido's at lower prices in an informal, beach resort atmosphere. On a dreary day last February, I enjoyed an extremely spicy and flavorful shrimp creole at lunch for less than $11, salad included (you must try the Thousand Island dressing, no matter how cliche it sounds). Sitting at a table with a view of the choppy Gulf of Mexico, it was a perfect lunch.

I really enjoyed the background Jaymes provided on the unique social history of Galveston. My mom was BOI but BOI poor...not a Moody nor Kempner...and she left after graduating from high schoo. From what I've heard, Galveston certainly has had a colorful history and its share of entrepneurs, mobsters, and unique characters. It's still an odd mix of wealth and poverty today and I enjoy it for what it is. But maybe as a daughter of a BOIer, I'm prejudiced. :hmmm:

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  • 1 month later...

I'm bumping this up because we're finally going to Galveston. Haven't been since I was about 6, so this should be fun.

We're staying at The Galvez. Anybody ever stayed there? Jaymes? Any Galvez trivia, ghost stories, anecdotes for me?

I haven't chosen a restaurant yet. So far, my list includes Pelican Club, Gaido's or Shearn's. Has anyone ever eaten at Shearn's? How about "The Steakhouse" in the San Luis resort?

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I'm sure there are more ghosty stories or spooky things to tell about Hotel Galvez, but these are the only two I know of.

There's the story of a bride-to-be checked in but never checked out and still occupies the fifth floor. Although her identity is unknown, legend has it that a young woman stayed at the Hotel Galvez to wait for her seafaring fiancé. Everyday, she went to the tower to watch for his ship to come in. Rumors circulated about a ship that had been lost in a storm, drowning those onboard, but she continued her vigil until, despondent one night, she hung herself in the northwest tower. Shortly after her death, a sailor came to the hotel to claim his bride. She still wanders the halls of the fifth floor in search of her missing groom.

Routinely, there are reports of strange occurrences in that hallway. A ghostly woman in a white wedding gown can be seen rounding the southwest corner toward her room. Gentle tapping repeats itself on doors during the early morning hours with nobody in sight. Guests have seen lights on in that west tower which were confirmed by hotel staff, even through maintenance maintains there is no electricity to any of the towers.

On the first floor, the spacious walls feature oversized black and white photographs taken during the Grand Opening celebration of the Hotel Galvez. One view of Peacock Alley, leading from the main lobby to the original ballroom, shows a lady sitting outside double French doors. If you look closely you can see a faint pair of men’s legs in front of those doors. This man, apparently dressed in turn of the century clothing, doesn't seem to be happy. A spirit perhaps, from the 1900 storm?

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If you can find a copy, get Ray Miller's Galveston. Amazon lists it as out of print but still available. Ray is a long time news man and historian and his book has a lot of intereting tales.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Never stayed in the Galvez, but when I lived in Galveston my duplicate bridge group met there once a week. Interesting stately old place. My parents stayed there on their honeymoon in 1941.

Not familiar with the Italian restaurant.

I really like Clary's.

I DO hope you can wangle a way into the Pelican Club. Chat up the concierge at the Galvez. Maybe they can get you in.

If so, will you please order a Crabmeat au Gratin to go? Pour moi?

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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  • 8 months later...

Although this thread is now a "classic" someone asked about DiBella's and as I have some personal experience I'd like to add it in. For those of you who can relate, DiBella's is the classic New Jersey/Connecticut "Italian joint". For those of you who can't, here's what that means. Lots of pix on the walls of parochial school graduating classes, small tables pushed very close together, waitstaff that stops and talks with the babies and children (and there are always lots and lots) and food that isn't nuvo but is a lot of fun. In other words, it's what Macaroni Grill and Buco di Beppo try to be. We put it high on our list every time we're back in Galveston.

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Although this thread is now a "classic" someone asked about DiBella's and as I have some personal experience I'd like to add it in. For those of you who can relate, DiBella's is the classic New Jersey/Connecticut "Italian joint". For those of you who can't, here's what that means. Lots of pix on the walls of parochial school graduating classes, small tables pushed very close together, waitstaff that stops and talks with the babies and children (and there are always lots and lots) and food that isn't nuvo but is a lot of fun. In other words, it's what Macaroni Grill and Buco di Beppo try to be. We put it high on our list every time we're back in Galveston.

Yo, AustinJohn. Welcome! What brought you to eGullet?

Hope to see you at some of the terrific Austin eG get-togethers. Up for migas anytime soon?

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Franktex introduced me to eGullet. We stood in line together at SXSW waiting to get in to see Little Richard, got talking about Texas food (including his microbrewery), I mentioned the Chowhound's Texas Message Board and he suggested I should check out the eGullet board. Then our paths crossed again several times at the Hill Country Wine & Food Festival, meanwhile I did look at the Egullet board and was really impressed and here I am. Now if I can just make my available meals match all I'm reading about!

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Welcome to eGullet and the Texas Forum, AustinJohn. I'm going to be in Galveston in the next couple of months, so I'll look into it. Hope you'll post here often. The orientation thread at the top of this forum may help you find your way around eGullet -- it's a big place.

