My last post about Galveston, Texas, is about the food and drink I enjoyed during my stay (here are my others on its history and the resort I stayed at).  I must admit upfront that I didn’t go to many restaurants. The organizers of the NATJA conference arranged for us attendees to go on a dine-around, where smaller groups headed to different local eateries.  

I chose an Italian restaurant, Riondo’s, as the only place I documented. On our last night, we dined at the San Luis Resort on the waterfront and the city’s iconic seawall, built after the devastating 1900 hurricane. But I didn’t take photos of the food, as it was a simple classic meal of shrimp cocktail, wedge salad, lobster bisque, surf and turf and chocolate cake. It was a fine meal but nothing people hadn’t seen before.

The more interesting aspect of my culinary experience in Galveston was the cocktails tour, which I’ll get into greater detail after I’ve mentioned our fantastic dinner at Riondo’s. It’s in the historic downtown Strand area, near the main cruise port. It’s probably some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had.


Located in a bank that’s reportedly haunted (quite a few places in Galveston seem to be), this Italian restaurant doesn’t skimp on portions. When that is the case, quality often suffers, but not here. Every dish we had was irresistible, fresh and vibrant. Our servers and the owner informed us that all pasta is made fresh daily, which certainly shows in every dish that includes it.

We started with a starter sample platter presented under a glass lid to preserve the cherrywood smoke, which infused all the food with a unique sweetness uncommon in an antipasti plate.  This included batter-fried calamari, sweet sausage, meatballs, bruschetta and mushrooms in a cream parmesan sauce, along with fresh baked bread, seafood risotto and a charcuterie board. All of us were starting to feel full even with only these appetizers.  Of course, we still had our entrees and dessert sampler.

For mine, I chose gnocchi with crispy prosciutto, peas and basil in a creamy alfredo sauce. Just on the taste alone, I could have finished this, but I knew that dessert was coming. Nonetheless, I struggled with the cheesecake with berry sauce, chocolate gateau and tiramisu, having only one bite of each. But that’s no indication of how wonderful each was.

Galveston Island Brewing

The ten-year-old microbrewery in the city serves 17 different kinds of beers, most of which are available on tap. Their cozy taproom consists of a bar, a few other tables and a merchandise store, but they have a larger patio area with covered seating. What dominates the grounds is a roughly 3,000-square-foot brewing facility, which also has seating inside.

We all sampled their signature Tiki Wheat, a refreshing and light brew with just a hint of coriander. It’s the “official beer of Galveston.” But I preferred a temporary flavor called Indy’s Pale Ale, named after the property’s cat who recently passed. It wasn’t too hoppy, as many IPAs are. I also tasted a chocolate and peanut butter porter, which was surprisingly tasty. Galveston Island Brewing also makes ciders and a “tiki” series with fruit-infused beers.

Texas Tail Distillery

The next stop on the cocktails trail was this bar and distillery with an extensive outdoor seating and games area. Started in 2007 by two friends who loved great drinks and the outdoors, the distillery makes vodka and whiskey. The business’s name even comes from this passion, inspired by two native animals, the redtail hawk and the whitetail deer. 

Our sample cocktail was a called Texas Heat, a mixture of jalapeno vodka, simple syrup, lime juice and fresh watermelon. I normally don’t like this fruit, but with the outside mugginess, it was the perfect refreshment. While others ordered drinks on their own, I kept it to this one, which was more than enough with the booze strength.

Daiquiri Time Out

With this last stop on the tour, we also visited the tropics, in a sense. This bar looks unassuming, with some booths and long table seating near the bar and simple décor. However, if you step outside, wooden benches, party lights and a converted pink shipping container adorn the space for a more festive atmosphere. Even better is the speakeasy tiki bar, which visitors can access through a pineapple-cover keypad. Inside is a dark but inviting space with bamboo accents, plastic flowers and thatched awnings.

I could have tried the expected daiquiri, but the menu offered dozens of cocktails, which made it difficult to decide. I finally settled on a Oaxacan old fashioned, which substitutes whiskey with mezcal and tequila. Even with the unusual combination, it was incredibly smooth and delicious.