Friday Night Dinner Date in Beaumont
What is there to do on a Friday night in Southeast Texas? How about dinner and drinks in America’s culinary Golden Triangle? The geographic “triangle” is formed by Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange, and the golden modifier comes from the wealth of Spindletop. In foodie terms, it’s the intersection of savory Tex-Mex, spicey Cajun, and fresh Gulf seafood. You’ll learn more as we go, but here are your page one choices:
- Chaba – Outside, it’s an unassuming building in a suburban strip mall. Inside, you’ll find legit Thai food and even a traditional seated tea room for your sipping pleasure.
- Crazy Cajun – An outpost of a Louisiana favorite with fresh crawfish, fresh catfish, alligator, crab, and shrimp. They’re known for their gumbo and barbeque crab. If you don’t know, BBQ crab was invented at Granger’s in Sabine Pass, TX. They’re fried blue crab with BBQ seasoning and Beaumont’s contribution to the food world.
- Sweet Basil – Vietcajun is the ultimate golden triangle fusion. The Gulf shrimping industry has recently brought in many Vietnamese immigrants, who add their own spices and flare. Vietcajun might soon be recognized as a new and unique regional food, alongside BBQ.
Our choice was Chaba, and it knocked our socks off. The first thing we noticed was that they take their spices seriously in Cajun country. They served Thai with a kick, but it was so good. We felt a bit remiss that we passed on not one but two Beaumont foods to eat here, but that went away after our first taste.
Friday Night Cocktails
To be fair, Chaba had a legit good drink menu, so we didn’t “need” a nightcap. But the best Friday nights don’t come from sticking to what’s needed. #livealittle. Your three options have totally different vibes.
- Lacuna Tequila Bar – Beaumont’s newest upscale cocktail lounge specializing in tequila (when in Texas…). You’ll have to try their Paloma, tequila-based cocktail prepared by mixing tequila, lime juice, and a grapefruit-flavored soda. If you want to go big (and everything is bigger in Texas), get it topped with a smoking citrus bubble.
- Little Woodrow’s – A classic good-time bar with swings, lawn games, and one of the best and biggest patios in town. While you’re there, try their Topo Chico Chiller, a 22-ounce mug filled with Western Sun vodka, blueberry or watermelon puree, an inverted Topo Chico, and two lime wedges. You know you’re going big when your drink needs not one but two lime wedges!
- Logon Café – You’ll find everything from tea to tequila at this former computer repair shop rebooted as a dive bar. You’ll find floppy disks in the countertops and even a payphone. Alt.cool.cool.
Our choice – Little Woodrow’s. The fact that it was walking distance from Chaba helped us decide, but after our Topo Chico Chiller, we realized that we were farther than stumbling distance from our hotel. Good thing there was enough fun and games for us to get our senses back and get home safely. However, if you really want to go big, Uber to Chaba / Little Woodrow’s and, most importantly, Uber back.
Where to Stay in Beaumont
Friday nights eventually come to an end, and you’ll need a place to stay in Beaumont. While there aren’t any options that will knock your boots off, there are some decent choices at great price points.
- Homewood Suites by Hilton Beaumont – TripAdvisor’s #1 traveler’s rated property, especially if you love suites and Hiltons.
- MCM Elegante Hotel – a Texas / New Mexico small chain hotel with a pool and conference facilities.
- Days Inn by Wyndham Beaumont West I-10 Walden – Booking.com’s top-rated hotel and a name you can trust.
Our choice – MCM Elegante. We came in with tempered expectations, but the MCM experience far exceeded them for its price point. The rooms were nice, and we appreciated the on-premise Starbucks. It was a little too cool to use the pool, but we would have been in it every night during the summer. Plus, they offer complimentary shuttle service within the city limits, which might save you enough money on Uber to get a second Topo Chico Chiller 😉
Saturday Morning Breakfast in Beaumont
Everybody has to eat, but if you’re in Beaumont, eating is an adventure, so here are your choices:
- Hemingway’s Cafe – A full-service restaurant at the MCM Elegante
- Starbucks – for grab and go breakfast (and coffee) at the MCM Elegante
- Rao’s – the oldest bakery in Southeast Texas
Our choice – Rao’s. We went for experience over convenience here and weren’t disappointed. The breakfast burritos were decent, but the desserts were decadent. We were going to go for the Texas-size cinnamon buns, but we couldn’t pass up the chocolate cheesecake. Who says you can’t have cheesecake for breakfast?!? Also, their coffee kicked the buns off of certain Seattle-based chains that will not be mentioned. Note, the original Calder Ave location isn’t open on weekends, so go to the other location on Dowlen Rd. instead.
Exploring Big Thicket
Big Thicket has been called ‘America’s Ark’ and the ‘Biological Crossroads of North America.’ It’s a National Preserve and a UNESCO Biological Preserve, but its boundaries aren’t precisely defined. It seems like every wooded area north of Beaumont gets lumped into the Big Thicket. The ecology is equally diverse, with as many as eleven ecosystems in a relatively small area: uplands, sandy lands, savannas, slope forests, floodplains, bay galls, flats, cypress sloughs, mixed-grass prairies, and river/roadside edges. All of this diversity begs for a choose your own adventure:
- Kayak on one of three Texas Paddling trails in the Big Thicket
- Hike with carnivorous plants on the Pitcher Plant Trail
- Mountain bike in the Turkey Creek Unit
Our choice, kayaking the 4.8-mile Cooks Lake to Scatterman Paddling Trail with Big Thicket Outfitters. We met our guide, Gerald, at the Saltwater Barrier boat launch. He loved the Neches River and made it his calling to show her off. Of all the 900-year-old cypress we paddled through, the most impressive was the Madonna Tree, with a very peculiar shape in her roots. It was early in the season, so we didn’t have that photogenic canopy of green overhead, but we were lucky that the water was down far enough to see “The Madonna” in her full glory.
