Best Restaurants In Galveston: Local Food Guide

Cruise Out of Texas from Galveston and Taste the Top Places to Eat

By Mary Luz Mejia | Published on February 20, 2023

When it comes to the best restaurants in Galveston, it should be noted that some of the city and state's iconic favorites actually originated elsewhere. Some recipes, tweaked to suit Texan tastes, came to Galveston and beyond about 200 years ago!

Galveston was founded in the early 1800s and named for Bernardo de Galvez, a Spanish military and political leader. The city became an important landing point for new immigrants from Europe. Admittedly, the initial European migrants were brought there in part by a French pirate to help Mexico fight for independence from Spain. Subsequent to independence, Galveston became the capital of the Republic of Texas and grew to be one of the biggest ports in the United States. What followed were periods of commercial success, with Galveston alternately being known as the "Queen of the Gulf" and its Strand area often referred to as the "Wall Street of the Southwest." After suffering America's greatest natural disaster with the hurricane of 1900, Galveston rebuilt its success thanks to a mixture of tourism, commerce and shipping.

Today, Galveston is the prime port for cruises out of Texas and the perfect place to launch adventures into the western Caribbean. Plus, thanks to its colorful history and rich cultural and culinary fabric, Galveston also boasts a culinary scene you can sink your teeth into!

Take A Bite Out Of Texas Bbq

Texas and barbecue are synonymous, and Galveston is no exception to the rule. Being a port city, Galveston was no stranger to immigrants, and the influx of Czech and German newcomers had a noticeable impact on this Texan favorite. With many of these migrants coming from a Jewish background, they brought with them their love of brisket and their traditional cooking methods. Thanks to the state's large beef cattle industry, it was a match made in (barbecue) heaven, resulting in the now-famous Texas smoked brisket, which obtains much of its flavor from the smoking process without the need for large amounts of seasoning.

With over 150 barbecue restaurants in Galveston alone, you know you're amongst some serious meat-loving folks when you visit Texas. One of the best restaurants in Galveston is Leon's World Finest Bar-B-Que, voted by Texas Monthly as one of the best barbecue joints in the world. The mandatory brisket is on offer, as are ribs and sausages, all oak-smoked and served up with an order of "stepped-up rice," which is speckled throughout with celery and jalapeños. Queen's Bar-B-Que and the Texas Pit Stop are two additional local favorites worthy of a visit.

There's more to beef than barbecue, and in Texas that can only mean one thing: chicken-fried steak. Essentially, this is a breaded beefsteak that's deep-fried or pan-fried, and smothered in a creamy gravy. It's so widespread in Texas that the Texas State House of Representatives declared October 26 "Chicken Fried Steak Day" in 2011. While the origins of this Texan classic are a little unclear, one theory mentions a local adaptation of the famous Wiener Schnitzel by German immigrants in the mid-1800's. Regardless of its origins — or whether it's even a Texas original — there's little doubt of the impact this dish has made across the Lone Star State. Galveston is no exception, and the no-frills Miller's Seawall Grill is a particular favorite with locals.

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Bring your appetite when you cruise out of Texas.

Grab A Bowl Full Of Southern Comfort

Best Seafood Restaurants In Galveston For Gumbo

Officially from Louisiana, gumbo is a hearty soup made from a flavorful stock with a combination of meat, various shellfish, a roux and the Creole sofrito of celery, bell peppers and onions. Gumbo isn't originally from Texas, but with Texas' hot coastal weather, proximity to the sea's bounty and geographical positioning in the south, it should come as no surprise that locals love a good gumbo.

There are numerous fine gumbo eating options here, but if you're looking for some of the best restaurants in Galveston Island to dig into a bowl, locals swear by the Saltwater Grill. They serve up all things seafood in the art gallery district, as well as the nearby Little Daddy's Gumbo Bar, which offers a kitchen sink version called "Mumbo Gumbo" that includes pretty much everything you could think to add to a gumbo.

Galveston's oldest restaurant, Gaido's — which is considered amongst the best seafood restaurants to eat in the beach town of Galveston — is another gumbo hot spot. They also serve up some of the best seafood in town and are worth a visit to try other Galveston favorites including crab cakes, Seawall scallops and char-gilled oysters. Fans of crab cakes with a twist would be remiss not to try their jumbo Gulf shrimp stuffed with crab cake, baked and served with a tangy lemon butter sauce.

