6 Best Seafood Shacks Along the Texas Gulf Coast
Some of the best seafood restaurants along the Texas Gulf Coast are the unexpected joints where most of the menu is fried to golden deliciousness, the silverware is usually plastic, and the drink menu consists of domestic beer. These no-frills seafood shacks famously boast three things: the seafood is always fresh, the beer is always cold, and the conversation is always lively. Here are six of the best seafood shacks along the Texas Gulf Coast.
- Shrimp ‘N Stuff
Ask any resident of Galveston Island what the best seafood joint in town is and they will immediately answer, “Shrimp ‘N Stuff.” The restaurant has been an island tradition since opening its doors in 1976, for some locals even a weekly staple. Giant, crispy, hand-battered shrimp combined with a bucket of beers lures locals out of work early on nice afternoons to kick back on the back patio. The menu also features fried oysters, Po’ Boys, hush puppies, shrimp gumbo and seafood platters. The portion sizes are more than generous, and the seafood is fresh. Not only the great food, but the friendly atmosphere and exemplary customer service is known to attract visitors from across the U.S. that come in not once but two or three times while vacationing on the island.
- Gilhooley Restaurant and Bar
The tiny coastal town of San Leon sits on a speck of land that stretches into Galveston Bay on the outskirts of Houston. In the early 19th century, it was home to the marauding pirate Jean Lafitte when he was not running from the law. The ramshackle Gilhooley Restaurant and Bar keeps that outlaw attitude alive. The weathered building made of corrugated metal and salvaged lumber is known as the most notorious oyster shack on the Gulf of Mexico. Regulars pony up to the dimly-lit, horseshoe bar in the middle of the restaurant to enjoy a cold bottle of beer and a long list of menu items including oysters, gumbo, seafood platters, ceviche and hamburgers. They have Southern favorites like chicken fried steak, chicken livers and gizzards, but their signature dish is a platter of locally harvested oysters roasted over a wood fire, topped with parmesan and garlic butter.
The food is so good that Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern calls it “The Ultimate Seafood Dive Bar
” in North America. The parking lot is paved with oyster shells and the dress code is super casual. Language can be as salty as the no-frills vibe because children are not allowed in the restaurant. Neither are credit cards, so plan accordingly.
- Pier 99
The big deck overlooking Corpus Christi Bay is reason enough to make a trip to Pier 99. Diners enjoy the view of the harbor and World War II aircraft carrier, the USS Lexington. It isn’t just great views that makes Pier 99 noteworthy. The seafood keeps regulars coming back for more. The whole fried snapper, snow crabs and calamari are among the fan favorites, but the Shrimp Bonanza with 36 shrimp butterflied, grilled or battered served with charred broccoli is the reason people wait for a table at this popular seaside restaurant.
- Stingaree Restaurant and Marina
Perched high above the Intercoastal Waterways of Crystal Beach, an hour north of Galveston, Stingaree serves a variety of fresh seafood platters, shrimp, snapper, seafood gumbo, fresh oysters cooked five ways, Pecan-crusted catfish and Boscos barbecued crabs. If you are out fishing, pull your boat up to the dock, hand over your recently caught fish to the Stingaree staff will your fresh catches.
Watch the sunset over Galveston Bay from the patio while sipping a World Famous Stingarita (their version of a margarita) or head downstairs to catch a live band in the cantina.
- Wanna Wanna Beach Bar Inn and Grill
South Padre Island
Every beach town needs a good tiki bar. Lucky for seafood lovers, South Padre Island’s tiki bar also has a great seafood menu. Locals know Wanna Wanna Beach Bar and Grill as the best spot on the beach to eat a shrimp basket, throw back a beer and watch the action on the beach. The menu is not extensive, but for more than three decades Wanna Wanna has been a staple among Gulf Coast seafood dives with their U-Peel-Em shrimp, large Gulf shrimp boiled in Cajun spices and fresh ceviche. No tiki bar is complete without a fruity drink, which is why ordering the Turbo Pina Colada - a Pina Colada with an extra shot of dark rum - is a must.
- Irie’s Island Food
Irie’s Island Food is a hole-in-the-wall restaurant serving high quality food, perfect for seafood lovers who do not mind waiting in line. This small family-owned restaurant has a big following! In 2017, they made Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat with a nearly perfect 5-star rating. During the spring and summer season, customers line up out the door and around the block to eat everything from Panko-breaded Mahi Mahi tacos to Thai Green Curry Wahoo and Shrimp to Bay Scallop Po’ Boys.