100 Favorite Dishes: No. 4, Oysters on the Half Shell at Casey's

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​This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

Every Houstonian who partakes of the noble bivalve has their own recommendation for the spot to get for Gulf oysters. Notably, Robb Walsh's favorite local spot is Gilhooley's in San Leon. J.C. Reid loves the Hurricane on Oak Island. Alison Cook recommends Sonny's down in Galveston. And I love Casey's.

Casey's often gets overlooked by its more popular and more storied sister restaurant, Gaido's. I love Gaido's, too. In fact, I have many fond memories from Gaido's as a kid, including eating my very first soft-shell crab. But while Gaido's is one of the oldest restaurants on the island, Casey's is no young upstart: It's been open for more than 50 years. And although Gaido's is the more expensive of the pair, the two restaurants share a kitchen, so the food itself is the same.

A few dozen trays of raw oysters and a couple of beers at Casey's are exactly how I like to pass a Saturday lunch down on the island. You're on the seawall, but not in an obnoxiously touristy area, so the view out onto the Gulf of Mexico remains similar to the sleepy Galveston of my youth. The oysters at Casey's are always fresh, sweet, plump, buttery and briny -- those last three being what makes a Gulf oyster so special, so unique from their East Coast or West Coast counterparts.

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Casey's signature fiberglass shrimp quietly surveys the Gulf.
It's a tribute to the Gaido family that Gaido's and Casey's were among the first restaurants to re-open on Galveston Island after Hurricane Ike hit in 2008. Casey's took a while to get its full menu back up, but it happily fed the island's residents what food it could get while it recovered. And on my first trip back to Galveston after Ike, it was Casey's oysters that were the very first thing I sought out. Thankfully, the oysters had returned and they were my first taste of Galveston, post-Ike; an assuring taste and a happy one.

The list so far:

