Port Neches – In the Golden Triangle of Texas sits a golden stop for soaking up sun, seeing some serious ships, and sampling the spiciness in Southeast Texas. It’s called the Neches River Wheelhouse and it’s like a little oasis on the banks of the Neches.
Lance Bradley is one of the masterminds who came up with this cozy place to get a cocktail and satisfy your craving for a carefree place to chow down. Lance, Bert Lamson and Robbie Muse opened the Wheelhouse in 2014 after the three friends got tired of ordering an extra beer during happy hour.
“We would get together in the afternoons and have a couple of beers before we went home and we would go to one particular place and they would serve us five beers in a bucket and five does not divide into three very well,” Lance said. “And so we kept trying to get them to do six beers in a bucket and they never did. And so we finally decided that we should just open our own place where we have six beers in a bucket. It all came down to one beer and that’s how the Neches River Wheelhouse idea originated.”
Now, they proudly served six beers in a bucket. If you’re lucky enough to be on hand to see a ship go by, you get a shot at a shot with more alliteration than your typical Texas Bucket List tale.
“We have a bell out here at our palapa and in the restaurant and as soon as the ship comes by, the bell rings and we have ship shots specials,” Lance said.
Once a big ol’ boat does go by, it’s hard to miss. If it’s fun you’re looking for, the Wheelhouse will float your boat, but what about the food? We somehow found our way to the back to find a way to drown our ship shot. Head Chef Adrian Zepeda prepared a dish that’s right in our wheelhouse: the Cajun grilled cheese sandwich.
“You start out with your basic grilled cheese sandwich and then you put some crawfish on it and it just takes it up several notches and that’s what makes it special,” Lance said.
I’m all for feeling good, especially after our ship shots. Adrian got started with exactly what I needed: Lots of bread.
“First thing we do is toast the bun,” Adrian said. “Toast the bun, make sure it’s nice and toasted. There’s your crawfish right there. We just season it with some Cajun seasoning. Let it get hot. And next thing we do is we put our American cheese. Put your cheese. Let it get nice and hot.”
Once it’s all melted together, it’s time to sample the sandwich and look for more boats.
“It takes it away from being just a basic sandwich to something that is uniquely southeast Texas and for far as we’re concerned uniquely Wheelhouse,” Lance said.
If you’re into views on the water, boats going by, ship shots, or even great grilled cheese sandwiches, the Neches River Wheelhouse in Port Neches, Texas is well-worth a stop on the Texas Bucket List.
“Beach bungalow type place with great food and scenery and the breeze and people and the music and it’s a great vibe,” Carolyn said. “It’s just, it’s worth it.”