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COVER STORY: Serving Up Gulf-to-Table Treats

Chef Daya Myers-Hurt returns to Galveston with another popular eatery.

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Chef Daya Myers-Hurt

“Surround yourself with tacos, not negativity.” That’s Daya Myers-Hurt’s motto, and she has done just that. Fish tacos, to be specific. Really, really good fish tacos.

The 47-year-old chef is the proprietor of the one-year-old Fish Company Taco, a charming little eatery just a block from the beach on Galveston Island—so you know the fish is fresh and tasty. Coastal Living magazine last month named Fish Company Taco one of its Best Seafood Dives in America for 2019, and wrote that “they are the best fish tacos in the Great State of Texas.” High praise, indeed.

Born in Illinois but “raised” (since she insists she never really grew up) in Amarillo, Myers-Hurt came to Houston with her folks, trained at the Culinary Institute, and wound up opening a successful little restaurant in Galveston called the Lunch Box Café.

“After my dad died,” she says, “I came to Galveston a lot with my wife, Laura, to just stare at the ocean. It was therapeutic.” Finally, her wife and partner of 25 years said to her, “You do realize they have houses here?” That’s when they moved to the island for the first time and opened their first eatery.

Even though her café was successful, when she got the chance to work at Houston’s high-end Japanese/sushi restaurant Uchi, she jumped at it. The couple closed up shop, came back to Houston, and she went to work. Unfortunately, a scooter accident ended her Uchi career.

“I was out of work for quite a while,” Myers-Hurt recalls. “I broke every bone on my left side.” When she was able, she got a job as the pastry chef at State of Grace in River Oaks. But then in 2017, Hurricane Harvey made them change plans again.

“Our house flooded,” she says. “It was bad. To this day, we don’t say the word hurricane or flood around our son. He was just three at the time, but we don’t want to traumatize him. I mean, if you live on the Gulf Coast, these things are going to happen.

“Laura took that as a sign we should move back to our beloved Galveston, and that I should open my own place again. The day Fish Company Taco opened, I had $200 in the bank and I remember thinking, ‘I hope somebody shows up.’ But the worst that can happen is you fail.”

But that didn’t happen. And one year later, her tacos are garnering rave reviews and the eatery has flocks of fans—including the occasional seagull looking for a fresh fish handout.

The chef has five basic styles: Baha, Korean, Vietnamese, Hunan, and Dirty South (which pairs hot fish with cool pimento cheese, all served on house-made tortillas. “My dad loved pimento cheese,” she recalls. “So I made this recipe in his honor, and it’s very popular.” Another big hit is the corn cup, which is cold corn dressed with cream, cilantro, chili paste, and lime. And there are several other vegetarian items on the menu.

The restaurant is BYOB, there’s a liquor store across the street, and she haunts the docks at Katie’s Seafood Market daily (twice a day during the fall, when they do dinner service), selecting whole fish that she breaks down herself. She says you can really learn a lot about an animal when you break it down yourself. She uses most of the whole fish—filets as well as collars and cheeks, something else that makes her tacos stand apart.

Chef Daya Myers-Hurt has five basic styles: Baha, Korean, Vietnamese, Hunan, and Dirty South (which pairs hot fish with cool pimento cheese, all served on house-made tortillas.

“Dad loved fishing,” Myers-Hurt remembers. “I don’t fish, but I love fish—I love looking at them and learning about them.” One time a fishmonger tried to sell her a whole salmon, claiming it was caught wild and not farm raised. She pointed out that one side of the fish’s muscles were more developed than the other.

“That salmon was raised in a tank where it only swam in a circle in one direction,” she laughs. “That, or else it had some weird neurotoxin. I didn’t want that either.” She is big on sustainability, which is good since her wife is finishing her studies on climate change and public policy. “She’s got a double major and a double minor—the slacker!”

The pair has a five-year-old son, David, and a cat named Franklin. “Of course he’s a rescue cat,” she says. “They would take away my L card if I bought a cat from a breeder.”

The couple’s time away from the restaurant is all about family. They recently celebrated David’s birthday with a two-day stay at Moody Gardens, where they have a family membership. And they like to hang out at the beach and stroll around downtown. They especially enjoy the Rosenberg Library on Sealy Street.

“The library is currently doing readings of the Mueller Report,” Myers-Hurt says. “And they have an incredible children’s book section. David is in the summer reading program, and they get a trophy when it’s finished. You want to motivate a five-year-old boy? Give him a shiny gold thing with his name on it!”

And we’re guessing he’s quite fond of his mom’s tacos, too.

For more information about Fish Company Taco, visit loc8nearme.com/texas/galveston/fish-company-taco/4977948/.

Fish Company Taco, 1914 23rd St., Galveston, 409.220.3245

This article appears in the July 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.

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