CORPUS CHRISTIE, TEXAS, April 23, 2104 – What makes a city memorable to travelers? Corpus Christi, the Sparkling City by the Sea, is known for many things: miles of beautiful white sand beaches, world class fishing and outdoor activities and attractions such as the Texas State Aquarium and USS Lexington.
Lesser known perhaps is its culinary side, influenced by a melting pot of cultures and eclectic eateries hiding in plain sight. To locals, however, Corpus Christi has enough palate tempting creations to keep a serious foodie busy for weeks.
The Yardarm Restaurant
Located in a nondescript little building on Ocean Drive, the yellow exterior looks a little bit like a laundry, as one friend put it. Inside, however, you are greeted by a lovely couple, originally from Greece, who extend authentic Texas warmth and hospitality.
Tableside offers grand views of Corpus Christi beach and bay which adds to the overall charm of this restaurant. The Yardarm specializes in fresh seafood and the salmon with mango and cucumbers is sure to please most fish lovers. It is moist and tender and pairs well with the sweetness of the mango.
The desserts at the Yardarm are excellent, and the six-inch thick cheesecake with port wine reduction sauce doesn’t disappoint. Unlike others cheesecakes, this one tastes way more creamy than cheesy. The chef adds a little Italian mascarpone to the recipe to give the cake a velvety texture. (Shhh, it’s a secret!) Order one for yourself; this is too good to share.
A converted boathouse is home to this little gem in the nearby town of Rockport. Owner Karey Butterworth, who trained at the James Beard House, has created a little oasis of deliciousness using freshly caught local seafood and ingredients.
The menu changes daily and they manage to turn out quite a variety of dishes from their small kitchen. There are several starters and entrees to choose from including the crab and shrimp cakes with tomatillo lime crema and citrus tomato ($14) and the BBQ Texas shrimp bathed in garlic and butter over cheesy creamy grits ($16). Both are quite tasty and could remind one of mom’s down-home Southern cooking.
For a perfect dessert finale choose the bread pudding made with salted rum caramel, brûléed bananas and candied pecans. Finish it up with Glow’s French pressed coffee, a divine combination.
Cancun Mexican Restaurant
For breakfast, it is hard to beat the local favorite Cancun for what they call breakfast tacos. The menu actually says taquitos but who is one to quibble?
For $1.58 you get a large, homemade flour tortilla filled with egg, cheese, potato, and ham. Extras are $.40 each. Cancun also offers a killer red or green sauce to complete what will end up being a fairly fat breakfast taco that is sure to satisfy until lunch.
Hester’s Café Bakery and Coffee Bar
Proving you can violate the truism, location, location, location, the owners of Hester’s Café chose to locate their restaurant off the main street, behind some businesses in a plain strip mall. Still, this hasn’t deterred people from beating a path to their door for some great local fare.
Open for breakfast and lunch, Hester’s boasts three full-time bakers who tempt customers with their muffins, scones and other pastries. They also have a wide selection of specialty coffees. French toast on challah bread is a popular morning item and my choice, the Louis Armstrong was a hefty portion of eggs, apple smoked bacon, spuds, fruit, and toast ($6.99).
When you are done, pop in next door to browse through Bleu Mercantile and their large selection of eclectic merchandise. You won’t have to search out their elusive location, however. You will find both at Old Towne Six Points at 1714 S. Alameda St.
Yo Philly Cheese Steaks & Subs
Round about lunchtime, head over to Yo Philly Cheesesteak in the North Beach area, which was where everyone went for a true Corpus Christi experience back in the day. Yo is a relative newcomer to the culinary landscape, and owner Bob Catalano, who grew up in Southside Philly, wanted to re-create an authentic South Philly cheesesteak. He must have succeeded because hungry customers line up early at the door and frequently comment on how much these packed cheesy sandwiches remind them of a taste of home.
Bob lovingly calls his favorite the Beast from the East, which is loaded with steak, provolone, onions, and peppers with Cheez Whiz on the side.
There are two things you won’t need when you come to Cotten’s BBQ in Calallen in North Corpus: menus and plates. Your server provides a verbal menu of the smoked meat roundup and butcher paper serves in place of plates. Either way, Cotten’s has a nice selection of brisket, ribs, sausages, and chicken.