No. 100: Dumplings at Heights Asian Cafe
No. 99: Mixta Pizza at Friends Pizzeria
No. 98: Veggie tacos from Radical Eats
No. 97: Bean pie from Conscious Cafe
No. 96: Swiss chard crepes from Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
No. 95: Eggs Mia Bella at Mia Bella
No. 94: Mulligatawny soup at the Queen Vic
No. 93: Helado de Lúcuma from Pollo Bravo
No. 92: Black bean burger from Natachee's
No. 91: Chupacabra pizza from ERA
No. 90: Roast chicken from El Norteño
No. 89: Eggs El Salvador from Brasil
No. 88: Frank the Pretzel from Eatsie Boys
No. 87: Caldo Tlalpeño from Tacos del Julio
No. 86: English pea soup at Brasserie 19
No. 85: Falafel from Zabak's
No. 84: Buttermilk-fried pork loin with fried eggs at Canopy
No. 83: Grillades and grits from BB's Cajun Cafe
No. 82: Haemul dolsot from Seoul House
No. 81: Pandan waffles at Parisian Bakery III
No. 80: Pita bread and hummus at Phoenicia
No. 79: Goat pepper soup at Peppersoup Cafe
No. 78: Melon and Texas feta salad from Beaver's
No. 77: Hot Italian beef from BB's Beef & Hot Dog
No. 76: Bacon-avocado burger from Facundo Cafe
No. 75: Pancakes from Fountain View Cafe
No. 74: Hobnobs from Fluff Bake Bar
No. 73: Chu chee eggplant from Nidda Thai
No. 72: Sausage sampler from King's Biergarten
No. 71: Shawarma from Abdallah's
No. 70: Moules-frite at the Broken Spoke
No. 69: Hong Kong-style French toast at House of Bowls
No. 68: Sashimi sampler at Sushi Miyagi
No. 67: Baleadas from Honduras Mayan
No. 66: Snow ice from Star Snow Ice & Teriyaki
No. 65: Boudin balls from MerCheri's
No. 64: Miso ramen at Umai
No. 63: Grim burger at Lankford Grocery
No. 62: Dabeli at Bansuri Indian Food Corner
No. 61: Wine and cupcakes at 13 Celsius
No. 60: Pâté de France from Spec's
No. 59: Steak and eggs from Ninfa's on Navigation
No. 58: Breakfast pita at Niko Niko's
No. 57: Vegan curry at Cafe TH
No. 56: Samosas at Shiv Sagar
No. 55: Ceviche at Latin Bites Cafe
No. 54: Wicked Philly at Pappa Geno's
No. 53: Pork chop at Perry's Steakhouse
No. 52: Soft-shell crab at Pico's Mex-Mex
No. 51: Sno-balls at MAM's House of Ice
No. 50: Whole catfish at Saigon Pagolac
No. 49: Nova fish box at New York Bagel & Coffee Shop
No. 48: Sojok mana'eesh at Cedars Bakery
No. 47: Pho ga at Pho Ga Dakao
No. 46: Sicilia salad at Trevisio
No. 45: Dahi puri at Sweet 'n' Namkin
No. 44: Hot dogs at Moon Tower Inn
No. 43: Real guacamole at Yelapa Playa Mexicana
No. 42: Akaushi short ribs at Soma Sushi
No. 41: Country-fried chicken livers at Haven
No. 40: Seafood gumbo at Cajun Town Cafe
No. 39: Tacos at Karanchos
No. 38: Crepes at Melange Creperie
No. 37: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen
No. 36: Guanciale burger at Plonk
No. 35: Snapper al cilantro at Teotihuacan
No. 34: The Houstonian at James Coney Island
No. 33: The Montrose at Amy's Ice Cream
No. 32: Lobster bisque at Philippe
No. 31: Tacos de cabeza y orejas at El Ultimo
No. 30: Oyster stew at Danton's
No. 29: Fried oysters at TQLA
No. 28: Banh mi at Cali Sandwich
No. 27: Captin's fried chicken at Zelko Bistro
No. 26: The Brisket House Special at The Brisket House
No. 25: Menudo at La Mexicana
No. 24: Chargrilled oysters at Wild Cajun
No. 23: Breakfast tacos at Revival Market
No. 22: Sticky toffee pudding at Branch Water Tavern
No. 21: Tex-Mex burger at El Real Tex-Mex Cafe
No. 20: Lasagna at Capri Pasta Pizza & More
No. 19: Pork rillette at Feast
No. 18: Chicken fried steak at Triple A
No. 17: Crème brûlée bread pudding at Killen's
No. 16: Migas at La Guadalupana
No. 15: Snapper with grapefruit at Kata Robata
No. 14: Venison carpaccio at Thanh Phuong
No. 13: Mesquite-grilled shrimp poboy at Goode Co. Seafood
No. 12: Tamarind-glazed salmon at Samba Grille
No. 11: Bone marrow service at Stella Sola
No. 10: Ribs at Gatlin's
No. 9: Shrimp and grits at Brennan's
No. 8: Barbacoa at Hugo's
No. 7: Texas shrimp chaat at Pondicheri
No. 6: Saigon burger at The Burger Guys
No. 5: Tagliarini with black truffles at Da Marco



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Location Info

Gaido's

3828 Seawall Blvd., Galveston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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20 comments
FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

I just saw a rebuttal saying that ambience and atmosphere make this dish better.  I find that contradictory to this entire list.  If that were the case, we'd be seeing a lot more Rainbow Lodge, V&A's, Baba Yega and Brenners on the Bayou offerings, instead of taco trucks, hot dog stands, etc.  This was a list of simply the best 100 dishes in Houston (area).  Raw oysters and nice scenery have no rhyme or reason being on this list at all, much less at #4.

Wyatt
Wyatt

But Galveston's not even in Houston and how could this be you and Robb Walsh have offended my geographic sensibilities for the last time *puts gun in mouth, pulls trigger*

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

Is it their cocktail sauce?  Do they get a special horseradish?  To me a dish shouldn't be a food that's available at dozens of places around town.  Unless Casey's has a unique vendor.

Tim
Tim

I try to avoid being negative in these comments, but I have to ask what is the deal with the crushed ice on the oysters? If I were served a dozen that had ice on them, I'd eat 'em but I wouldn't order another dozen. 

