South Lake Tahoe, California
Houston has almost every kind of food you could hope for. I'm making progress, with my goal of eating food from 50 different cultures, in 12 months.
But, I've searched the Houston area for Scottish food and found only a Scottish bar. Imagine my excitement when I spotted this cozy house along with a quite adorable truck in Lake Tahoe...that served Scottish food and drink!
A Cozy Lunch
24 hours after taking the above photo, Don and I headed over for lunch. Only it looked pretty different. We had snow over night, so we figured this little place would be extra cozy for lunch.
When you first enter the doors you are greeted by large windows looking into the kitchen. There's a sign that sends you up the stairs to the Pub/Restaurant, which was fine for me. But I couldn't help but wonder about all that space downstairs. Maybe someone lives down there, too?
Lots of Plaid
It was noon, so there was no one at the bar, except owner Dan who was racing about getting beer and hot chocolate for some diners. (Too busy to get in a photo) You have to love the plaid stools in a Scottish pub. I don't know a lot about Scottish plaid or tartan or whatever they call it. But I know there are many designs to choose from and they sure had a variety of plaid on the chairs in the dining area.
Dining in an Attic
This must be the upstairs to an old house, but it felt like an attic with the slanted ceilings. There were some cozy seating nooks sectioned off by wood and brass. The windows looked out at snow covered pine trees, which was nice. The TVs I could have done without, but this is a pub and we are in the US.
The Dog Corner
From our booth I spotted this funny corner space and wondered what it was for. But then I noticed a big black dog coming up the back stairs and strolling through the dining room and into the corner.. then I knew who owned the space. There was a bed and a giant bowl set for food and water. This doggy fit the look of the pub very well.
"What's your most Scottish food?"
Dan was handling all the tables, as well as a group of high school kids who had come in trying to sell yearbook ads. Dan was also trotting up and down the stairs with food and answering the phone. Dan is not exactly a fit youngster, so I'm not sure how he was handling this.
But his maturity also gave him a no nonsense approach to waiting on our table, so I figured he'd have a quick answer to my food question. "Shepherd's Pie, hands down. It's all homemade and you can't go wrong." Dan shook his head at Don's wimpy sandwich order and insisted he get the fish and chips. We both laughed at Dan's forcefulness...then gave in. And we were glad. I'm not usually a big fan of lamb, but the mixture of ground lamb, carrots, peas, brown gravy and cheese in a potato crust was a perfectly tangy treat for snowy day! Don's beer battered haddock with chips was excellent. Even the slaw with a hint of cilantro was a refreshing addition. We enjoyed leftovers a day later!
We chatted with Dan just a bit more before heading downstairs. We got a speedy history of the place. I wish we could have heard the Scottish accent of one of the other owners who is responsible for the Scottish recipes! That would have been a nice treat. I told Dan I was sorry to leave without saying good-bye to Bob, the sweet dog. Dan leaned into the stairwell and made a hissing sound with his teeth. It took a while, but Bob came up and posed on the reflective strips near a step. As soon as I clicked my photo he wandered off to his bed, before I could give him a thank you pat.
You have to love a dog and owner who don't go out of their way to put on show for the tourists. They were both happy to accommodate, but didn't bother themselves by going overboard!
We promised Dan we would come back for the very famous bread pudding!
Seafood Near the Seawall
Don and I recently spent a week in Galveston so I figured I should at least share one seafood dining experience. There are lots of curious places to dine along Seawall Boulevard, so why did I pick this place? Maybe it's the giant crab on the roof. I love that thing.
The Poop Deck?
We've laughed about it for years. You can't drive by, without looking up to see the tattered US flag waving, next to the Statue of Liberty with her peeling silver paint. This photo was taken early morning so there are no bikers lined up along the railing. But there were some colorful characters by afternoon when we climbed the steps in the musty stairwell to the deck.
We've laughed about it for years. You can't drive by without looking up to see the We chatted with our waitress wearing her sailor hat and made a toast to the nude mermaid mural nearby. But we couldn't bring ourselves to order food at a place with poop in the name.
This would have been a heavenly choice in comparison.
I love the look of this grand hotel and the stories about it being haunted. We had drinks in the lobby lounge near the elegant dining room. We applauded the piano player who seemed as bored as the few sitting on bar stools. I'm sure the seafood is top notch, but we tipped our piano man and decided to save dinner for a livelier night.
