I always enjoy hanging out in Galveston, which is a small beach town about an hour south of Houston. But dining in Galveston can be hit or miss. I’d just participated in a wine run nearby and decided to make a weekend of it as Thing 1 and Thing 2 were with Nana for the weekend. I was definitely hungry after my run as I’d had a small breakfast some twelve hours before.
Right before leaving the office for the weekend, a work colleague mentioned a brand new restaurant, Harborside Mercantile, that had opened in Galveston. After looking it up, I saw that it literally had been open only a couple of weeks and some of the well known foodie folks in Houston had given it a thumbs up. A quick look at the menu and I was sold.
Walking in, the restaurant had a bit of a modern vibe, but was still very warm and romantic.
It’s not the most extensive wine list I’ve ever seen, but then it doesn’t really have to be as long as the selections are good. Other than the limited selection of Pinot Noir (just one!) there was a good range of different wines available and an effort to offer up something other than the usual suspects. Many of the wines were in the $30 range so it was very affordable. Just don’t go looking for a lot of really high end wine. It seemed the point was to try to appeal to a wide range of folks. After ordering a bottle of Pinot Noir only to be told that they didn’t have any more, I was wondering if the place as “too new.” I generally like other folks to work out the kinks for me. In place of the no longer available Pinot, we were offered a 2014 Banfi L’ardi Dolcetto d’Acqui as something comparable in weight to the Pinot. I was even brought a small sample in a glass to make sure that I liked it. And (this will always keep me coming back) they keep all of their wines in a cellar at 53 degrees. Yes! One thing that drives me bat shit crazy are folks (many even claiming to be wine bars) serving warm red wine! OK, rant over.
This ended up being a rustic, earthy wine that finished with some cranberry and black cherry. It was medium bodied with medium acidity and very little tannin. I definitely liked it more as it opened up. And I really liked it much more when I had food with it. It sang with the BBQ shrimp (see below). It was presented as a “mini-Barbera” and interestingly enough, that was just about right. The wine is made of 100% Dolcetto grapes which is a first for me I believe. It’s from the Piedmont region and despite its name, it’s a dry wine. So despite not having my Pinot, this ended up being a good stand-in.
I have to say that I loved the menu! The bulk of it was Southern inspired with lots of Gulf Coast seafood. There were so many different things that we wanted to try that we really had a hard time choosing.
First up was a cup of smoked duck and andouille gumbo. Well, my husband ordered it and I helped him out by making sure it was OK. Always willing to help!
They were not shy with the duck and andouille! My husband called it a meat stew as it was quite thick, but the dark roux was spot on. Being from South Louisiana, he can be a bit of a gumbo snob but this one got his approval.
Next up was the Texas Blue Crab Fingers.
Wow! The crab fingers were swimming in a pool of warm garlic butter, Thai chili, tarragon, and white wine and was served with buttery garlic bread to soak it all up. If I were at home, I may have licked the bowl. It had a little bit of a kick but was delicious. All of the flavors melded together were wonderful.
Our final starter was the absolutely divine BBQ shrimp. Yeah, I know this photo doesn’t do it any justice.
I’ve had my share on BBQ shrimp over the years and quite frankly a lot of folks screw it up. But not these! The huge head-on shrimp (which served as somewhat of a deterrent for my husband – his loss!) were served in a sauce that the restaurant described as a rosemary Worcestershire butter sauce. Like the crab, it was served with more of the delicious garlic bread and a charred lemon. I’m not a huge fan of Worcestershire sauce but I seriously needed a straw for the sauce. At some point I had sauce dripping down my wrist as I was trying to get every bit out of the bowl. And I don’t recall how many of the jumbo shrimp it came with, but it seemed like there were maybe eight to ten of them. Again, they weren’t skimping on the shrimp. These definitely warrant a repeat visit!
For our entrees, my husband had the Smoked Beef Debris Poboy.
It was a delicious mess of tender, juicy, smoked beef shoulder, Creole gravy, lettuce, tomato, and Duke’s Mayo. And I’m only showing you half the sandwich! My husband was already eating the other half. The sandwich was served with the restaurant’s House Made Chips which were good, but would have been better if they had been warmer. I will say the same about the beef. It was flavorful, but should have been a bit warmer.
I had the Shrimp & Grits as my entree. I figured since I was already raising my cholesterol with all of the other shellfish, I may as well add a little more.
Like the BBQ shrimp, I’ve had this dish many times and many times people don’t get it right. Too much sauce, too dry, grits all wrong, etc. I almost didn’t get it as it seemed so ordinary and I wondered if they could do it any justice. Well, I cannot tell you how fantastic this dish was! The combination of Gulf shrimp, cheddar grits, andouille, blistered cherry tomatoes, lemon butter, and green onion was simply delicious. It wasn’t even as hot as it should have been (I really think they are still trying to get the staffing, timing, etc. right) but it was still delicious. The shrimp were flavorful and well cooked, the cheddar grits were oozing yumminess, but it was the andouille that pulled everything together and put it over the top. That, and I’m convinced green onion makes everything taste better. It almost has the same super power as bacon.
This was definitely one of my better dining in Galveston experiences. So if you’re in Galveston (heck even if you’re in Houston!) and are looking for some southern inspired Gulf coast cuisine, Harbor Mercantile will satisfy your craving. I’m already ready to return to try out the rest of the menu.