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

I too am glad they opened quickly.  But, it helped that they had no water ingress.

Megan
Megan

@Wyatt: *snerk* 

Next year, Katharine, forget this "Best in Houston" name.  You need to call the list by its proper name: 100 Favorite Dishes in the Houston-Baytown-Sugar Land Metropolitan Statistical Area.  Because WE MUST BE LITERAL ABOUT EVERYTHING.

Jscarbor
Jscarbor

I agree, oysters? This is the 2nd time someone at HP has put raw oysters near the top of the list I believe. Are these oysters better than Tony Mandola's, Dantons, even pappadeaux? Don't get me wrong, I love oysters in the winter, its as comforting as a bowl of soup.Its just kind of  pathetic that raw oysters are the 4th best dish you had in Houston area this year.  

Fred
Fred

 Agree 100% - No crushed ice on the oysters!

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I might have also been hoping that no one would notice the ice... ;)

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

No, you've got a good point. This is the only photo I could find of my own that I took at Casey's. I should have gone back and gotten a better one, given that this tray is literally the only time I've ever received oysters at Casey's with ice on them...

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

It sure did, not like the poor folks on The Strand who were absolutely flooded.  :(

Megan
Megan

What's wrong with oysters?  Yeah, they're simple, but sometimes simplicity speaks for itself.  Would you rather she put a completely baroque, over-the-top dish up here just to please you?

Scott218
Scott218

Definitely better than pappadeux. Pappadeaux will insert the oysters vertically into a mound of crushed ice, an inexcusable offense. I think it also speaks wonders that a dish so simple can be #4 on someone's list. Oysters stand on their own and don't need to have the "Food Network" treatment.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

I think it has to do with the freshness of the oysters, literally coming "FOB" in Galveston. I can honestly say the second-best* raw oysters I've ever had in my life were at Casey's. I even found a pearl in one. The experience is enhanced by sitting on the patio and looking out at the people cruising the Seawall, surfing the piers, etc.

*The best oysters I ever had were also from Galvestion, consumed on the beach, having been delivered straight from Pier 19 in an igloo cooler. We used screw drivers to open them, and they cringed when squirted with lemon juice. It's hard to get them that fresh even in Houston proper.

Cheflambo
Cheflambo

I agree -- that ice should NOT be there. 

Megan
Megan

Full disclosure: I am not an oyster person.  I will eat oysters, but they are not my favorite bivalve in the world.  (Give me steamed mussels any day.)  However, there is something to be said for eating seafood as close to the source as possible.  The best seafood I ever had was at Mont St. Michel in a little restaurant overlooking the Atlantic.  The prawns and clams were prepared simply; a squirt of lemon was all they needed to shine.  I firmly believe that the fresher the product, the better it tastes.  Brittanie talked about that above, and Anthony Bourdain has written about his "madeleine moment" in France.

Also, your comparison to vodka is not analogous.  Vodka is not supposed to have any taste; its translation from the Slavic languages is "little water".  In that case, yeah, I'm not going to pay for Belvedere or Grey Goose when Smirnoff or Stolichnaya will work just as well, especially if I'm mixing it with other ingredients.  Oysters are each going to have a different taste based on where the bed is located and the different minerals it's digested.  This goes back to the discussion earlier this year regarding Gulf oyster appellations - there are some people that are willing to pay extra money to sample oysters from different beds and experience the different taste of each oyster and some who would rather just buy the sack, mineral content and salinity of the oyster be damned.

I keep going back to the scene in "Ratatouille" where Anton Ego eats the titular dish and is transported to his childhood.  In this case, it's not a fancy dish with bells and whistles, foie gras torchons and truffles that he raves about; it's a humble peasant dish.  Food has the ability to take us to different places, and sometimes it's the simplest dishes that stick with us more than the really fancy ones.

Wyatt
Wyatt

If I may, I think the point some people are making is that raw oysters are like vodka - at the high-quality end of the spectrum, there's not much difference between different providers.

I'm inclined to see the other side of the argument, though - that a little extra freshness does make a difference.

Dr. Ricky
Dr. Ricky

They've quickly halted this practice at least a year ago. 

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