Jimmy's on the Pier
We did actually have a pretty darn delicious meal at Jimmy's one evening. Eating fish tacos while watching fishermen below on the pier is pretty awesome. I also must say I love the colorful lifeguard chairs! However, I saved my review for the place that has been serving seafood since 1911!
Good Old Gaido's
There's a little dated nautical going on at Gaido's and you have to be okay with that.
If you don't like walking in the door and being greeted by lots of rope and brass as well as a gigantic gift & shell shop that looks like it hasn't changed since the 1960's, then turn around. But this is part of the appeal to me. I'm all for a little retro. Although I would have preferred the original Gaido's that first opened across the street on a pier over the water. But that was many hurricanes ago.
Usually there's a long wait for a table at lunch or dinner, but there's lots to look at while you kill time. I happen to love other people's stuff. I remember getting bogged down house hunting because I'd get too busy staring at the framed portraits and all the doodads that hinted at the seller's personality.
So Gaido's feels like an old home. I like all the cases of memorabilia and the family portraits that clutter the walls and Cupie's cut glass collection. (Love that name!) The Gaido's have owned this restaurant for over 100 years, so there's lots too look at.
Where is Everyone?
I love the people watching at Gaido's. On past visits, the restaurant was usually packed. Local families and friends gathered around the tables, with their white linens. I remember seeing birthday celebrations and romantic diners... Even in the day, there was always wait to be seated.
The tourists are easy to spot in their flip-flops and sunburns. (I choose to be amused instead of annoyed by the combination of white cloths and tacky tee shirts.) In the past Don and I have marveled at the skill of the professional waiters in their black vests and ties, maneuvering around the tables with martini glasses and trays of steaming seafood. But it was a quiet evening at Gaido's. Good, maybe Don and I could spend more time chatting with our waiter and learn more about the history of this Galveston icon.
Cheers to Carl
After Don and I were seated, we scanned the dining room hoping for an older waiter who was a part of Gaido history and had stories to tell, even if he wouldn't.
But our waiter Carl was about 25 years old and had just started working at Gaido's. When Don ordered a Manhattan, he seemed confused. When we asked for food suggestions, he had to think a long while. He hovered a bit much...with a sly, Norman Bates smile. So we got a newbie waiter... but he was a good guy. He certainly wasn't a know it all, intimidating waiter, you can tell by our expressions when he took our photo.
Carl may have been new, but he was able to answer lots of our questions. He praised Michael Carl Gaido who now runs the restaurant.
The family did not just hand the restaurant over to Michael. He graduated from The Culinary Institute of America and proved his worth with other restaurants before taking over. Carl said he was hands on in the kitchen, at the tables, working side by side at all levels. Sadly he was off that night. Don was brave enough to bring up the Fertitta family, another well-known Galveston family in the restaurant biz. Galveston is small enough that there were probably Fertitta kids and Gaido kids in school together bickering about which family made the best desserts. I can only imagine the family gossip when Tilman Fertitta began buying big names like Landry's and Golden Nugget Casinos. But Carl said Tilman actually dines at Gaido's now and then. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that.
I'm sure every family in Galveston could write a book on storm memories. Whether it's a story of great grandma surviving the hurricane in 1900 that killed 6,000, or recent stories about how many feet of water they had in their house during Ike.
Carl may have been a new employee, but he knew all about the Ike devastation in 2008 and how the restaurant pulled the tables into the parking lot and fed all the first responders. "They even used table cloths!" Carl said. I didn't believe him till I found this picture on the internet.
And the Food?
I guess I should mention the seafood. We chose pretty basic stuff, fried shrimp and scampi, but it was excellent. The batter was so light and the homemade sauces were tangy and creamy. The wedge salad with blue cheese was chunky and flavorful without overpowering. The thousand island was fresh on top of my mix of greens and veggies. A perfect Galveston meal.
One Last Thing
We asked Carl one more question. "So where's the local business crowd. We expected to see more regulars on a weeknight." He reminded us that there was a members only club. Hmmmm?
So that's where the real regulars go who don't want to see the flip flops and beach shirts. (can you blame them?) But just when I was getting up the nerve to ask to take a peek, he told us no one was in the club that night. He admitted members were aging a bit...not showing up like they used to. He encouraged us with a laugh, "It's not that expensive to join." I bet it was back in the day. I would have like to have peeked into that Members Club in the 1960's. Guess I'll have to just do my peeking in the gift shop.
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.