Under the Sea

I’m just gonna admit it: I’ve never been a big fan of seafood. My dad was an avid fisherman, and I remember eating lots of fried fish when I was a kid. After he cleaned and filleted the fish, my mom would roll it in some sort of flour/cornmeal concoction and drop it in a cast iron skillet full of bubbling hot oil. The crispy fillets were almost always accompanied by a litter of hush puppies, lots of ketchup and a large Greek salad. Beyond that, I don’t remember consuming much seafood as a kid. Today, I’ll occasionally eat shrimp but it’s never been my first choice. So when I was assigned a feature on seafood dining in Corpus Christi, I knew I’d need to significantly expand my palette if I was going to do it justice. Fortunately, these three restaurants made it easy. When I couldn’t/wouldn’t eat something (I am a gluten-free girl), my friend/assistant Joanna was more than willing to take one for the team because she is in love with most every kind of seafood.

Water Street Oyster Bar, Seafood Company, and Executive Surf Club

Brad Lomax started this seafood/nightspot haven back in the early 80’s, and it’s still thriving. Yes, some folks call it a tourist trap, but don’t let that deter you. The food is good and since he’s expanded over the years you have three distinct restaurant atmospheres to choose from. The Water Street Oyster Bar, which has an upscale warehouse feel and a wide variety of seafood fare, offers delicious appetizers and full course meals. A few years ago Brad sent one of his chefs to “sushi school” and expanded his restaurant to incorporate a first class sushi bar, which is particularly popular with the happy hour crowd. Here’s some of what we saw and tasted while we were there.

Dessert: Cheesecake wrapped in a large flour tortilla, deep fried, rolled in sumptuous sugars, and served witih drizzled chocolate and ice cream. I could only taste the filling (due to gluten issues) but it was uh-may-zing. 

Next, we walked about 50 yards over to the Water Street Seafood Company. They share several menu items with their Oyster Bar sister, but the atmosphere is more subdued and in my opinion, kid-friendly. I didn’t taste any of their food, but the vibe was kind of Olive Garden-y.

Lastly, we landed at the Executive Surf Club, a popular “Water Street” nightspot that offers casual seafood and plenty of options to wet your whistle. It’s definitely got the “bar” vibe goin’, which makes it a great place to grab a cold one, munch on yummy snacks, listen to live music or just hang out with friends. Festive.

Brad incorporated the Texas Surf Museum into his Water Street family. If you’ve spent any amount of time on Texas beaches (and I grew up on them), you’ll get a kick out of all the memorabilia, video reels and photos.

Dragonfly Restaurant

Dragonfly isn’t a seafood restaurant, per se, but it’s a very popular eatery that serves delicious seafood. The strip shopping center isn’t at all indicative of the quality this place has become known for.  The owner, Dominque, is French and got his culinary training in France and England. He also was a chef on a Mediterranean cruise ship for many years. His multifaceted  experiences have resulted in a super unique fusion of tastes and cultures. While many restaurant owners hire chefs and managers and then take a hands-off approach, Dominique is at the helm of every single culinary decision. In fact, he’s also at the helm of every single meal Dragonfly serves! If you’re eating there, he had a hand in preparing it.

This is mango/peach vodka, but it had only been sitting for about a day (it reportedly takes about 10 days for the fruit flavor to fuse with the alcohol.) I could taste a twinge of fruit, but it wasn’t ready yet.

L: The pineapple/coconut vodka had been soaking for about five days, and it was yummy. Wish I could’ve tasted it after 10. R: Dominique sells many of his sauces and soups for take-home cooking. If I lived nearby I’d probably take advantage of them regularly.ContactSheet-003.jpg

Their Monster Martini is made with cherry-infused vodka, cranberry juice, a splash of sweet & sour, and dry ice. 

This is their famous crab cake with remoulade. It had breading so I couldn’t taste it, but my friend said it was absolutely scrumptious. One interesting tidbit about Dragonfly: all of their seafood is from Port Aransas. Go local!

This french influenced homemade cannelloni is stuffed with seafood sauce and vegetables, topped with cognac lobster sauce and served with grilled shrimp and mussels. Did I mention the cognac lobster sauce?

This dessert was some sort of nougat glace’ topped with a raspberry sauce, and should be against the law. But I’m glad it’s not. We ate the whole thing.

Black Sheep Bistro

Black Sheep was started by two young surfers who apparently weren’t too interested in “convention.” One had a measure of business savvy and the other loved the culinary side of things. And that’s all it took. The restaurant has been around for about three years and has gained quite a following. Black Sheep ended up buying the hair salon next door and turning it into The Barrel Wine and Tapas Bar.

Jumbo lump gulf blue crab nachos. They were excellent.

Salmon and asparagus with sweet potato and apple hash. 

Louisana Party on a Plate: pan seared gulf fish on basmati rice, served with and an oyster/shrimp/crawfish/sausage creole sauce. Garnished with green onions and parsley.