Galveston, Pre-Cruise

Because we arrived so early, we had a chance to get to know the neighborhood a bit on breaks from working in the room. The hotel is on the edge of Old Galveston’s historic district, called The Strand District after the eponymous street.

The Star Drugstore, lovingly restored, is known for its old Coca-Cola sign.

Our first outing was for breakfast and at 9 a.m. on a non-cruise day, the place was like a ghost town. We wandered for a while before stumbling on The Star Drugstore, which dates back to 1886 and boasts what it claims is one of the oldest original neon and porcelain Coca-Cola signs hanging above its entrance. It is the place to have breakfast in this part of town and not simply because it is just about the only place to have breakfast.

The Star has suffered its share of disasters, from hurricanes to fires, but since the last big storm, it has been lovingly restored. Drugstore no more — aside from food, it sells a variety of “antique” tchotchkes and accessories — it showcases a charming U-shaped soda fountain counter flanked by a few tables.

For breakfast, it rounds up the usual suspects, although you should probably opt for the Galvestonian ham and cheese omelet. There are also some yummy looking house-made cakes on offer, but we failed to make it back before their 4 p.m. closing time and thus missed out. Don’t make the same mistake.

Need we say the specialty of the house is gumbo at the Gumbo Bar?

Lunch found us at the Gumbo Bar in the heart of touristy Old Town, which by this time had sprung to life. The long, narrow space features an inviting bar, a goodly selection of tables along the wall, and a hearty welcome from just about everyone in the joint. There are also a handful of sidewalk tables.

Needless to say, the specialty of the house is gumbo. It comes in two sizes and the 16-ounce “Lil Daddy” serving is plenty big enough. The ones we sampled (chicken & sausage and seafood) were dark and soulful. There are also po’ boys, also in two sizes and also quite tasty. The bar boasts an impressive selection of beers, most from Texas and Louisiana. I’d suggest relying on the advice of your server for the perfect pairing.

The Old Town area has a number of high-end and well-reviewed restaurants, but we wound up having a sort of pick-up meal at the bar of Willie G’s, located just a few steps from the hotel. Their Happy Hour, which runs generously from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., may be the best bargain in town. Drink specials range from $5 martinis to $4 wines to $2.50 beers. Bar snacks, in hefty sizes, are $5 and $7. I especially recommend the Shrimp Cabo, large shrimp stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon and broiled, served with a red pepper dipping sauce. We wound up ordering dessert and an after-dinner wine, which kinda blew the bargain part of the equation, but we had no regrets. The bread pudding was spectacular.

For the record, there are two other restaurants clustered around Harbor House, Nonno Tony’s and the Olympia Grill, both of which were also thronged with customers.

Century-old commercial buildings...

There is much else to see and do within walking distance, including a show about the monster hurricane of 1900, the Texas Seaport Museum, an oil rig museum, and a boat tour of the

... Give way to century-old private homes.

harbor. And, of course, art galleries and shopping, shopping, and more shopping. We contented ourselves with a long walk through the historic area.

Just to the east of the tourist section, century-old commercial buildings, including the Grand 1894 Opera House, give way to century-old private homes, some of them absolutely enchanting. They range from gaudy, brightly painted villas with gingerbread wooden latticework to brooding old stone mansions that seem to be waiting for a horror movie crew to arrive.

However, judging by the crowd of Disney buffs who flocked to the dock below our hotel window, the biggest show in Galveston is the early dawn arrival of the Disney Magic as she sails slowly, majestically up the channel to her mooring.

Awaiting the Disney Magic, the biggest show in Galveston.

All aboard!


Mack’s Towncar & Limo
15313 Gulf Freeway, #120
Houston, TX 77034
(281) 705-7319 cell
(281) 705-8066 office

Harbor House Hotel
21 Pier #28
Galveston, TX 77550
(409) 763-3321
Online booking

Star Drug Store
510 23rd Street
Galveston, TX 77550
(409) 766-7719

Gumbo Bar
2107 Post Office St.
Galveston, TX 77550
(409) 744-8626

Willie G’s Seafood & Steaks
2100 Harbor Side
Galveston, TX 77550
(409) 762-3030

Nonno Tony’s World Kitchen at Pier 21
Pier 21, Suite 100
Galveston, TX 77550
(409) 621-5100

Olympia Grill
4908 Seawall Blvd.
Galveston, TX 77551
(409) 766-1222

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