7 fantastic restaurants to try in Beaumont

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Beaumont is known for being “Texas friendly, with lots of bayou fun”. For many en route to and from Houston, this southeast Texas city offers a welcome break from I-10 for great food, colorful murals, world-class art and a taste of Texas oil history.

But it’s the taste of pure Texas food and Texas hospitality that keeps me visiting for more than a little while. Here are some of the fun places to park your cowboy boots and sit down for a while.

Breakfast options at Rao’s Bakery (Photo credit: Meryl Pearlstein)

1. Rao’s Bakery

A local bakery with a strong personality, Rao’s has been mixing southern flavors with international influences for 80 years. Come here for a morning kolache, an authentic Italian espresso and a scoop of Italian gelato. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner treats are on offer, including homemade paninis and muffins “the size of your head.” If you’re visiting during Mardi Gras season, Rao’s bakes the best King Cakes in town. Bite into the multicolored cake and see if you get the plastic baby – if you did, you’ll have to come back to throw your own Mardi Gras party. Give owner Jake Tortorice your address and credit card information, and he’ll send you a cake in your favorite flavor. Rao’s is also a family affair. During the summer, they offer their Bake Camp to prepare children to bake their own cakes and cookies.

Pro tip: Notice the eggbeater sculpture in front of the bakery. This is part of Beaumont’s public art program. You’ll also find vibrant murals and painted Transformers all over town. All are made by local and national artists.

Crawfish at Crazy Cajun in Beaumont, Texas.
Crazy Cajun Crawfish (Photo credit: Meryl Pearlstein)

2. Crazy Cajun

You don’t want to wear white when it’s crawfish season. I don’t know anyone who goes here and doesn’t eat at least 5 pounds of these oversized, messy red shellfish. These mudbugs, as they are called, are different from others you might have tried in other states. True to their Texas heritage, they are the size of Texas. It’s a gala night where the whole family sits around a Crazy Cajun table with mountains of red on their plates in the outdoor restaurant. Music is big here, and the stage – with its bright mural of a crayfish playing an accordion by local artist Ines Alvidres – is home to bands and singers who will have you tapping away as you bust the body of the crayfish and vacuum the meat. (Yes, that’s really how it’s done.) Add blood sausage balls, shrimp stew, a frosted cup of Abita, and finish with a slice of lime pie with a shortbread crust. . The atmosphere and tastes are wildly Cajun: a perfect Beaumont meal.

Pro tip: Don’t confuse this with Krazy Kajun. They may look the same and have similar menus, but the one with the VSs gets my vote for most fun restaurant in Beaumont. Plus, he gets daily deliveries of fresh crayfish when in season (November-July), and you definitely don’t want to miss that!

Outdoor tables at Katherine & Company in Beaumont, Texas.
Meryl Pearlstein

3. Katharine & Company

Lines form here early for the creative, oversized sandwiches that Katharine & Company is known for. Housed in the Mediterranean Revival-style Mildred Building, a Texas landmark, Katherine & Company is only open for lunch. The atmosphere is very European, both in the menu and in the decoration. Homemade soups (try the fabulous tomato), starter salads, breads and desserts complete the sandwich menu. There’s a wide range to choose from, and it’s best to figure out your order before you reach the counter. Try a chicken salad sandwich with a surprise addition of red grapes, or try their house specialty – crab cake salad. You can decide that this “lunch stop” also covers you for dinner, and you can plan your next meal with their many pre-packaged items or dishes by the book.

Pro tips: Katharine & Company offers many vegetarian, low-fat, and gluten-free options. Extend your visit after lunch by shopping in the adjacent boutiques.

Offers at Tia Juanita's Fish Camp in Beaumont, Texas.
Meryl Pearlstein

4. Tia Juanita Fishing Camp

You are in the south near the gulf coast, so you should definitely visit Tia Juanita Fish Camp for some local seafood. A stop on the Cajun Trail, this local restaurant serves dishes with Mexican and Cajun accents. Toss your dinner with an okra entrée brimming with gulf shrimp and crab. Grab a frozen margarita or two and grab some blood sausage quesadillas, the epitome of fusion cuisine. Shrimp and grits, tacos, crawfish, blood sausage balls (it’s Cajun after all) and fried fish baskets – there’s just about anything you’d want to eat after a day of fishing. Today you don’t have to be a sailor to enjoy this tradition – just bring your appetite. Add some rock music and you’ve got an instant party!