Lunch in Lumberton
Eaters gonna eat, and you worked up an appetite paddling in the Big Thicket, so you lumber into Lumberton for lunch on the way back into town. You have three choices:
- Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp – a Mexican Cajun seafood with Nola vibes
- Juan’s Mexican Food – Linguistically speaking, this is a Mexican food restaurant the belongs to the nephew.
- Eddie’s Gyros and Pizza – You don’t know the relationship between Eddie and the Juans, but you can guess he serves gyros and pizza.
Our choice, Tia Juanita’s, and not only because we knew 1) her relationship, 2) her size, and 3) it’s a fish camp. In fact, we still don’t know quite what a fish camp is, but the food and drinks were excellent. The shrimp and crab dip was off the hook, and we had to try boudin balls while we were in Cajun country. We also had to soak up the Nola vibes with their signature frozen flights.
Explore Downtown Beaumont
After Lumberton’s lunch and libations, it’s time to tackle big Beau. Beaumont has probably the most friendly downtown of any city its size. There’s ample free parking and minimal traffic, but still plenty of fun things to do in Downtown Beaumont. Your options are:
- Tour St. Anthony Basilica (one of 4 minor basilicas in Texas)
- Go to a museum (there are 19 to choose from)
- Explore Beaumont by bike
Our choice – biking Beaumont. There’s over 11-miles of biking between the downtown Beaumont loop and the Calder Ave bike lanes. We saw the historic architecture and recent public art, including a plethora of statues, dozens of murals, and the world’s largest operational fire hydrant. The route took us by the museums and basilica too, so, in a way, we saw it all.
Saturday Night Delight
You worked up quite an appetite biking, so it’s time to grab an early dinner. Your choices are:
- Daddio’s Burgers – an old school burger joint
- Tacos La Bamba – A taco shop that grew out of a video store. (maybe you should make this a two-fer and go to Logon Café afterward)
- Carmela’s – one of the top 10 quesos in Texas
Our choice – Carmela’s. We’ve been to Daddio’s before, and it’s a legit burger, but we wanted to experience the Mexican leg of Beaumont’s golden food triangle. By the way, the queso was, in fact, epic.
The Best Sunset in Beaumont
It’s setting up to be a beautiful sunset, with just enough clouds to capture the oranges and red as your favorite celestial nuclear reactor dips below the horizon. You Google for the best places to see the sunset in Beaumont Tx, and get nothing. You switch to the image search and see three photos coming up again and again:
- Cattail Marsh – Sunset over the boardwalk at Cattail Marsh
- Spindletop – Sunset over the oil wells at the birthplace of the oil rush.
- Neches River – Sunset over the water
Our choice – Cattail Marsh, and it wasn’t even close. This is the number one thing to do in Beaumont, and about 1/4 of all the sunset pictures are taken here. Beaumont is at the intersection of two major bird migration routes, so you never know what you’re going to see here. A lot of people saw gators here, but it was a little cool when we went. However, the sunset was phenomenal.
Sunday Brunch in Beaumont
You have time for one last meal before bidding Beaumont adieus. Perhaps brunch counts as two. Either way, your choice here is critical. World peace and hundreds of fluffy puppies depend on this decision. Your options are:
- J. Wilson’s – An upscale brunch establishment
- Toasted Yolk – A regional chain featuring classic brunch favorites with farm-to-table freshness.
- Black Bear Diner – Where you can have breakfast for brunch, lunch, linner, or dinner.
Our choice – J Wilson’s. Toasted Yolk would be a close second, especially if you can’t wait for J Wilson’s to open at 10:00. But we did. And it was worth it for the Man Candy alone! I mean, slow-smoked pork belly tossed in habanero jelly is worth waiting for.
Explore Beaumont’s Coastal Nature Preserves
The Gulf Coast is less than an hour away from Beaumont and worth exploring if you set your expectations right. Don’t expect beach resorts and umbrella drinks. This is rugged country that gets periodically scoured clean by hurricanes. Despite this, or maybe because of it, the Beaumont Coast is home to a wide variety of nature preserves. Your options are:
- Sea Rim State Park – One of the last places you can drive on the beach
- McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge – Miles of road extending into the salt marshes
- Anahuac Wildlife Refuge – Meandering bayous that empty into Galveston Bay.
We picked Sea Rim State Park and took our ride on the beach. However, the storm damage took out the boardwalk and shut down the boat docks into the marshland, so we headed next door to McFaddin. It was a real gem with an abundance of life easily accessible by a series of paved and smooth gravel roads.
Parting Thoughts on the Beaumont Outdoors
There are many ways to get outdoors in Beaumont, from the Big Thicket to Sea Rim State Park, to Cattail Marsh. Each one is a little different, but they all share a common theme of biodiversity and outstanding bird watching. Peak spring migration occurs from March through May, and peak fall migration runs from August through November.
These are also the times when it’s nicest to be outside. It’s getting hot (and muggy) in May, and it’s still sweltering in August, but there’s a window every spring and fall when it’s simply incredible to be outdoors in Southeast Texas. We were a bit early in mid-February for both the migration and everything leafing out, but it was still a pleasant trip. We can’t wait to return during the “prime time” to see everything at its most vibrant leafiness.
As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.
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