Galveston Island is a Mecca of fine dining restaurants that matches any resort town in the U.S., but the validity of those reviews are often questioned. Today you will learn of the best choices for restaurants in Galveston, the validity of the source of these reviews, restaurant tips and pricing. Seafood is obviously a choice staple when visiting a coastal resort town and this article is written for Galveston visitors assuming that Galveston Islanders already know the restaurants in Galveston. Sources for the reviews are also offered here, so not to take just my word for the reviews. Read about our top restaurant choices for dinner plus our favorite breakfast joint. The restaurants are the best thing going for Galveston and for Houstonians; many will take an evening round trip from Houston just to dine at a Galveston restaurant.
Focusing on the validity of the reviews here, I spent ten years in the food and beverage industry, starting as a personal chef serving the Houston Galleria and River Oaks areas; to owning a banquet hall and restaurant. Service I know well from working at Pappadeauxs and the Wyndham for two years. I have written over 70 food and wine articles since 2002 and continue to write today. Many of the Houston food articles I wrote have stated that Houstonians, for whom have written many of the reviews of Galveston restaurants, do not have a professional pallet. Houstonians are focused on Ambiance and service. So, if I am correct and Houstonians frequent Galveston restaurants, not only is cuisine of good quality but, Galveston restaurants offer awesome ambiances and service.
Many of the sources for restaurants reviews are well known for the review sites offer reviews nationwide and include well known companies such as City Search, Yelp and Urban Spoon but, a little tip on the three big ones, Urban Spoon is owned by the Houston Press. The most reputable Houston restaurant review company is B4-U-Eat.Com. Those who may not be that familiar with the restaurant review sites, City Search and Yelp offer a rating system and some reviews whereas Urban Spoon and especially B4-U-Eat.com offer extensive reviews.
Now to the glory of Galveston restaurants, our best pick is a seafood restaurant but, highly mentioned is a restaurant whose cuisine is South American. First, know that my wife and I have dined at many restaurants in Galveston that include the Salt Grass Steak House, the Saltwater Grill, Gaidos, the Rain Forest Café (my wife’s favorite – recall what I said about Houstonians and ambiance), the Mosquito Café, Fisherman’s Wharf and many others. Leaving behind the thought that the Rain Forest Café is my wife’s favorite Galveston restaurant, we both agree that the best dinner we have had in Galveston the past five years was at Willie G’s. Next and one of the few restaurants in the U.S with a five star rating on Yelp is Rudy and Paco but, if Galveston fine dining is not your style one evening, then our third pick is the Spot, a well known, on the beach with the ocean front view seating. Note, I did not describe the Spot as a restaurant for it is a “Cocktail Lounge” and “Night Club” but, with an extensive menu. The About Us page on their website describes the Spot as a restaurant though and the food is outstanding. Now with knowing a small summary of the restaurants, read on to know why they are our best picks.
Seafood and my wife do not mix for she will become quite ill, even the smell of seafood will turn her stomach, so unless the seafood is fresh, she claims that a restaurant will smell of seafood. Trying to get her to go to a seafood restaurant is tough but, our last night in Galveston last September, 09′; she agreed to visit Willie G’s. She agreed it was our most enjoyable dinner in five years of dining at Galveston Restaurants. The ambiance that include the staff dressed in formal white and black, outside dining right on the water and service that is some of the best I know of, Willie G’s staff had much to do with making this our best dinner. The lunch menu though is only served during the week but, they open at 11am seven days a week. Parking is plenty but, it is mostly paid parking (a few dollars) and is located at Harbor Side near the Fisherman’s Wharf. A couple of the review sites listed the entrées as being $40.00 per person but, that is if ordering appetizers and cocktails. Considering that my wife does not enjoy seafood, this Galveston restaurant had much for her to choose from. Not being a big eater, she left nothing on her plate after ordering the Chicken Romano, a “pan seared with a blend of Romano cheese and
panko bread crumbs, served with lemon shallot butter and tomatoes.” I ordered the Mixed Grill, “The perfect combination! Jumbo lump crab cake, broiled shrimp over risotto and grilled Mahi Mahi with avocado and grilled salsa.” This was the best seafood dinner I have ever had and out did Papadeauxs, which I consider one of the best seafood restaurants in Houston. We were greeted by a hostess when entering the restaurant and the manager herself welcomed us. During dinner we had conversations with three waiters so, not only did our waiter himself take care of us, the entire outside wait staff (we dined outside) checked on us including the manager coming by our table to ask how our dinner was. The appetizer menu though is heavy seafood but, my wife was able to find a salad as an appetizer, the Chicken, Apricot & Pecan Salad, “A G’s twist on a classic, served with mixed greens and savory grape tomatoes.” Willie G’s is a must choice for dining when visiting Galveston and desire not just fine dining, but even a stop-in during the week for lunch. I tell you this about Willie G’s so you know the best since, for some strange reason, Willie G’s is not listed on many of the review sites.