They also have a rather unusual sauce that reminds many of chunky picante. The owner says he has people who come from as far as Minnesota for his version of barbecue, slowly cooked for hours in ovens and then smoked with mesquite wood. ($11.45 for three meats plus pinto beans and a pickle.)
This little bistro right in the heart of downtown has quite an unassuming storefront and could easily be mistaken for an office. Inside, however, they have turned their bar area into a visual feast for the senses with wines adorning the walls up to the ceiling and a large interesting painting of hounds during a hunt. It may sound strange but it works here.
Bleu specializes in French American cuisine, locally sources ingredients and flies in fresh seafood from Hawaii. You might, however, want to skip straight to dessert and try their selections of gourmet ice creams.
For six dollars, you get three flavors created using heavy cream (except for the sorbets), which gives the ice cream a rich, decadent texture. Flavors are rotated on a regular basis. One day’s offerings could include chocolate, basil and if available, don’t pass up their raspberry Riesling which provides a tangy, vibrant burst of flavor on one’s palate.
Republic of Texas Steakhouse
If you are still hungry after all of the day’s offerings, then y’all are probably serious foodie. So, for the best steaks in town, go to Texas—The Republic of Texas, that is. In this case, you will find it on the 20th floor of the Omni Hotel with fantastic views of Corpus Christie Bay, The USS Lexington and the multi-hued Harbor Bridge.
This is more of a special occasion restaurant, but a great steak can be a special occasion. Order the 8 oz. filet mignon ($36), and you will get a tender, flavorful and perfectly seasoned prime piece of meat from the world renowned Allen Brothers.
They have a huge dessert menu at The Republic of Texas but a good choice would be their Crème brûlée. This is one of those custards that is difficult to do right. If you slightly overcook it, you get an egg taste. Undercook and it could be watery. Fortunately, the pastry chef at The Republic of Texas knows how to create near perfect confections and you are sure to get a creamy taste sensation covered with fresh fruit. And just to make sure you know you are in Texas, they top it off with a sugar cookie in the shape of a boot.
Other Things to See and Do in Corpus Christie
Operating under the assumption that man (or woman) doesn’t live on bread alone, here are some other non-food places worth visiting—between meals, of course.
Texas State Aquarium
This is the #1 attraction in town and for good reason. They have top quality exhibits including humongous fish tanks with sharks and glowing jellyfish, an otter exhibit and a dolphin show, and that’s just for starters. ($19.95 adult, $14.45 child, $18.45 senior)
Standing guard over Corpus Christie Bay, the USS Lexington, also known as The Blue Ghost, is hard to miss. Having seen some of the biggest battles of World War II, this huge battleship is permanently anchored in the bay and available for touring. Veterans from all branches serve as volunteer guides and provide insights into what life was like aboard this large vessel with a flight deck that could accommodate three football fields. Take your time to see all of the areas open to tourists, including some impressive aircraft used during different air conflicts around the world. ($13.95 adults, $11.95 seniors and military, $8.95 children).
SegCity Segway Tours
Tim, the owner of SegCity Segway Tours takes visitors on a fun two-wheeled tour along the Corpus Christi seawall. Along the way you will make a few stops and see, believe it or not, some displays about our solar system and a moving memorial statue of the singer Selena, who resided in the area.
In case you aren’t sure if you can navigate one of these machines, let me assure you that Tim is very patient, loves people and is a great instructor and guide. He will have you navigating like a pro in just a few minutes. This is one attraction you shouldn’t miss. One and two hour tours are available.
Where to Stay:
Omni Corpus Christi Hotel: www.omnihotels.com
The Omni Corpus Christi Hotel on North Shoreline Blvd. has great views of the bay and is currently ranked #3 on TripAdvisor. The staff is well trained, the rooms are clean and comfortable and they are responsive to requests.
FTC Disclosure: Promotional considerations and sponsorship were provided by those listed in this article.
The Yardarm Restaurant
4310 Ocean Dr.
Corpus Christi, TX 78412
Yo Philly Cheese Steaks & Subs
3314 Surfside Blvd.
Cancun Mexican Restaurant
6314 Yorktown Blvd
Corpus Christi, TX