Making my diet slip count

It isn’t pleasant falling off the diet wagon when you are seriously dieting. The slip and fall reminds me of my first attempt to kick cigarettes. I felt bad the first few times I had a smoke but, by God, I had a good cigarette when I slipped or so I thought of a Dunhill Light back then. Now I suppose I am required to say no cigarette is a good cigarette. But have you ever smoked? If you really enjoyed cocaine, was that snootful of coke really bad, or like cigarettes, just bad for you?

I digress and don’t endorse the use of cigarettes or cocaine or overeating or neglecting your diet for that matter. But if you have to slip, you need to make it count and that is what I did today for lunch.

My tumble from the wagon was fried seafood. And when I say seafood, I mean fried fresh seafood or fresh fried seafood from the Gulf of Mexico.

If you aren’t from Texas you may not know of what I speak and that may be even if you are. But so much media dealing with food — I hesitate to say “food media” because I am referring to media that are writing or broadcasting stories in general — in Texas seems to be “barbecue-centric.” That makes sense, of course, because Texas is know for barbecue, beef mostly.

The next “centric” tends to be “Hill Country-centric.” That too is no big surprise because the Hill Country is a lovely part of the Lone Star State, especially when the dreaded Ashe juniper a.k.a. “mountain cedar” is not wreaking havoc on people like me who are violently allergic to it. Along with Hill Country, comes Austin-centric. I suppose that is because Austin is the closest thing Texas has to San Francisco.

So when you hear or read something about Texas seafood you tend to get pretty small pickens insofar as choices go. Therefore you tend to get a pretty limited picture as to what is allegedly the best seafood in the state. And regardless of what Texas Monthly or whomever says the best seafood is it is a good bet that it will be found on the Texas Coast. Unfortunately, that narrows down the best of the best even more. Thus, left is Gaido’s in Galveston. Only kidding. Kind of.  Gaido’s is probably the best Gulf Coast seafood in Texas. But there are others one sees mentioned from time-to-time.

Sartain’s is a great name in Texas seafood though it seems to have become somewhat of a movable feast over the years. For reasons I don’t know, a number of Sartain’s have popped up all over Southeast Texas and then vanished.  There is, I know, a Sartain’s in Nederland, south of Beaumont. Good seafood and everyone has to pull up a picnic table at which to sit. My favorite used to be Esther’s, a great place that was moved under the towering Rainbow bridge on the Sabine-Neches ship channel between Bridge City and Port Arthur. Unfortunately, Hurricane Ike took a bite out of it and it’s no longer open.

There are others you will find in Texas media outlets which will be given the moniker “the best.” But I have found the best, at least East of Gaido’s Galveston. I speak of The Schooner, located on U.S. Hwy. 69 in Nederland, literally across the street from Port Arthur.

It was at this venerable and quite cavernous steak and seafood place that I fell off my diet wagon — just for today I swear — but made it count. My meal today was simple to order because I saw it on their marquis sign outside and I was taken by the simplicity of the name and price, but mostly the price. It said: “Seafood Platter $12.99.” That is actually a really good price because the normal price is $16.99.  The platter consists of a stuffed crab, 3 fried oysters, 3 nicely-sized shrimp, and three hunks of fried trout along with a choice of au gratin potatoes or French fries as well as a salad and two pieces of bread.

The tea, which at $2.15 seems a bit overpriced, kept coming and it didn’t take long, or at least too long, that I was full. I have two of the three pieces of trout in my fridge.

What struck me upon tasting each component of the seafood was the taste itself. You could taste the “fishiness” of the fish, as well as the “shrimpiness” or the shrimp and the, I suppose, “crabiness” of the stuffed crab, not to mention whatever their battery of seasoning was in their batter.

The majority of  this restaurant’s seafood dishes run from the mid-teens in dollars to the lower $20s. They also have certified Angus and Chicken. I’ve never seen a certified chicken. Can ve see your papers, Herr Chicken? Get a load of some of the selections, Costa Rican tilapia, Gulf red snapper, Gulf flounder, catfish Orleans, Flounder Athena and blackened Opelousas.

I could have saved a few paragraphs but I can sum it all up with “fresh.” The Schooner does fresh seafood and that makes all the difference perhaps as well the tradition of the Megas family that has owned this place for more than 60 years and has made it a certified Southeast Texas institution. No papers required.

Thus, if you are ever in need of really great, fresh seafood while in the Beaumont, Port Arthur, Orange area,  go visit the Megas family and put your feed bag on. Well, you don’t need to do the latter, just eat normally and you will do well. I know that sooner or later I will beat myself up for today’s diet transgressions but at least I blew this day’s diet on something that tasted really great.

The Schooner Restaurant

1507 Highway 69 at Hwy. 365

Nederland, Texas

Author’s note: I am not a restaurant critic but I sometimes play one on the Internet.