Iconic Galveston restaurant doesn’t take success for granted
When Dennis Byrd walks up to The Spot, it still feels the same as it did 17 years ago. Back then, he was a busboy; now he’s the owner of arguably one of the most successful and popular restaurants on the island.
When Byrd was a busboy, The Spot was a much smaller business, serving up hamburgers and drinks. Today, the iconic restaurant is part of a five-venue complex that includes Tiki Bar, Squeeze Ritas & Tequilas, RumShack and SideYard — all at 3204 Seawall Blvd.
Each venue has its own unique, but beachy, vibe. It’s a place that’s beloved by locals and visitors.
A lot has changed since Byrd took over the business from Marion and Diane Duzich in 2005. But Byrd doesn’t see the progress the way most people do; he sees all of the work still left to do.
“Guests really like it when you reinvest their money back into the business,” Byrd said. “That’s something we established a long time ago. We’ve got a mission statement and part of it says that we’ll continually improve our property, products and service to better serve our guests. It’s on our website, it’s on our menu, it’s on a board with a picture of me right when you walk in.”
With that mission in mind, The Spot launched a new menu in March. The beverage station was remodeled in April.
“So, we improved our property,” Byrd said. “And every day we’re trying to improve our service.”
Byrd has had a strong work ethic for as long as he can remember. Even as a child, he mowed lawns and painted house numbers on sidewalks for neighbors.
During the first two years of attending Louisiana State University, Byrd scheduled as many classes as he could on Tuesdays and Thursdays so he could drive back to the island and work at The Spot through the weekend.
“It was rather obnoxious in hindsight,” Byrd said.
Marion Duzich taught him a lot about the business, he said.
When he took over The Spot, one of the first things Byrd did was eat and evaluate every item on the menu. Originally, the King Burger came with canned mushrooms. Byrd didn’t like them at all, so he decided to order fresh mushrooms and cut, season and grill them in-house. The King Burger ended up being his favorite for many years.
“When I was tasting every menu item, it was just really subjective,” Byrd said. “It was what I liked and what I thought tasted good. Once I knew that I liked it, I knew that I could sell it. That’s, a lot of times, a challenge. If you don’t like something, or you don’t love something, you can’t really sell it to someone else. Once I knew that I liked everything, and I reset the menu, I knew that was the foundation for moving forward.”
The Spot’s menu is revamped twice a year. The most recent changes rolled out in March, which included two new fresh fish tacos: salmon and seared tuna. The seared tuna tacos have surpassed the King Burger as Byrd’s favorite dish at The Spot.
“I eat them every day,” he said. “It’s great, fresh, seared tuna, one corn tortilla, one flour tortilla, there’s three per order and it’s just wonderful,” Byrd said. “I’ve also been eating the salmon tacos lately — I’ve never enjoyed salmon. I don’t eat it at any restaurant. I don’t like it. I’ve been eating it here. It’s a great dish, and it’s healthy.”
The Spot is a fast-casual restaurant where customers walk up to the counter and order their food. On any given day, especially during the summer, the lines can reach out the door. The Spot offers a variety of food options including fresh seafood and a long list of specialty hamburgers. Even if you think you know what you want, there’s a good chance you’ll get to the register, see the hot plate full of food waiting to go out and find yourself back at square one deciding what to get.
Quality control is a big deal at The Spot. While most restaurants have one chef working as the expediter of all the food, judging whether or not something is good enough to be sent out to guests, any one who works at The Spot can send a plate back before it reaches the customer.
“We’re not perfect,” Byrd said. “Every day we make mistakes. But it goes back to the mission statement. We’re here to improve our product, property and service to best serve our guests. So, everyone here has the authority to send a plate back. Everyone.”