Often we ask around and talk to regulars about dining in restaurants when visiting Galveston and the talk of the town was always Rudy and Paco’s. Considering that the restaurant is rated five stars by Yelp, 4.5 stars in City Search and had an 87% approval rating in Urban Spoon, we gave it a try. The first attempt we did not prevail even though we had reservations. The problem was the lack of parking. We strongly suggest taking a taxi if you are staying in Galveston and if driving in from the Houston area, make reservations early so to find parking. Similar to restaurants who serve fried yam chips or fries (hard to find), Rudy and Paco’s serves fried plantains instead of the chips and salsa commonly served at Mexican restaurants. The sauces accompanying the plantain chips were also outstanding. Although South American entrée choices existed on the menu, many of the reviews were of the snapper, which did have a South American taste to it. It was outstanding but, considering my wife is a southern gal (meat, potatoes and Southern Comfort food) she was pleasantly surprised at the choice of steaks and chose the NY Strip. Her palette is a little different than mine and she likes her steak well done, which at times is tough to find a well done steak grilled right. Her steak was perfect, juicy and tasty. Some of the negative reviews on the Net about Rudy and Paco’s are the service but, our service was acceptable. The restaurant was packed with patrons waiting to be seated so, considering the number of customers, we did to get quite the attention we mentioned about Willie G’s but, the service was not bad. The pricing is a little higher than other Galveston restaurants and our meal, with one bottle of wine, no appetizers (salad) cost a little over $100.00 after tip. Rudy and Paco’s restaurant is worthy choice for fine dining but, one last tip besides the parking; they do not allow patrons in wearing shorts.
Do not get the wrong idea about the Spot, even though they present themselves as a lounge and night club, The Spot is truly a restaurant with a full menu. My wife enjoys The Spot for its location and the menu offers other items besides just seafood. The appetizer menu includes my wife’s favorite staple, hot wings but, also and hard to find the appetizer menu offers fried pickles and crab stuffed Jalapenos, not cheese stuffed (yuck!), which were outstanding. My wife also loves hamburgers and we are a good judge of hamburgers since our former restaurant’s claim to fame was our burgers and steaks. We dine there each time we visit Galveston and her favorite hamburger is the Greenburger, which is topped with avocado slices, Pepper Jack Cheese with lettuce and tomato. My favorite is Uncle Bill’s fried shrimp Poboy although they do offer complete dinners including seafood platters. The pricing is quite reasonable and even including a couple of beers; we normally pay around $30 – $40 after tip. If you desire is to sit back, relax and enjoy the waves while dining, then The Spot is a good choice for Galveston dining.
Last before I summarize here, our favorite breakfast joint is the Waffle House. The food is just wonderful, very good service and good prices. If we are large breakfast appetite then we head to the Golden Corral but, the Waffle house is our favorite. Summarizing my reviews here, others share my opinions in their reviews written on the restaurant review sites so, do not just take my word for these restaurants I have told you about. Also, consider my experience in food and dining, I know good food and have served some of the highest class of patrons. As I mentioned, we have not found a bad restaurant in Galveston, they are all outstanding and overall, a better class of restaurants than Houston. Even though the restaurants are all good, it was not tough picking out our favorites, especially Willie G’s. Do not forget to make reservations if you wish to dine at Rudy and Paco’s and The Spot is a must visit before ending your stay in Galveston. Houstonians who read this article should really consider Galveston for a summer vacation just for the dining experience but, Galveston does offer much more beyond good dining with Moody Gardens, theatre and events all year. Those not living in the Houston area, do not let the thought of the oil spill effect your decision to choose Galveston as a vacation spot. Rest assured, Galveston will not be affected by the oil spill and we have been told just last week by several people that the beaches and water are cleanest seen in a long time. So, choose Galveston as your summer vacation and enjoy some of the best dining in the U.S.