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Members-Only Club Opens Up

Exclusive members-only Galveston club opens its doors to try and become an Oxheart level restaurant

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Slideshow
Pelican Club Galveston Menu Preview
Smoked Trout Fish Cakes (from Bar Menu): House Smoked Trout, Braised Red Cabbage, Traditional Tartar Sauce. Photo courtesy of The Pelican Club
Pelican Club Galveston Menu Preview
Roasted Ribeye or Beef: Cauliflower Puree, Sautéed Rainbow Chard, Fingerling Potatoes with Horseradish Dressing, Onion Caramel. Photo courtesy of The Pelican Club
Pelican Club Galveston Menu Preview
Roasted Beets and Chèvre: Oven Roasted and Pickled Beets, Salt Baked Carrots, Goat Cheese Mousse, Pistachio Brittle, Tarragon Orange Emulsion. Photo courtesy of The Pelican Club
Pelican Club Galveston Menu Preview
Pelican Club Carrot “Cake:" Carrot Cake, Candied Carrots, Cream Cheese Frosting. Photo courtesy of The Pelican Club
Pelican Club Galveston Menu Preview
Pan Seared Chicken Breast: Warm Farro and Turnip Salad, Curried Onion Puree,“Sour Cream” and Onion Kale Chips, Shellfish Nage. Photo courtesy of The Pelican Club
Pelican Club Galveston Menu Preview
Brown Butter, Pear, Parsnip, Tarragon: Brown Butter Cake, Vanilla Sour Cream Icing, Parsnip and Tarragon Chips, Pear Sorbet, Cinnamon Streusel. Photo courtesy of The Pelican Club
Pelican Club Galveston Menu Preview
Pelican Club Galveston Menu Preview
Pelican Club Galveston Menu Preview
Pelican Club Galveston Menu Preview
Pelican Club Galveston Menu Preview
Pelican Club Galveston Menu Preview

For many years, the Pelican Club has been a members-only staple of Galveston's social elite. Hidden behind Gaido's, the restaurant and supper club has been a bastion of old school fine dining with a menu largely identical Gaido's, the more popular, much larger seafood restaurant with which it shares a kitchen, but that's all going to change April 16. 

"We're trying to shed the jacket in more ways than one."

That's how Casey Gaido describes his plans to transform the Pelican Club into a dining destination that he hopes will compete for James Beard Awards with the likes of Oxheart and Underbelly. Towards that end, he's hired fellow Culinary Institute of America classmate Ross Warhol to run the kitchen and develop his vision of the cuisine that the Gaido family has made a Galveston staple for more than 100 years.

"As Galveston has changed to where maybe back in the twenties, thirties, forties and fifties people were coming to Galveston Island in suits and ties, whether to gamble or what have you, now people are coming down to put their toes in the sand," Gaido tells CultureMap. "If you're on an island, people aren’t really looking to bring down a coat and tie anymore."

Therefore, the Pelican Club has ditched its supply of reserve jackets and adopted a business casual dress code, but the bigger changes are in the kitchen. 

 "We're trying to shed the jacket in more ways than one." 

Gaido says that he wanted to bring some of the techniques he learned at the CIA to the Gaido's menu but found it difficult to make many changes at such a long-standing, beloved institution. "It’s difficult when you’re feeding 2,000 people per day in the height of the summer; it’s hard to bring that culinary artistry to the menu without sacrificing quality or consistency," he explains.

Thus, the plan to sever the Pelican Club kitchen from Gaido's and turn its direction over to his former classmate Warhol. Gaido explains that Warhol brings a resume decorated with the names of San Pellegrino Top 50 restaurants, including stints working for Thomas Keller and Ferran Adrià and at Alinea in Chicago. The chef moved to Texas from New York in October and has spent his time meeting local vendors and developing menus.  

"Luckily, I was able to obtain a chef who could bring that culinary artistry to the menu and bring that to local product," he says about Warhol. "He’s basically getting a lay of the land and finding out what’s available to him. Creating from what he’s already learned and applying it to what we have available."

The New Menu

Ultimately, Warhol's menu will change seasonally, but, for now, he's previewing dishes on Friday and Saturday nights as specials on the Gaido's menu. So far, they're selling out, which is no mean trick when most customers come to the restaurant with a pretty firm idea of what they want to order.

As seen in the photos above, the dishes aren't what people expect from Gaido's, and whether the Pelican Club can attract the right mix of curious locals and visitors to sustain itself is an open question. Gaido acknowledges that the restaurant's customers will ultimately determine whether or not it belongs on the same level as the benchmarks he's targeting. 

Asked about the financial arrangement between the two restaurants, Gaido says that the big restaurant won't subsidize his Pelican Club experiment. "They’re not trying to ride any coattails. They totally understand the task ahead of them to acquire their own market, acquire their own return customers.

"I don’t think they’d have it any other way." 

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