16 Great Restaurants & Bars On Galveston IslandWhere to go when you’re on island time.
Galveston Island is known for many things: sea turtles, a lot of history involving a lot of different hurricanes, Robert Durst, fried shrimp, and the Moody Gardens pyramids. It’s also Houston’s closest beach. And even though you might scoff at the color of the water, at some point most people will probably take advantage of an uncle or family friend who’s got a timeshare or a vacation rental or a connection at The Galvez. Beyond all that, Galveston Island also has a lot of great seafood and boozy cocktails strewn across its somewhat-white-ish sands. So stop eating at those chain restaurants most tourists go to, and check out these 16 restaurants, bars, and cafes instead.
As casual as other restaurants in G-Town can be, there are still places like Sugar & Rye, a bougie brunch and dinner spot with a few Cajun-Creole twists. With dressy foliage wallpaper and golden light fixtures, Sugar & Rye can be the ideal brunch destination if you have a pastel shirt that you’ve been dying to wear. Menu items like smoky shrimp and grits loaded with andouille sausage and spicy pepper jack cheese, biscuits and gravy, and a mimosa that is 99% champagne, help make up a classic Southern-style brunch at Sugar & Rye.
At the original location of Shrimp ‘N Stuff you’ll find a mountain of seafood options including, of course, a whole lot of fried shrimp. The counter-service joint dishes out plates of golden fried catfish platters with crispy hushpuppies and po’boys lined with mammoth pieces of deep-fried shrimp. Sit in one of the nautical main dining rooms and have your way with any of the fried sea creatures, or take the party out to the patio and dive into your meal in the open air.
What looks to be a giant Tiki-themed beachside clubhouse is actually The Spot, a bar and grill on Seawall Boulevard. Since The Spot is made up of one restaurant and three bars rolled into one paradise, you can head here for live music, giant frozen mojitos, and a few bites. And with all the space, The Spot sees everyone from families attacking appetizer samplers to party crews going to town on frozen drink flights. While the place serves just about everything—from mammoth burgers, to flaming-hot buffalo wings, to diablo shrimp tacos—the most impressive part of hanging out here comes from the sunset, so head up to the highest part of the patio and grab a rum punch to take in the views.
When you’re rolling with a group that’s 20 people deep and in dire need of buttermilk pancakes, there’s always the breakfast and lunch spot, The Sunflower Bakery & Cafe. This place serves everything from french toast to migas to steak and eggs, and it has an uncanny ability to seat even the largest walk-in parties within a few minutes. The decorations might be a bit unconventional—think National Geographic photos of wildlife next to old-timey tin signs for hot cocoa—but the walls are painted a cheery shade of orange and the staff is just as bright and sunny. After you’ve filled yourself with lemon curd waffles and soft shell crab benedict, head to the bakery and grab some banana bread and creme puffs for dessert.
As far as muffulettas go, Maceo’s Spice & Import Company, an Italian deli just off the Strand in downtown Galveston, might make the best one on the Gulf Coast (but don’t tell New Orleans we said that). The soft, olive oil dressed bread—baked in nearby League City using Maceo’s recipe—dressed in a schmear of sweet and briny olives, with a near Goldilocks ratio of sliced deli meats and cheese, is a thing of beauty. Grab a sandwich for lunch or brunch, along with an armful of groceries and dried pasta.
Red Light Coffee Roasters has what you need, coffee-wise, like espresso or cold brew coffee concentrate, for the human zoomies you need to drive to the mainland or for a full day of bay fishing. Hang out inside the downtown-adjacent cafe and watch the roasting magic happen right in front of you, chill at the sidewalk tables, or just take some espresso to the dome before wading through touristy hoards along The Strand.
Shykatz, a breakfast and lunch restaurant near East Beach in Galveston, might be where the Buc-ee’s folks go to source home decor ideas. The tiny cafe is covered floor-to-ceiling in quippy and often menacingly cheerful signs (“Live like someone left the barn gate open.”) and serves a long, somewhat eclectic menu. You can order a breakfast sandwich consisting of eggs, ham, and cheddar cheese on cinnamon french toast bread, or, you know, just get a chicken club sandwich. Make sure to say hello to the cats meowing outside and grab a slice of strawberry cake for the road.
