Since I moved to Kerrville five years ago, I have learned in conversations with my hill country friends and neighbors that one escape many of you take is the three hour drive to the Coastal Bend of Texas. Whether you go for the beach, the sights and sounds of the surf, bay or offshore bay fishing, the USS Lexington tour, the Texas State Aquarium or just go for quiet relaxation, many hill country folks really do enjoy the Coastal Bend. Some of you even have a second home there while others stay at one of the rental beach homes, condos or hotels. While my home is in Kerrville, my full time industrial equipment sales job takes me to Coastal Bend oil refineries and chemical plants every other week for three days. For dinner choices, there are many national chain and hotel restaurants, and plenty of fast foods and taquerias almost in every block. But, there are three locally owned and operated gourmet level destination restaurants. I visit The Yardarm on Ocean Drive in Corpus Christi, Latitude 28°02’ and Glow in the Rockport area frequently for dinners with friends, customers or sometimes alone. All three establishments serve the very freshest, never frozen Gulf seafood in delightful preparations with seasonal starters and sides.
4310 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi
In 1975, Diane and Constantine Tsaousis took the old family home and made it The Yardarm. It is a little yellow house between the high-rises right on the shore of Corpus Christi Bay. The interior is truly like a classic beach house with two levels, the upper dining room and my favorite, the glassed-in back porch overlooking the bay. Seating is cozy on both levels, but you will find that most of the Yardarm diners are regulars. They are some of the nicest people you have ever rubbed shoulders with. The Yardarm also has an outside patio, but for those of you that have already visited Corpus Christi you know the wind is seldom a light breeze. I have dinner on the glassed-in back porch at least one night on every trip.
The Yardarm’s menu items are prepared differently from other Coastal Bend seafood houses with the use of French sauces, cooking techniques and the chef’s use of Mediterranean seasonings. Among the unusual menu items are the Shrimp Newburg, Shrimp DeJonghe, and the Market Fish with Capers or prepared Pappilote where the fish is oven baked and steamed in a sealed paper bag. For those wanting a non-Gulf sourced seafood entrée, the Salmon or the Lobster Thermidor are beautifully presented. There are usually three specials which sometimes include locally caught Swordfish, Amberjack, Yellow Fin Tuna or Triple Tail broiled or grilled and topped with the chef’s special sauces. When they have it, the whole, broiled bone-in flounder or the boneless flounder stuffed with crab dressing are my favorites. All entrees include either clam chowder or a tasty chilled gazpacho. I usually pour my gazpacho over an order of their ceviche appetizer. After the soup, there is a family style, mixed salad bowl for the table to share. They have two house-made dressings. One is a creamy Bombay dressing made with pureed avocado, anchovies, hot mustard, a bit of curry and mayonnaise. A really, viscous Balsamic vinaigrette is also served. Live on the wild side; mix the two dressings together for a unique treat.
Ok, fried shrimp and fried oysters are offered for those that just absolutely have to have their seafood fried; no french fries, though.
For non-seafood items the Grenadines of Beef, a Rib-Eye, Chicken Florentine and a Veggie Pasta round out the menu.
The Yardarm has a full bar, a selection of beers and an excellent, reasonably priced wine list that works with all budgets.
105 North Austin Street, Rockport
For over a decade, husband and wife team Ramona and Chef Craig Day have provided a contemporary dining experience in old downtown area of Rockport, Texas. Specializing in very fresh, local seafood, Latitude 28°02’ has come to be a favorite of mine and my dining friends. It also has a full separate bar that becomes a favorite watering hole among the locals.
The backdrop, the upscale multi-room dining areas at Latitude 28°02’, is a nautical/coastal art gallery with framed photographs, paintings, and sculptures in some very unique designs by local and regional artists. Rockport is considered an art colony and the Latitude 28°02’ selections are very representative of their work.
All entrees on the extensive menu include the vegetable of the day, orzo pasta in a light parmesan cream sauce and your choice of homemade soup du jour or a crisp, very cold dinner salad. Craig’s creamy roasted garlic dressing topped with crumbled blue cheese and toasted sunflower seeds are always my choice. Before making a decision for dinner from the menu, please ask your waitperson about Craig’s specials that will include a catch of the day (he makes it piccata for me) and other specials such as Lobster Thermidor or a hearty seafood stew reminding me of Cioppino at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. Local oysters on the half shell in season or the Jumbo Lump Crab Meat in a drawn butter sauce with toasts are a wonderful starter to your meal.
Craig’s menu specialties are several broiled seafood “Gilroy” dishes prepared with special sauces and a toasted garlic buttery bread crust. One of my new favorite menu items is the catch of the day topped with a Sophia Sauce of white wine, butter, fresh tomato and tarragon.
The seafood is always fresh caught, never frozen and the selection of the steaks, chicken and vegetarian dishes will please the non-seafood eaters. There are no canned or frozen foods to be found in the kitchen. Cold beer and a nice wine list and full bar service with exceptional martinis.
1815 Broadway, Rockport
Located in a small, no it’s actually a tiny boat house, across the road from Little Bay and Key Allegro, Glow is the newest of my favorite spots. Glow was founded in 2011, owned and operated by Chef Karey Lynn Butterworth. Karey and I had some time to talk on my first visit. I find she is an energetic mother of three boys, a full time restaurateur, a traveling culinary instructor and a food writer for the Corpus Christi Caller Times.
Karey’s dichotomy of home-style cooking and gourmet “bistro” presentations is graced with her imagination. I find it very similar to the upscale Orvis Lodges cuisine I have enjoyed on memorable trips. Glow attracts locals, vacationers and winter Texans. The warm house-cooked bread, unsalted butter and housemade sea salt will delight you as it rapidly becomes an addiction.
Glow’s small plates include soups, salads, a fried seafood board and salt and pepper Broken Arrow Ranch crispy quail. Memories of Karey’s childhood grace the main dishes on the menu like her Mom’s Texas shrimp bathed in a creamy white wine and mushroom sauce over real smashed potatoes, also the Buttermilk Fried Chicken with thyme gravy, and my favorite of Pan Seared Snapper Filet with a rich, crab beurre blanc sauce. Her inspired side dishes are big enough to share. Chef Karey’s newest main dish is the Grilled Snapper with Fettuccine.
The bar is even more evidence of the diversity of Glow with its inspired cocktails like “The King Ranch Bubbly” made with Texas prickly pear syrup and champagne; “The After Glow” of Tito’s vodka, lavender, orange, wildflower honey and “The Pedro” of silver tequila, fresh lime, and jalapenos. Glow has a staff chosen selection of some well-known and some not so well known wines from all over the world. Walk on the wild side, try a glass of the Armand Roux Verdillac Rose’ with your snapper filet.
Just Go Eat!
I promise you, all three of these restaurants are destinations. You will have a wonderful meal to remember and probably will take a picture or two with your Smartphone for your Facebook page. Create a family buffet and have everyone order something different to share around or go for two nights every other week as I do and enjoy! When you dine at these restaurants, please tell them you read about them in Lifestyle of Comanche Trace and the Texas Hill Countrymagazine. Keep in mind, reservations by calling the restaurant directly are an absolute must every night.