Pier 6 Is San Leon’s One-Two Punch of Oysters and Overnight Stays
This fishing town has some hidden luxuries
When you’re heading to the Gulf Coast, a lot of destinations probably spring to mind, including Galveston, South Padre Island, Port Aransas and a handful of sleepy beach towns dotting the shore. So it’s easy to overlook San Leon, the laid-back fishing community situated about 40 miles southeast of Houston.
The low-frills town is less crowded than many others in the area, and it’s conspicuously missing a theme park boardwalk like they have in nearby Kemah. But what San Leon lacks in roller coasters and carnival games it makes up for in casual, fun-loving bars, one of the state’s best new restaurants, and some newly opened bungalows where you can stay the night.
Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House opened in fall 2020 as an extension of Prestige Oysters, a family-run operation that has boats throughout the Gulf. Chef Joe Cervantez, formerly of top-notch restaurants like Killen’s Steakhouse and Brennan’s of Houston, runs the kitchen, and he does it well — Pier 6 was a 2022 James Beard Award semifinalist for best new restaurant.
“San Leon is our backyard; it was essential for us to begin here,” says Raz Halili, the vice president of Prestige Oysters and the owner of the restaurant and its offshoot bungalows. “Sitting near the end of the peninsula, guests of Pier 6 can often see our oyster and shrimp boats harvesting seafood.”
The second-generation oysterman says his family never set out to open a restaurant, recognizing the time and dedication required to run a successful business. But he noticed that the most successful restaurants often have a story to tell, and Pier 6 is a great way to tell the story of his family’s oyster business.
The Pier 6 menu features shrimp cocktail, crab cakes and lobster tacos. There’s gumbo and chowder, po’boys and fried fish sandwiches, and a full bar serving craft beers, wines and cocktails. But you can’t go to the restaurant without sampling the oysters caught just down the coast. Those are available on the half shell or grilled and dressed — the Hot Blooded preparation includes garlic, sriracha and habanero butter.
“I believe Texas produces some of the best oysters in the world,” Halili says. “The Texas oysters have many taste profiles with our extensive coastline, from buttery to briny.” He compares oysters to wine, with different regions producing different styles and flavors.
Considering San Leon’s small population, many of Pier 6’s customers come from Houston or other cities. The Halili family figured that diners might like a place to spend the night, so they opened the seaside Pier 6 Bungalows last year.
The bungalows feature four rooms ranging from 1,150 to 1,350 square feet. The standard bungalow has one king bed, while the deluxe option sports one king and two twins. Each has a living room and full kitchen, just in case you want to cook your day’s catch — or heat up some pizza rolls.
Staying at the bungalows and eating at the restaurant makes for a successful weekend, but there is more to do in San Leon than downing oysters and beers and then sleeping them off. For example, you can drink rum. That is easily accomplished at nearby Railean Distillers, which opened in 2006 as Texas’s first legal rum distillery. Today you can tour the distillery and sample rum, vodka, whiskey and an agave spirit, plus cocktails, all served in the pirate-themed Buccaneer Bar. Also, NASA Space Center is only 30 minutes away, so you can alway check that out, too. Though you’d have to bring your own rum.
This article was featured in the InsideHook Texas newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Lone Star State.
Suggested for you