It started off with an innocent appetizer upon our arrival. Feeling the Texas heat seep into our bones, chugging pints of the local craft brews and then…somehow our trip transformed into an eight day pilgrimage of deep-fried crab, avocado, pickles, pulled pork and bacon-wrapped this and that. While Virginia may be for lovers (as their license plates dictate), Texas is for eaters.
If you didn’t get the memo–on the 8th day, God made deep-fried jalapeno balls stuffed with pulled pork and called them something fancy: Armadillo Eggs. And they were good. So good they came with directions to the emergency room 2.5 miles away from the cholesterol crime scene.
T-Bone Tom’s Steakhouse is the deep-fried go-to in Kemah, Texas. Guy Fieri of The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (DDD) gave his coveted approval to the Armadillo and Shark Eggs (jalapenos stuffed with crab, shrimp and cheese) and DDD ear-marked T-bone Tom’s Sausage Sandwich. Kim and I could barely eat our balls (four ostrich-sized “eggs”) and packed up the monster sandwich for a shared brunch the next day. Have you checked out the interactive site for DDD? The Food Network On The Road allows you to search a city and find out where Guy has been and burped.
Our original intention was to find some surf and turf at Stingarees on Bolivar Island. We took the free car ferry from Galveston with crab legs and salty tequila-punched margs on our mind. However, Stingarees was closed until 6pm but the marina also housed the more casual Down Under pub where we joined day-drinkers and birder-types heading home from the tidal flats and burrowing owl stomping grounds. It was a tough decision between the fried fare: crab patty burgers, po’boys, boudin balls (deep-fried pork and rice balls) and fish tacos. Kim opted for the greenest choice–deep fried pickles with a dilly mayo. I ordered the fried shrimp po’boy on a buttered and fried bun. Hypertension level: soaring to a record high.
It gets worse (but better really, from a totally non-health conscious point of view). At the Fisherman’s Wharf we ordered a round of Saint Arnold’s Elissa IPA and the Galveston Trio. This platter is exactly what you would demand before the electric chair: Gulf shrimp stuffed with jack cheese and wrapped in bacon, deep-fried panko-rolled crab-stuffed jalapenos on a bed of fried matchstick onions and, stop the presses–a rich crab and queso (cheese) dip with a pile of tortilla chips for dunking.
Analysis so far? Texans love their deep-fried balls. At Landry’s Seafood House in Kemah we uncovered the ball show-stopper: crab-stuffed avocado “lightly” fried with a heavy-duty chipotle ranch dip and fire-breather side salsa.
Feeling rather sluggish on my morning runs along the jetty of Surfside Beach, we thought chicken sandwiches at Sharkey’s would be a smart departure from the steady feed of stuffed balls. My vision of 12 grain bread with thick slices of beefsteak tomato, some greens and non-deep-fried chicken was squashed. The white bread Texas Toast was saturated with butter–enough to allow me to skip lip balm application for three days. And, there was more mayo than chicken on the sucker.
Of course, to round out our Texas experience, we had to do a taqueria. They lined the freeway in between every Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, IHOP, Whataburger, Jack-in-the-Box, Chick-a-fil and Fudrucker’s. At El Pike Regio we packed back Pirata Regios–tortillas loaded with beef and guacamole and a thin hot-as-hell salsa. For $10 bucks we had tacos, a gallon of agua de Jamaica (hibiscus juice) and a smoky bean and jalapeno soup. Olé. Plus, we could watch the latest Spanish soaps at full-blast on three flatscreen televisions.
And just as we had sworn to a salad-only existence once we returned to Toronto, we discovered these at the convenience store. Margarita beer chips with that perfect kettle-cooked crunch. Paired with a Landshark lager and a lampshade, these chips took my Best Ever award, ousting my fall back Terra Sweets and Blues.
Editor’s note: I’m happy to announce that after eight hoggy days of pig-outs, sleep-ins, extended happy hours and being relative beach butts, we are actually gout-free. And, kind of longing for those Texan deep-fried balls.