A dozen places to get your oyster fix
Oysters have a peak season. Here, it starts in January, once water temperatures have found their way below 60 degrees for a sustained period. That’s when Galveston Bay oysters materialize in many preparations on restaurant menus along the upper Texas Coast. Whether raw or baked, dropped in gumbo or dipped in batter, get them while you can. One pearl of wisdom: April, which marks the season’s end, comes sooner than you think.
Benno’s on the Beach
Just across Seawall Boulevard from Stewart Beach, this counter-service seafood shack is known as a fried food paradise. When oysters are in season, Benno’s brings something different to the table — Cajun grilled oysters. Buttery and spicy, these delectable nuggets are best followed by an ice cold beer.
1200 Seawall Blvd., Galveston, 409.762.4621, bennosofgalveston.com
Black Pearl Oyster Bar & Grille
On a lively corner lot a few blocks from the action on Postoffice Street, the Black Pearl Oyster Bar offers a congenial atmosphere and a full menu of bivalves. If you’re hankering for the raw variety, settle into a seat at the bar for an inside look at the shucking process. Suffering from seasonal allergies? Request a platter of the Oysters Diablo, which are topped with shrimp, cheddar and a healthy dose of spicy diablo sauce.
327 23rd St., Galveston, 409.762.7299
The winter menu at this modern restaurant with Gulf of Mexico views will boast four oyster offerings including raw, a traditional Rockefeller and Tomato Basil Oysters, which are garnished with house-made pesto, shrimp, grape tomatoes, breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. The Blackened Shrimp and Crab Oysters are an homage to shellfish, but the flawless addition of garlic butter, Italian breadcrumbs and Maceo’s blackening spice is what makes this dish sing.
Seawall Boulevard at 28th Street, Galveston, 409.762.2583, blvdseafood.com
Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant
Gaido’s is a well-known stop for oyster eaters on the upper Texas Coast and has been since the restaurant opened in 1911. When ordering from the legendary kitchen, adapt a “why try one, when you can try them all” approach and order the oyster sampler. It comes with a pair of each of the house specialty oysters: Asiago, Ponzini, Rockefeller, Monterrey, Bienville and Cy’s Demise, as well as fried and raw variety.
3802 Seawall Blvd., Galveston, 409.761.5500, gaidos.com
Before heading to San Leon to sample the oysters at one of the county’s coolest dives, it’s best to know the house rules, which are posted clearly on signs out front: no kids, no pets, cash only. Order a platter of the namesake shellfish, Oysters Gilhooley, a favorite of Galveston foodie Robb Walsh. Freshly shucked, the glistening oysters are dusted with Parmesan and doused in butter before being grilled to perfection. Served on a metal platter with lemon wedges, this dish is no frills.
222 Ninth St., San Leon, 281.339.3813
Nick’s Kitchen & Beach Bar
Nick’s is the hip, younger brother of the Gaido family’s restaurant group. Named for its owner, Nick Gaido, this low-key, lively watering hole boasts a wide Gulf view and a wider selection of oysters — the standout being those of the fried variety, which are light and crispy.
3828 Seawall Blvd., Galveston, 409.762.9625, nicksgalveston.com
Opus Ocean Grille
Seafood is king at this new Clear Lake Shores restaurant. With an upscale coastal vibe, Opus Ocean Grille serves up a modern take on classic seafood dishes with stellar sauces that don’t skimp on flavor. Try the baked oysters with decadent toppings and, for purists, glistening half-shells served up ice cold.
1510 Marina Bay Drive, No. 124, Clear Lake Shores, 281.334.0006
Stingaree Restaurant and Marina
Just a ferry ride from Galveston Island, this venerable seafood shack on Bolivar Peninsula has been a local favorite for oysters since it opened in 1986. Order them raw or fried or, if you’re really hungry, ask for the Oyster Jubilee, a smorgasbord featuring more than 30 half-shells in different preparations, from gumbo to Rockefeller and everywhere in between.
1295 N. Stingaree Drive, Crystal Beach, 409.684.2731, stingaree.com
The Reef Seafood House
Jerry Bulgherini, owner of this iconic Texas City restaurant, grew up in the Texas-Louisiana “Golden Triangle,” and was raised on his mawmaw’s Cajun cooking and hearty seafood. Lucky us. The fried oysters — from the Texas Gulf Coast — are rolled in cornmeal and cooked to perfection and pair perfectly with ice cold beer. Also highly popular are Bubba’s Smoked Oysters served with Parmesan and melted butter, Oyster Pontchartrain and oysters on the half shell.
1301 31 1⁄2 St., Texas City, 409.945.6151, thereefseafoodhouse.com
Tommy’s Restaurant Oyster Bar
When a plump, briny-sweet Galveston Bay oyster hits your tongue at Tommy’s, both your craving and conscience will be satisfied. Owner Tom Tollett has been active in the seafood sustainability movement, working with the Galveston Bay Foundation to support remediation of local oyster reefs. Start your tasting with an Oyster Shooter, served in a shot glass with Creole bloody mary mix and vodka. Follow it with Iced Oysters Mignonette, which pack a flavor punch of Champagne vinegar, white wine, diced shallots and jalapeño, crushed white peppercorns and cilantro.
2555 Bay Area Blvd., Clear Lake area, 281.480.2221, tommys.com
The most popular oyster dish at this local favorite is the New Orleans Grilled Oysters. Tookie’s hand picks and hand shucks its oysters before putting them on the grill right in front of the restaurant’s kitchen dining area. Next, chefs kick them up with a little bit of homemade oyster seasoning. After a few minutes of grilling, they give them some love with oyster butter and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Tookie’s serves them by the half dozen or full dozen with a fresh baguette.
1106 Bayport Blvd., Seabrook, tookiesseafood.com
Proximity is perhaps the most convincing argument when you’re perusing the waterfront for fresh oysters. Aptly named for its position near the top of Dickinson Bay, TopWater Grill offers diners a striking water vista and a sumptuous selection of fresh-shucked oysters supplied by nearby estuaries in quirky, quiet San Leon.
815 Ave. O, San Leon, 281.339.1232, topwatergrill.com
Coast Monthly Editor Laura Elder contributed to this listing.