Fred and Beverly Lyttle, the original owners of Noah’s Ark, set out in 1999 to create a spot where patrons could enjoy quality food and drink while taking in the sights and sounds of Galveston Bay just across the street. Two decades later, the eatery has become a destination for locals and visitors alike.
Guests come from as far away as Humble, Katy and The Woodlands, stopping for a drink or a meal on their way to or from Galveston, current owner Steve Tolhurst said. Patrons fall in love with the restaurant staff and the family-like atmosphere they create, he added.
“People just love to sit here and talk. It’s a great place to hang out,” he said. “We’re a destination. We’re not on the beaten path.”
Groups can seat themselves, and Tolhurst said it is not uncommon for a small party to double or triple in size as they eat and drink together. The menus, therefore, all have notes to patrons that they can expect up to a 45-minute wait for food during busy hours. The restaurant, with its live music schedule and Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments, is meant to be a hangout spot, Tolhurst said.
The location of Noah’s Ark is essential to the business’s success, the Lyttles said in a letter. Motorcycles and golf carts have their own reserved parking spaces out front, and Tolhurst said some diners come by boat as well.
The bar is the largest of its kind—made with palapa leaves—in Galveston Bay, complete with a hand-painted ark scene behind both the upstairs and downstairs stages. Customers often donate decorative pieces and also frequently leave their mark with dollar bills on the restaurant walls. When there are too many, the money gets donated to a local nonprofit, Tolhurst said.
Since Tolhurst bought into the business six years ago, he said he has increased the number of items made from scratch and added various specialty drinks to the menu. The eatery has nearly doubled in revenue during that time, he said.
Noah’s Ark tries to keep up with trends when it comes to menu selections, he added. The drinks are inspired by different parts of the world, such as the Dirty Monkey with Jamaican influence or the Mexico-inspired Jalapeno Rita. The meatloaf and the seafood gumbo are two of the most popular homemade items, he said.
“It’s a little bit of a different taste, but people love it,” Tolhurst said of the gumbo with its nearly black roux. “You won’t find it anywhere else.”