Another Louisiana Cajun favorite to make its way to Texas is the classic shrimp and grits. Miller's Seawall Grill is consistently voted as one of the best restaurants in Galveston, with their shrimp and grits as a stand-out menu item. Their prize-winning version includes the robustness of nutty Gouda cheese. Nearby, the Gumbo Diner also offers another popular version made with stone-ground cheese grits and green onion, in addition to its namesake gumbo and other New Orleans staples such as pillowy beignets.
There's more to beef than barbecue, and in Texas that can only mean one thing: chicken-fried steak.

Enjoy Fine Dining Restaurants In Galveston

Best Restaurants For Dinner In Galveston

With an abundance of the freshest seafood available on a daily — even hourly — basis, a visit to Galveston requires a night of fine dining on a fresh seafood feast. A number of great seafood restaurants dot the Galveston Seawall Boulevard, named for the seawall which was constructed after the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900. The almost 10-mile strip offers protection from incoming storms and provides a magnificent promenade fit for fine dining in Galveston.

Fancy a crab cake made with luscious jumbo lump blue crab and accompanied by a honey-lemon tartar? Check. How about some Seawall scallops, contrasting with a sweet potato purée, and roasted garlic and bleu cheese vinaigrette? Check. Char-grilled Gulf oysters with a pop of heat from some cayenne butter? Gotcha. Located just off the Seawall Boulevard, BLVD Seafood is one of the best seafood restaurants in Galveston. Their menu includes elevated local bites while also offering traditional must-haves such as gumbo and shrimp and grits. Non-traditionalists can also help themselves to salmon or tuna Poke bowls here, while brunchers can dig into a crab cake and eggs Benny to start their day.

Along with the multitude of taste-bud pleasing options, Galveston is also blessed with an epic boardwalk and miles of sea views. Located in Pelican Rest Marina amongst the dense foliage on Offatts Bayou, Number 13 Prime Steak and Seafood is one of the best places to eat in Galveston. This restaurant offers a selection of grilled meats, line-caught Gulf seafood, a wine locker program and magnificent sea views, especially from its welcoming terrace.

Not all views need to be sea-facing in order to be spectacular, especially if it's a romantic ambience you're after. Rudy & Paco Restaurant and Bar, located next to the Grand 1894 Opera House, serves up refined seafood and steak dishes with Central and South American flair. It's the perfect spot for people gazing and a pre-theater dinner date or post-show drinks and snacks in the city's beautiful historic center.

Texas Desserts And Adult Treats

Texas heat, sunny beaches and sea spray make for the perfect excuse to try Galveston's several local breweries. A local favorite is Galveston Island Brewing, with each of their beer cans proudly displaying "BOI" (Brewed on Island). They have a 13-tap wall featuring on-site brewed beers, usually including the official beer of the island: Tiki Wheat, an American-style wheat beer with German hops and a hint of refreshing coriander. Nearby, Beerfoot Brewery offers impressive Gulf views and allows other island brewers to share their creations with the public, even permitting home brewers to use their top-of-the-line equipment to brew their best batch. If you're looking for a tipple with a little more kick or want to enjoy a cocktail, then head to the Texas Tail Distillery, which uses locally grown corn and wheat to make whiskey and vodka. Take a distillery tour or grab a bottle or two for home.
Pie makes for a great dessert choice to pair with local Galveston gumbo. Before you sail from out of Texas on your cruise, you must sample the state favorite, pecan pie. While its origins are somewhat lost in the mists of time, there's no doubt that pecan pie recipes were widespread in Texan cookbooks as of the 1870s, with the first published account submitted by a Texan woman. Pecans are native to the state and so beloved that these pies were made the official dessert of the state of Texas. Look out for pecan pies on most dessert menus, with Gaido's Southern Pecan Pie — featuring Rio Grande organic pecans, dark chocolate ganache, warm caramel and refreshing vanilla ice cream — touted as THE place to grab a slice of sticky, gooey, delicious history.

Written By

Colombian-born, Canadian raised Mary Luz Mejia is a twice NATJA nominated freelance food/travel journalist, Gemini-nominated former food TV producer and Level II Certified Chocolate Taster. Her work has been published in Saveur Magazine, the Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail, The Latin Kitchen, Rodale's Organic Gardening and Toronto Life to name a few. Former Saveur Editor-In-Chief James Oseland calls her "One of Toronto's most passionate food journalists" and her personal goal is to master iconic Latin American dishes, one plate at a time. And por supuesto, se habla Español!

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