Port City Playground
Thanks in part to a devil-may-care approach to law after its infamous hurricane of 1900, Galveston became known as the Playground of the Southwest. (Before that, it was such a lucrative port it was dubbed the Wall Street of the South.) Positioned on a strip of a barrier island due south of Houston, the city has seen its share of challenges. But Galveston always manages to reinvent itself and draw travelers eager for a warm breeze and good bite to eat. Get lost along historic downtown streets while exploring art galleries and antique shops, pop into a bar pouring punchy rum drinks, and have a taste of the fresh catch at any number of eateries.
Galveston always manages to reinvent itself and draw travelers eager for a warm breeze and good bite to eat.
After the morning sun has brightened the island, make your way to Mosquito Café, where a Latin-influenced breakfast comes in the form of huevos rancheros and corned beef hash tacos. Meanwhile, ShyKatZ Deli & Bakery serves breakfast plates and omelets of all stripes in portions fit for Texas. Swapping prescriptions for classic diner fare, Star Drug Store has bragging rights as the state’s oldest pharmacy; a horseshoe-shaped marble counter is the welcoming centerpiece. Come lunchtime, downtown’s Little Daddy’s Gumbo Bar captures the essence and flavors of neighboring Louisiana. Cozy up at the bar for a bowl of gumbo and order of pistolettes (crawfish étouffée-stuffed bread balls). A short drive along Seawall Boulevard brings you to Viet Cajun, where pho and banh mi share the menu with fried seafood doused in thai chile and lemon pepper.
In need of an afternoon pick- me-up? MOD Coffeehouse pours lattes and flat whites in a downtown building that dates to the 1850s, while Gypsy Joynt Jive‘s bohemian feel matches its funky and over-the-top selections like the sweet tooth-indulging S’Mortella—coffee with Nutella syrup and marshmallow fluff that’s topped with a small tribe of Teddy Grahams. But save time for La King’s Confectionery, a throwback candy store and soda fountain where Texas’ first ice cream brand, Purity, was founded in 1889. Savor a scoop and watch candymaker Ernest Torres pull fresh saltwater taffy on antique equipment.
For dinner, Gaido’s 108-year history makes it an island institution. Order the creamy shrimp bisque followed by the sautéed parmesan snapper. Feeling something more casual? Gulf oysters reign at the Black Pearl Oyster Bar. A raw dozen or two pair well with cold brew, or try one of the three roasted iterations like the Oysters Haelen, topped with crabmeat. New to the Galveston food scene is Fish Company Taco, where chef- owner Daya Myers taps Asian, Latin, and Southern flavors for creative taco options. Order a fish taco—the blackboard tells you what’s fresh—and choose from styles like korean (kimchi paste, gochujang, cilantro) and dirty south (corn relish, pimento cheese, crumbled Zapp’s Spicy Cajun Crawtator chips).
Island time calls for imbibing, and here there’s something for every palate. Daiquiri Time Out has joined the craft cocktail scene with a menu of classics, plus an adventurous rotating list. (You may find an entire banana as your drink’s garnish.) Beerfoot Brewery rests along Seawall Boulevard; its craft beer and coastal view make it an easy choice after a day on the beach. Want to drink with the locals? Head to Press Box, the dive bar of choice, or to Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe. Owned by musician Wrecks Bell—bassist for blues legend Lightnin’ Hopkins—and singer- songwriter Townes Van Zandt, the watering-hole-meets-music-venue has been a songwriter’s haven since the 1960s.
With its grand facade and elegant coastal interior, the Greek Revival Carr Mansion exudes charm. Built in 1866, it survived the 1900 hurricane and was once a summer home for former Texas Governor Richard Coke. The building recently underwent a top-to-bottom renovation, opening last year as a bed and breakfast complete with eight rooms each named for a previous resident of the mansion (the Church Lady, the Grocer, the Socialite) and a seaside-themed bar that hosts a happy hour for guests.