I was desperate to escape the conference hotel where for the past two days I was stranded without a car and with nowhere to walk. The food on property was dreadful to the point where they overcooked the over easy eggs, dried out the pancakes and made frozen french fries seem like a gourmet treat. With a suggestion for the best filet, I was in a cab (at a cost of about $22 each way!) driving toward the center of Galveston, to the Strand area of shops/restaurants to find Rudy & Paco. The restaurant, next to the Opera House, serves seafood and steaks with Central and South American influences and flavors. The cab pulled right up to the restaurant which didn’t look appealing from the outside but once I opened the steel door, I entered an entirely different world.
Thinking that 6 p.m. was early on Saturday for dinner, I was dismayed to be told that the next bar seat wouldn’t be available for at least an hour (the wrong thing to say to a hungry person who escaped the tedium of the hotel and paid a crazy cab fare). Mentioning my disappointment to the hostess and host, they took my name and mobile number and said they would call me as soon as they could. In the meantime, I could wait at their sister restaurant/bar across the street. I passed on the “sit at the bar” option as my mood would veer toward a “pity party” liquid dinner had I gone there. Instead, I went in search of a different type of “pity party” treat – candy!
So I had an hour to wander the streets of Galveston which was easy to do as I window shopped here and there. It was the old fashioned candy store with ice cream counter of La King’s that I was on the hunt for as I really needed a chocolate infusion. Walking past many bars and restaurants, you can see the vibrant scene of the city in these few blocks (the other parts I walked past were office buildings, parking lots, and just blah concrete structures). Finding La King’s, I entered candy heaven and revisited a bit of my childhood candy store memories. While trying to decide just how many pieces of chocolate would soothe my escape, my mobile rang to let me know my bar stool was available. It wasn’t quite an hour, probably 35 minutes at that point. Paying for my treats, I made my way back to Rudy & Paco’s a few blocks away.
Greeted by the host Paco, one of the owners, he apologized for the wait and my hotel experience. He said that the bartender would take good care of me. My seat was closest to the wall of celebrity photos and quite cozy at the end of the L shaped bar. The bartender brought me plantains to snack on as I perused the menu. While I was told to get the filet, there were so many tempting options available. Asking the bartender for help, she agreed the filet (Filete de Carne Presidente) was the way to go.
Despite having eaten way too many plantains, I couldn’t say no to the warm bread basket that showed up before my entree. Somehow my stomach wanted to make up for the dreadful convention hotel food it had been subjected to and forgot to tell my brain to stop. I was an empty pit to fill up with tasty, fresh, interesting foods and flavors washed down with Malbec.
Once my entree arrived and I took one bite into the marinated beef, my $44 taxi ride was suddenly a small price to pay for food happiness. I found my happy place in Galveston with each delicate, melt in your mouth, bite. The steak was accompanied by cheesy potato square, carrots and asparagus.
After finishing my entree, Paco came over to check on me (he had done this after the plantains too) and chat. How many restaurants do you visit today where the owner is working on a Saturday night (or at all) and also taking the time to talk with all patrons? He made me laugh and feel welcome despite dining solo.
It’s no secret that I’m a dessert addict but while my brain was saying “full”, my stomach was in charge eyeing up at least five options. It was the cuatro leches cake, Paco’s family recipe from Nicaragua that the bartender and Paco steered me toward. The cake topped with caramel was drenched in three different milks. The cake sponged up the milk with the remaining milk on the plate for the fruit to enjoy the bath. When I used my fork to break a piece of cake off, the milk squeezed out of the cake (thankfully I had my Lactaid pills!). I can’t even find the words to explain how blissful this dessert experience was for me – it was one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten – definitely a top 5!
When the bill came, it was missing the charge for the cake, I was told “it was on Paco”! The cake had already made me swoon (or maybe the two large pours of wine) – the genuine, old fashion hospitality was so appreciated. Paco knew I wasn’t coming back to his restaurant as a regular, I was just passing through and yet he treated me to a slice of happiness in the form of cake. I was grinning like the celebrities on the wall in their photos with Paco – they must have had the cake too!