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It’s time to satisfy your “seafood tooth.” And there’s no shortage of opportunities for satisfaction on the island.
Whether you live here or visit here, Galveston offers many “visual feasts.” One of my favorites to enjoy for a day is what we locally call a “Boat to Table” day. This day can take many forms--and you don’t need a boat or a fishing pole to indulge!
pictured: Creole Barbecued Shrimp from Katie’s Seafood House
I love to start the day at the home of the Mosquito Fleet on Pier 19. The Mosquito Fleet is where some of our Gulf fishermen dock their bay shrimp boats. Every day, they head into Galveston Bay and prepare to drop their nets at the first peak of sunrise to trawl for the famous brown shrimp that we are lucky enough to eat fresh locally. Flavorful wild-caught Galveston shrimp are coveted throughout the United States when available.
Around 11:00 am, many of the shrimpers head into the dock to finish culling out their catch. It’s an exciting time because a tremendous number of birds (brown pelicans, cormorants, egrets and herons, and grackles and terns) show up to catch a tasty and free meal. Everybody loves seafood! I bring binoculars and enjoy the spectacle of the competition--and I try to arrive around 10:00 or 10:30 so I don’t miss anything. It’s an exciting way to learn your birds, and it’s so beautifully iconic of coastal fisheries that it has become a famous destination for artists and photographers alike.
Many of our shrimpers are famous. One of the most famous is “Pops” (Captain Jerome Kunz), an 87-year-old captain of the St. Vincent. He began shrimping at age ten and had his own shrimping vessel by age 15. His deckhand is his daughter-in-law, Nikki Johnson-Kunz. If you catch them there, they may just welcome you aboard the St. Vincent or offer up a story or two. These two shrimpers have the most precious faces and smiles I have ever seen. If you have the fortune to encounter their sunny smiles, their catch, and the birds vying for food, I promise you: the joy of the coast and the Gulf of Mexico comes to life right before your eyes! The cast of characters seen at the Mosquito Fleet is worthy of novels and grand paintings.
As you can probably tell, my “Boat to Table” day is no quick break to squeeze in between other activities. It takes time to linger and enjoy seeing and meeting, sharing and chatting, and sometimes just waiting to find out what by-catch is slipping from the shrimper’s hold for the birds to argue over next. After I enjoy a bit of the boat action, I love to stroll over to Katie’s Fish Market. They sell every type of shrimp, crab, and fish caught commercially on the Gulf of Mexico. And the best part is you can buy what you want in incremental weight by the quarter pound. The seafood at the fish markets at Pier 19 is super-fresh and Gulf wild. It is a priority for me personally to know where the seafood that I buy originates. With our dollars, we can help support sustainable fishing. Gulf caught seafood at Katie’s and local fish markets assure that you are buying seafood from local anglers, in USA waters, where you know the fishing is occurring sustainably.
Along those lines, our Gulf shrimpers are required to have sea turtle excluder devices in their nets to assure there are no turtle drownings caused by the otter trawlers who drag their nets on the bottom for long periods and frequently catch turtles. These devices ensure the sea turtles get out of the net and are not drowned. They breathe air just like us and have to come to the surface to survive. The Gulf is home to the most endangered sea turtle on earth, the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle. Since the invention of the TED (turtle excluder device), the population is rebounding, and the females are growing up to maturity again to nest on our Texas beaches.
At Katie’s, shrimp is super affordable and fresh. They put it on ice for you, and this is “Boat to Table!” From the fish market, you can watch vessels offload their catches of shrimp, grouper, red snapper, and more. You get to witness the weigh-in and see the excitement of the anglers selling their catch. And as a lover of all things visual—especially of coastal places and people— this trip to the fish market adds a ton of images to my day and adds to the cast of characters seen. The shrimpers and other fishers speak many languages, come in all shapes and sizes, have some fantastic methods of dressing, and are young and old.
I like to pick up the shrimp and cook it right away. At home with a pound of shrimp, there are many things you can do to cook them with little planning straight from your pantry filled with spices! I like to buy the shrimp with the shells on and cook them right away. And after visiting the shrimpers and the market, it is making me super hungry, and it’s lunchtime!
Luckily for this series and me, an excellent friend owns The Kitchen Chick, Alicia Cahill. She has offered to cook lunch at The Kitchen Chick in their cooking classroom and share a pantry recipe. Talk about “boat to table!” Call her in advance if you are planning ahead, and you can book a cooking class all about shrimp. She also offers many pre-scheduled classes. Most importantly, bring a bit of pocket money because there are likely items in her shop you cannot live without if you love to cook. Today is turning into the best day.
So after you have a bit of an adventure, you can cook your seafood. Alicia cooked the shrimp I bought at her shop with a Creole Barbecued Shrimp recipe (no BBQ sauce is involved). I discovered later that everything in the recipe happened to already be in my pantry. The recipe is below, and I can assure you --if you watch the video and follow the recipe-- you can end your “Boat to Table” field adventure with the yummiest of meals and wonderful visual memories of our Gulf fishers, markets, and retailers. I can’t believe how easy it was to cook the shrimp with Alicia and wrap up my day with so many wonderful memories of our Galveston life.
I want to assure you this experience is not just for locals! You have everything you need to enjoy our visual and literal feast from “Boat to Table” and make it your own.
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons cayenne
½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2-3 bay leaves, crushed
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup fish or chicken stock
¼ cup white wine
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1.5 pounds shell-on jumbo shrimp (21-25 size)
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
In a small bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients (salt through bay leaves). In a large, heavy skillet or sauté pan, melt butter over medium-high until sizzling. Add garlic, spice mixture, stock, wine, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce, stirring to combine.
Continue stirring and bring the mixture to a full boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the sauce thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon, about 5-7 minutes.
Add shrimp, reduce heat to low and cook, until shrimp turn pink and firm, about 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Where the Texas Coast begins.
by Kristen Vale
by Visit Galveston
by Dr. Hal Needham
by Visit Galveston