If you can’t get to Fish Company Tacos by 11am, which is when it opens, you probably missed your opportunity to eat there. Opened by a former Uchi Houston cook, the small restaurant serves five kinds of tacos. Everything is ridiculously good, so it makes sense the menu sells out every single day. Each taco arrives on handmade tortillas filled with fresh Gulf-caught fish or jumbo shrimp and smothered in toppings like homemade pimento cheese, Hunan-style BBQ sauce, or lime nuoc mam. You also get additional satisfaction when the “sold out” sign is posted as you finish the last bite.
Chatting with the owner at Soul 2 Soul while ordering a plate of crispy catfish and collards makes lunch all the more special. The strip-center soul food restaurant just off 54th and Broadway has been a local favorite for years. Pull up for deeply delicious daily specials like smothered pork chops and meatloaf, or indulge in oxtail with rice every day Soul 2 Soul is open. Each entree comes with two sides, but we dare you to try and limit yourself when confronting choices like macaroni and cheese, green beans stewed in savory pot liquor, and crispy fried okra.
Daiquiri Time Out makes some of the best cocktails on the island. Located just off the Strand in a converted corner store, DTO is full of plush booths, flamingo wallpaper, and even an adorable glittery pink toilet seat in the bathroom. Beyond that, the cocktail menu features a few seasonal riffs from the bartenders, and more than a few pages of classics. DTO also has an excellent food truck with tacos and Mexican small plates. Try the lamb barbacoa tacos or tostones with mango and chayote from the truck, and eat on the patio to take in the sea breeze, or the sound of incoming cruise ships.
Hey Mikey’s Ice Cream serves classic, homemade ice cream. The shop is conveniently just off The Strand, so you don’t have to skirt around as many confused out-of-towners to get a waffle cone with a couple scoops. Hey Mikey’s has all the usual suspect toppings, like sprinkles and crushed Oreos, as well as specialty sundaes and something called, “The Home Cut Donut,” which is a smashed glazed donut stuffed with ice cream.
Galveston Bagel Company started as a little stand at the popular weekend farmers market, and quickly expanded into a full-fledged breakfast and lunch restaurant just south of Broadway near downtown. While you can get a number of bagels with cream cheese—like snickerdoodle or jalapeño cheddar—most folks are showing up for bagel breakfast sandwiches loaded with bacon and eggs, or a bunch of different sandwiches for lunch. Take a few warm bagels to go, or stretch out on the covered side patio.
If you long for the days when you could smoke inside at a bar, Island Pier Club near East Beach and the Seawall is for you. The one-room bar has all the dive essentials: only one bartender (who is probably the nicest bartender on the planet), a pool table that is always occupied by people who are intimidatingly good at pool, various push-button slot machines, a TV that somehow always plays sports, bags of random chips for sale, and some kind of jukebox—analog or otherwise. This is the kind of place where you just order a beer and a shot. Don’t get fancy, unless the nice bartender tells you to.
Join the upper echelon of Galveston society (who also wear tropical shirts) at Rudy & Paco, a combination Latin-Italian-seafood-steakhouse restaurant downtown. Bizarrely exclusive, the small restaurant has a nearly blacked out exterior, white tablecloths, and a menu stuffed with excellent Gulf seafood and pasta. A mob boss might take his dramatic side piece, and no one would bat an eye if she dumped a glass of Cabernet on his head. If you want to watch this reality show (because we do), then go to Rudy & Paco. There is limited bar seating, and the hosts seem to relish the opportunity to turn away walk-ins, so reservations are necessary.
Whether you’re in Galveston for an island getaway, sorting out what to ride at the close-by (and appropriately named) Pleasure Pier, or want to experience a little old Galveston strange, pop into the old school dive Robert’s Lafitte. Open since 1969, this place holds the title as the oldest gay bar in Texas. And while she’s got a little dust, nothing beats an evening at Lafitte, whether you’re there for the nightly drink specials, truly iconic local drag shows, or to catch a glimpse of your retired vacation rental neighbor in a leather harness.
Vida Agave, a modern Tex-Mex restaurant and cocktail bar near downtown Galveston, is more of a pre-game-vibes spot. You can get food here, but it’s also a great bar for throwing back a couple frozen mango chamoy margaritas and snacking on Vida’s housemade salsa and chips before wandering deeper into downtown, napping on the beach, or as a halfway stop on a Galveston bar crawl.