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I must say, I swore to myself that I'd never again cross that causeway for any reason, but your reviews have made me rethink. That place does sound good.

PS - Where is it?

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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  • 1 year later...

My first post on eG!

I lived in Galveston from middle school to high school (graduated Ball 2002) and occasionally return. I've dined at the Pelican Club once -- sometime in early 2005 I believe -- with a high school friend whose family is a member of the island's old money. I ordered a half-dozen Gulf oysters on the half shell and the oyster deluxe platter, 18 oysters cooked in 9 different ways. A few of the oyster preparations were very cheesy and perhaps a little too salty, a Pecorino preparation I believe, but the meal overall was excellent. Yes, that was a lot of food and I nearly finished it all! I ended up taking just a handful of oysters home.

Unfortunately, my friend's aunt who held the membership is deceased so I'll have to dredge up some other high school contact -- many of whom I've alienated, long story -- in order to go back again. I understand an annual membership is $200. Is membership by invitation only or can anyone with the funds join? I find that the menu is discounted by about 15% so if one went to the restaurant, say 10 times a year, the annual dues would pay for itself.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Against all odds, Galveston has survived another murderous storm. It always did have a gift for gambling. Thank you, Mother Nature, for once more sparing our exquisite little city on the sandbar. And your husband too, if He’s around.

Galveston. You’ve gotta go there. And when you get there, you’ve gotta go to Gaido’s. It’s the best, old seafood joint in Texas, for sure. I’m not qualified to judge outside my region. And I admit to being very smitten in San Francisco (Alioto’s) last June. But, for God’s sake, please don’t dine in the (shudder) Pelican Club! That’s not Gaido’s. Gaido’s is about eating Gulf oysters so fresh that they quiver in terror at the touch of your fork, while you gaze out the huge, picture windows at dirty breakers devouring the beach. Or the same windows at night, blacker than black in the blazing light from the ceiling, shed by a clutter of brass chandeliers. It’s about the pervasive clash and clatter of the fuel-injected kitchen, no matter where you sit in any of the “public” dining rooms. It’s about 86 years of cumulative cooking smells; to be specific, the long-married aromas of expertly cooked seafood. It’s even about the drifts of dust and tiny insect specks in the mirrored, wraparound display case filled with the late Mrs. Gaido, Sr.’s antique, cut glass decanters and serving dishes. This is a restaurant, not a museum!

The only disappointing meal I’ve ever had at Gaido’s was on a date with the son of a Pelican Club member. The food might have been exactly the same as the stuff going out to the restaurant. But the comparative atmosphere was as an acquaintance’s funeral fellowship is to two good friends’ wedding reception. Did someone remember “the genteel tinkling of ice cubes,” and “the muffled patter of wealthy patrons” as the ambient sound in the Pelican Club? How long since you been there, child? Don’t let your ice cubes collide, and you’d best not laugh out loud (or even soft). Why, someone might think you‘re…drinking in public! (As opposed to drinking behind closed doors.) Or worse. No oysters on the half shell, unless you want to stand out. Too messy. I will always believe that my flounder was overcooked because it was ordered from the Pelican Club instead of the restaurant. Want boring? Hang out with Texas old money types. Unless you actually like your fish “well done,” with a glass of weak iced tea (can I have some Sweet’nLow?). If that’s the case, you’ll just love the Pelican Club. The waiters will call you Sir, Ma’am or Miss. A lot.

Me? Give me a twelfth-up spot on the waiting list at the Gaido’s of my childhood, my prime and the rest of it. There’s always a bench in the anteroom where I can sit down if my feet hurt. I wouldn’t trade it for a Pelican Club table if they promised to comp my meal, and everyone else’s too! Give me a big, vulgar hummock of Gaido’s pristine, lump blue crab with an extra side of drawn butter. If I dribble on the white linen (and I will), I won’t cringe with embarrassment. But bring me some of that primordial gumbo first. And send a white-headed lifer to wait on me (alas, not so many of them left), who calls me by name when he parks the dessert cart. All I want is some coffee. It’s as good as everything else is at Gaido’s in Galveston.

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  • 5 months later...

I had lunch at Gaido's this past Saturday for Mardi Gras. Ordered the half-dozen oysters, baked in six different ways. These hand-picked oysters were monsters, two inches long and the shell the size of your fist. Each preparation was well done though none truly impressive but, frankly, I just like my oysters raw.

Also had the blackened red snapper which I chose as a compromise with my dining companion. Good, but $30 for red snapper, rice and some mediocre vegetables seems steep to me.

One pleasant surprise, especially considering that Gaido's seems like the place that might be in the business of selling "fanciness" to the tourists and underserved locals, low markup on wines. I had a bottle of Llano Estacado Signature White for a meer $15.

Overall, I still really enjoyed the restaurant. Certainly, the Gaido's family of restaurants (Pelican Club, Gaido's, Casey's) are the best places to eat on the island. For the oysters, red snapper and bottle of wine the grand total came out to $75, a good value that'd I be willing to pay any day of the week. The dishes I had were very good but did not impress, though I think their extensive menu warrants more testing before I feel comfortable forming a solid opinion about it.

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