Galveston has been immortalized in song and in history books. It is a city known for a tragic past and for its resiliency. It should also be known for its friendly people and increasingly, as a place for good food and wine.
Since I moved to Houston a few years back, I have taken quite a few trips down to Galveston. Usually these trips involve enjoying the beach, taking historical tours, or wandering the delightful touristy Strand. However, most forays into wining and dining have been a very mixed bag. That all changed yesterday when, after a day of visiting sites on the afternoon’s Historical Society tour, my wife and I wandered into an establishment called 21 and met Jonathan.
It was late afternoon and we were looking for a place to kill some time before finding a place to go have dinner. 21 looked promising, so we walked in and quickly realized that they probably were not yet open. Jonathan came out of the back room just as we were about to leave and assured us that it was ok to come on in and he would serve us, despite it being apparent that he was prepping for a big crowd that night.
We took a seat at the sparkling clean bar and were presented with a very well laid out drink menu. All totaled I would estimate that there were about 50 wines to choose from along with many variations on the martini, a reasonably decent beer selection, and a multitude of whisk(e)ys. I chose a nice old vine Zinfandel from Dry Creek, and my wife had some Roederer Estate Brut sparkling wine. Despite obviously having quite a bit to do, Jonathan took the time to talk wine and food with us, as well as proudly tell us about what his hometown has to offer. It seems we had been missing quite a lot.
After discussing our options for dinner, we decided that Rudy & Paco’s, directly across the street, sounded like exactly what we were looking for. Our friendly host called over and got us a couple of seats at the bar, despite the restaurant being fully booked. When we walked across the street, sure enough, the place was packed and they were turning folks away. However, at a nice cozy corner of the bar were two places set for us with a basket of crispy fried plantains and two sauces already there.
Again, that Galveston friendliness was on display immediately everywhere, from the owner to the young women working behind the bar, we got smiles and the type of attentive service that seems to be in short supply these days. The menu was heavy on seafood dishes with a Caribbean and South American flair, and the wine list seemed to be very well chosen and complementary.
As I was in the mood for a simple seafood dish, I chose shrimp cooked in a white wine sauce and ordered a glass of Pinot Gris. My wife ordered pork medallions in a red wine mushroom sauce and paired it with a Pinot Noir, which if I hadn’t already decided that I was having seafood, would have been my choice, as well.
Both dishes were fantastic, and everyone that left while we were there stopped to tell the owner how much they had enjoyed their meals. We did the same on our way out and made our way back over to 21 for one last glass of wine and to thank Jonathan for his hospitality. Despite the place having gotten noticeably busier, he still made time to have a conversation with us, while making sure all of his customers were taken care of.
This is how a night out should be. Amazing that it all started because of a shared love of wine. Sometimes there is magic in the glass.