Thursday, May 2, 2013

Galveston Reminds Me of New Orleans…

for its survivalist instincts—and I am not talking here about those folks you see on ”Doomsday Preppers”. What I mean—and admire—is their residents’ love of place and willingness to come back after major natural disasters. And today brings us to a survivor—Mosquito Café.

“…Opened in May 1999, this little bistro was selected by the Zagat Survey…as one of the Top 15 Restaurants in the Houston Metropolitan Area and the Top ‘Eclectic-International’…. Also voted by Galveston County residents as ‘Best Overall Restaurant’ in Galveston County, ‘Best Business Lunch’, and…’Friendliest Service’ [Galveston County Daily News] (

“Mosquito Café is housed in a large yet quaint, renovated, two-story, 158-year-old structure in Galveston's historic East End, a little bit off the beaten path if you're accustomed to The Strand and Seawall. For 12 years, the cafe has been serving fresh, eclectic food ranging from sandwiches, pasta, and salads to inspired brunch dishes in a spacious and bright atmosphere. The high ceilings and large windows provide a light, open space to enjoy a good meal on a sunny day if their patio happens to be packed” (Ginny Braud at

I can’t tell you why the name Mosquito Café. Is it named for “…the shrimp boats that comprise Galveston Island’s fishing flotilla known as the Mosquito Fleet” ( or because "Any local knows this city was built on a sweaty, pestilent, mosquito-infested swamp” ( But a mosquito is sketched on a chalkboard
hanging over the order counter and one can be seen perched on one of the “nets” hanging from the ceiling. At least they don’t present
your food with a plastic mosquito decoration like the Blow Fly Inn in Gulfport, MS (seen on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives) who present every plate with a plastic blow fly.

The Mosquito Café is owned and operated by Steven or Stephen (I have seen both spellings on the internet) Rennick and his wife and children. (They also own Patty Cakes Bakery just across the street.) Chuck had run into Steven or Stephen (heretofore to be know as just S.R.) when photographing one of the wood sculptures located in the café’s parking lot. When asked if he was the owner of the café, S.R. modestly replied that he helped them out with their catering. He obviously does much more than that.
The café was opened in 1999 and in 2008 suffered considerable water damage thanks to Hurricane Ike. During a brief conversation with S.R. on the day of our lunch, we learned that just before the storm they had installed a new walk-in that needed post-hurricane replacement.

We also learned that rebuilding would be unlikely should the business be destroyed again. And this sentiment closely mimicked that of many New Orleans residents with whom we had talked on our post-Katrina visits.

The café’s menu offers endless possibilities. Do I order the Chinese Chop Salad with grilled chicken breast atop napa cabbage, crispy noodles, mandarin oranges (hold the oranges), and toasted almonds with an Asian dressing? Or should it be the Far East End with medium rare ahi tuna, angel hair pasta, cucumbers, sweet peppers, shredded carrots, and pickled ginger over mixed greens and served with three Asian sauces (spicy sambal vinaigrette, tamari sesame vinaigrette, wasabi cream)? How about the Thai Chicken Salad with grilled breast of chicken on a bed of mixed greens, red cabbage, shredded carrots, cilantro, green onions, and sweet peppers, tossed with tamari sesame vinaigrette, and topped with roasted peanuts and Thai peanut sauce? No, it will be the Asian Bowl.

This was a cold salad composed of angel hair pasta, pickled ginger, sweet bell peppers, shredded carrots, red cabbage, cilantro, and green onions tossed in a tamari sesame vinaigrette. While the menu lists rare sliced beef as one of the ingredients, as options you can chose chicken or shrimp. Given that shrimping is a major Galveston industry, I chose the shrimp and a wise choice that was.

The bowl was topped with seven sweet crustaceans that had been grilled with a seasoning that I can only describe as Louisiana Cajun married to Chesapeake Old Bay. I loved the contrast of texture with
the soft noodles balanced with the crunchy vegetables. While I thought that the dressing had a bit too much vinegar, I am sure that the acid level would have made the judges on Top Chef very happy.

Chuck has been hungry for pasta so couldn’t resist the Simply Pasta—linguini tossed in a rosemary alfredo sauce topped with grilled breast of chicken and imported parmesan cheese with a toast point. I would
never have thought of adding rosemary to an alfredo sauce, but with the grilled chicken, this was a perfect partner. And the rosemary had been used with a light hand so you got its undertones without its sometimes overly piney taste. Unfortunately, the pasta did seem to have cooled from the time it was completed in the kitchen and it arrived at our table.

Like Café a la Carte in Tucson, Mosquito Café is an order-at-the-counter restaurant and—again like Café a la Carte—there before you is the pastry case. Could we resist temptation? Of course not. The three offerings from their Patty Cakes Bakery were a triple chocolate cake, a zucchini spice cake, and this wonderful Lemonade Dream Cake. It was moist, dense, and packed with tart lemon flavor. And there is something about a cream cheese icing on a tart cake that makes it special. Life the buttermilk mixed berry cake at Café a la Carte.

The cafe’s motto is “One Bite is All It Takes,” and while there were a couple of minor glitches that resulted in a 4.5 Addie rating, one bite is all it took to tell me that, should we ever return to Galveston, I’ll come back for another bite.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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