Jay’s Place, a Port Aransas Institution by Any Name

I was sitting alone in the restaurant enjoying my shrimp tacos. I knew I wanted to blog about the place, but I didn’t know what to call it, so I asked. The waitress I asked happened to be the owner, and surprise. She didn’t really know. She turned around and asked a couple of locals. Then she told me the story. I’m reciting from memory, so ping me if I miss the details.

The locals called it the Spaghetti Works. It turns out that they did have that name a few years back (it was also a water slide), and as the menu evolved, they added seafood. They changed the name to Seafood and Spaghetti Works. Some observant locals asked if they were under new management (not good), and they waffled back and forth a few times. Later, Stephanie had an idea for a slogan, “Eat at Jays”.  Now, I think they’re called Jay’s Seafood and Spaghetti Works. Most of the regulars knew the place as Jay’s place anyway. So you can see the source of confusion.

If you want the story in detail, you can read it here http://www.seafoodandspaghettiworkstx.com/

Over the past weekend, we went once for dinner with the whole family, and  I returned for lunch. Overall, I’d have to say that we were all impressed.

The kids all enjoyed various rice and pasta dishes. I sampled all of them, and my favorite was my daughter’s tempura shrimp with a lemon cream sauce over rice. Fantastic. It had the crisp, tart flavor that I crave in a shrimp dish. The other two kids had the Shrimp and Chicken Alfredo dishes.

My wife had an artichoke and shrimp dish. It had bold flavors with garlic, mushrooms, I want to say some Parmesan, and gallons of butter. Actually, a little too much butter for my taste, but that’s definitely a Port Aransas thing. Everything has oceans of butter.

I had flounder with a dill cream sauce. Are you getting the picture here? The sauces are great. The dill sauce was delicate enough that it didn’t overpower the flounder, but strong enough to give me the tangy zip that I am always looking for. And of course, the fish could not be any fresher. I swear, you can’t throw a dead jellyfish without hitting a place that has excellent flounder or redfish in this town.

If there was a down side at all, it was the salad bar. It looked like something right out of Pizza Hut. But clearly, the salad is not the main attraction here. You come for the fish, or pasta, or pizza. We gave Jay’s an A for dinner. Everyone’s food was good, the service was absolutely perfect, and the atmosphere was excellent, even in mid October.

For lunch, I had fish tacos. My expectations were pretty low (I’m a bit of a snob for fish tacos), but these were great. The corn tortillas were fresh and moist, a basic requirement that you have to satisfy to even get a passing grade. The shrimp and fish were proportioned about right. The cilantro cream sauce was the star of the show, with perfect balance, and just a hint of zip. I would have preferred the traditional carrots and cabbage, but I am picking nits. I ate them all and enjoyed every bite. I’d give them a solid B+.

I still don’t know quite what to call this place. If you plan to go, it’s on Highway 361 right at G street. Look for the Eat at Jay’s sign. For now, I’m just going to call it good.

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