5. J. Wilson’s

Neighborhood hangout, J. Wilson’s offers a relaxing evening of bourbons and beers along with a fun made-from-scratch menu. I had to try the Man Candy simply because of its name. It turned out to be smoked pork belly mixed with habanero jelly, a rich and flavorful dish with a burst of heat. A perfect companion, the Grown Man Grilled Cheese raises the bar for the humble sandwich by blending American, smoked gouda and jack cheeses with a side of smoked tomato sauce. Taking its proximity to the coast very seriously, J. Wilson’s oyster nachos are a beauty choice: cornmeal-crusted Gulf oysters on a corn tortilla with Fresno peppers, remoulade, pesto aioli and salsa of but. You’ll have to trust me – it’s hard to go back to regular beef and cheese nachos after trying them, but they’re also on the menu, if you prefer. The starters are equally delicious. J. Wilson’s version of kidney beans and rice combines slow-cooked camellia beans and puffed rice with ham hocks and andouille sausage. The signature Burger chef adds even more “Man Candy”, with Man Candy smoked onions over smoked gouda, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles in a truly human-sized sandwich.

Pro tips: There is a rotating selection of beers. If you love bourbon, J. Wilson’s has over 25 choices. Take a seat at the bar, strike up a conversation with a local and try a flight.

Barbecue at KO Korean Grill in Beaumont, Texas.
Barbecue spread at KO Korean Grill (Photo credit: KO Korean Grill)

6. Korean KO Grill

KO Korean Grill, a family run establishment, is a visit to Korea, right in Texas. The Grill brings the best of Korean cuisine and tradition to Beaumont…with Mom at the helm. The gorgeous restaurant is modern and bright with cooking grills at your table set under silver pipes and vents. The menu is designed to be shared by couples or groups of four (or multiples thereof). You can start your feast with an assortment of fried chicken wings or seafood. Or try a house specialty, Ko-Gi messy fries topped with bulgogi (barbecue beef), spicy gochujang chili sauce, homemade aioli and green onions. Then the Korean barbecue begins. Choose a beef, pork, or seafood combo, or mix it up with all three and watch your dinner prepare in front of you. To complete the experience, an assortment of Korean kimchi adds a mix of fermented and spicy small plates. Be adventurous and try a strong bottled soju or soju cocktail. Whether you choose unflavored or flavored, Korea’s answer to sake helps tame the heat of the meal. For the perfect Instagram shot, Supamelon Bang Punch is made with soju and watermelon and served in a squeezed watermelon.

Pro tips: If you feel like it, you can try cooking the barbecue yourself. Luckily, KO Korean Grill stays open from late morning until late evening. When you’re done, walk by for a nightcap at the popular rooftop bar Pour09.

The chest stand at Buc-ees in Baymont, Texas.
The beef brisket stand at Buc-ees (Photo credit: Melody Pittman)

7. Bucces

A welcome break on the 75-mile journey from Beaumont to Houston, Buc-ees in Baytown is an institution. You may know Stuckey’s, South of the Border, or remember an old Howard Johnson, but there’s really only one Buc-ees. You can peruse their rows and rows of wares and souvenirs, and take a welcome break in the cleanest, sleekest restrooms you’ll ever see on the roadside. But Buc-ees is a must stop for their brisket sandwich, a beautifully juicy pile of beef in barbecue sauce on a lightly buttered bun. When they coined the term “melt-in-mouth,” they definitely had Buc-ees chest in mind. Don’t confuse it with their pulled pork – although it’s just as good – the brisket is the star. Around the corner from the station where the slicers in bright yellow cowboy hats are working non-stop, there are heaps of nuts, candies and other sweets to take home. If they have lime fudge, try it; it really tastes like lime pie. There’s a full range of drinks to add to your on-the-go meal. Now you can get back on the road with peace of mind.

Pro tip: Since Buc-ees also bills itself as a truck stop, it’s a great place to refuel your car.

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