Dayatra Myers was working as a pastry chef at the State of Grace restaurant in Houston, when Hurricane Harvey devastated the Bayou City. She, her wife, Laura, and their three-year-old son lost everything and had to start over from FEMA housing in Galveston.
The island wasn’t foreign to her family. She and Laura ran the Lunchbox Cafe sandwich shop there for a little more than five years before closing in 2013 and returning to Houston. Still, Myers had hoped to return to the city by choice. “Galveston holds my heart,” she says.
While her family continued to live in government accommodations, Myers was approached by a friend who asked if she was interested in subletting her restaurant space in Galveston. At this point, Myers’s family had little to its name besides some cash from various temporary food service jobs. Yet Myers didn’t hesitate.
“It was the craziest thing in a lifetime of doing crazy things,” she recalls. Myers and Laura finished renovations on their new restaurant and opened Fish Company Taco in Galveston on June 19, 2018, their son’s birthday. The family had $200 in the bank on opening day.
Myers was hoping her previous standing in the community would net her at least thirty customers on the first day—and that’s how many folks showed up for the three-item menu. Each day for the following week, Myers and Laura, the sole staff members at the time, added another option to the menu until they were at capacity: five tacos, a few sides, and a couple of fresh drinks. Occasional specials now include the Saturday-only everything bagel: the heavenly bread is made in-house and served with a side of creamy dip topped with caviar and scallions.
Fish Company Taco was established with a few ideas. Myers, who previously worked at legendary Austin restaurant Uchi, started with sushi as an initial concept. She wanted to highlight Gulf seafood, but she decided the food needed to be approachable in price point and presentation. So she decided on fish tacos priced at $4.25 each, with tortillas that are now made from Masienda’s non-GMO, heirloom Mexican corn masa harina.
She hopes to nixtamalize in-house one day. However, she points out, with beads of sweat on her forehead, “I barely have air conditioning, so we’ll get that sorted first.” The dining room’s elevated temperatures are worth it, but they aren’t the only thing heated about Fish Company Taco.
Myers’s restaurant is partly fueled by emotion. “I get angry every time I go out for fish tacos,” she says. “The tortillas are store-bought or dry or they fall apart or the fish is some farm-raised thing.” It’s a bit jarring to hear her make such a declaration, but it’s also refreshing. Myers cares about her product. She believes “once you know better, you do better” when it comes to the quality of food. Her thoughtfulness leads to exciting dishes.
There’s a Sur-Mex-style taco with creamy pimento cheese and mildly spicy corn relish that complements the firm Gulf shrimp and the crunchy, salty potato chip garnish. The pimento cheese is an homage to Myers’s hometown of Amarillo and the recipe that was passed down from her grandfather. On my most recent visit, the other protein of the day was vermilion snapper. That particular fish—mild and a touch sweet—lends itself well to brighter and more pungent flavors like cilantro, ginger, and chiles. So it was particularly good in the Korean taco, with zesty kimchi puree and a sprinkle of cilantro.
The tacos might change from one day to the next, depending on the availability of fish. If Myers gets a fish she’s unfamiliar with, she fries one piece and grills another to determine how it would be best served. “That’s always kind of the exciting part,” she says. “That five-taco menu never feels tired. It always feels different every day.” It would be nice, though, to see other traditional Mexican fish tacos join the wonderful Baja-style option on the menu. Perhaps a twist on the cheesy Sinaloan shrimp taco, the taco gobernador.
Nevertheless, there is nothing forced about the food. Myers and her sous chef, Ben Coulson, are very careful about how they present the tacos. For the pair, it’s all about integrity and flavor, the knowledge of which Myers has learned throughout her career. She understands experience and openness to learning lead to many wonderful things. What’s more is that she has the utmost respect for the taco.
“I think really the more that you’re informed by your experiences in cooking and in life, the more that you’re exposed to, the broader your thought process can be, the more that you can be empathetic and sympathetic to other human beings.” she says. “Well, the more you eat, you know, the broader your palate gets.” She reiterates another crucial element to her business. “Approachability is key, especially in a taco. That’s kind of the great equalizing food of the world.”