Along with visiting San Jose Island, my sister, nephew and I ventured beyond the beaches and into Port A last week. One afternoon when the heat index was between 105 and 109 degrees, we opted to stay out of the sun and went into town to check out some Port A history. Visiting the Port Aransas Museum and the Farley Boat Works have been on my to do list for a long time, but it’s hard to convince a pack of teen girls to leave the beach! Happily, my sister and her 10 year old son were more than game, so we went into town. The Port Aransas Museum is open Thursday – Saturday 1:00pm – 5:00pm so unfortunately, we weren’t able to see it this trip. We did make it to the Farley Boat Works (open 8:30 am – 5:00 pm Tuesday – Saturday) and had a great tour by the shop manager, Frank. The Farley Boat Works opened in 1915 and was run by various family members until it closed in 1973. The original Farley Boat was crafted specifically for the tarpon fishing in Port Aransas. The Farley Boat Works was re-established in 2011 when the site of the last shop was purchased by the Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association (PAPHA) and is now part of the museum. Boat building classes are taught at FBW and this summer a camp was held for folks 12-21 to build a Surf Rider boat, which is like a cross between a kayak and a paddle board. While we were there, we saw one in mid-progress. Frank talked to us about a 12 year old boy who had recently completed his own boat. My nephew thought that was pretty cool.
Frank asked what else we were doing that afternoon and recommended that we head over to The Back Porch. I’d never been there so we thought we’d continue our exploration of Port A for some refreshment at the dock.
We were hooked from the moment we got there – what a great location! Right next to the marina and Woody’s Sports Center. The bar is in the middle of a large deck. The deck had plenty of covered seating, so even on this hottest of days, the temperature was great. We sat at a table, had ice cold and delicious virgin Pina Coladas and enjoyed watching the people and the boats.
While there I noticed a little window on the side of Woody’s selling food. The Harbour Lights Grill sells awesome nachos (BBQ, grilled chicken, blackened shrimp, etc) among other items. My family is partial to late night nacho runs to Cancun’s Mexican restaurant, but I’m allergic to soy and can’t eat much there because of the oil in the food. I’m happy to report that there’s no soy to be found at this little food joint, so I’m taking the family there next time we are in town. Can’t wait to go back!
Beach & Station Street Grill (Bruce’s Yelp Review)
– You want to have a few dishes that you can execute well, even when there are a bunch of people waiting.
– Don’t compromise on quality. Some beach places make the mistake of believing that there will always be customers. If you establish a bad reputation, the tourists can bail you out. But if you establish a great reputation, you’ll take your business into the off season, and that’s the secret between turning an average balance sheet into a good one.So Beach and Station Street. They know who they are. And on a Thursday morning at 11:30, their parking lot was packed. With locals and repeat customers, mostly fishermen. That’s a good sign.They had a signature dish: their gumbo. I didn’t have it, but every single customer was raving about it. I wanted to stay Gluten free, so I stayed away from it because of the flour used for thickening. But the fish I had and the shrimp appetizer broke the two iron clad Beach fare rules:- you must overcook everything so ignorant customers won’t send it back
– you must avoid flavor at all cost so the older customers won’t send it back
I had a shrimp appetizer which was probably the best shrimp I had all week. The entree was a mahi mahi tuna with a shrimp and avocado pico on top. Really, it was more of a tomato relish. Either way, it was absolutely perfectly cooked, with simple and wonderful flavor.
The place isn’t much to look at. But they know who they are. If you want a place with a soul, you have to start with a chef that has a plan. Beach and Station, you have a soul. I’ll be back.
Beaches Cafe and Bakery (Bruce’s Yelp Review)
118 Beach St
Port Aransas, TX 78373
The BBQ was also mixed. This place has a little geographic amnesia. You’re from Texas, Beaches! That means brisket, not pork. But the pork ribs were far and away the star of the show. Fall-off-the-bone tender. The brisket was just meh, a little on the dry side. Maybe this would be better on a night where there were more people and enough staff to cut to order. Maybe not, too.
I like the concept of having multiple sauces available, especially for the BBQ joints that are not the best of the best (those don’t need sauce). I tasted three, and they were all nice.
All in all, my Beaches meals were competently executed. I’d feel a little bit better if more of the details were right, and the place had a chef with a plan, rather than a formula.
Beach rules apply. Three and a half stars, with a half-star bump because of the competition. Four stars, and one of the better and more consistent places in Port Aransas.
Crazy Cajun Seafood Restaurant (Bruce’s Yelp Review)
303 Beach Ave
Port Aransas, TX 78373
But they exercise that schtick with some flair. Everyone gets the Hungry Cajun there. They dump it right on the paper-covered table, and give you a wooden hammer to crack the shells. The boil has corn, potatoes, shrimp, sausage, and crab. That’s a pretty cool environment, and one that kids dig, if they are up to braving shrimp and crawfish with the heads on. The seasoning was fine; nothing to complain about. And it was reasonably prepared. It’s hard to screw up a boil.
Stay away from the remoulade. It tastes like doctored mayo, and probably is. Come for the boil, or don’t come. Expect to pay a little too much, just like other places in Port A.
All in all, it is a place that I would normally avoid, except it is in a beach town so beach rules apply. I’d take the kids so they could eat seafood dumped on the table.
But probably just once.
Cancun Mexican Restaurant (Bruce’s Yelp Review)
1023 State Highway 361
Port Aransas, TX 78373
Good, simple fare for a decent price is hard to find in Port Aransas. Five stars.
Fish House (Bruce’s Yelp Review)
What’s in a name? The fish house. It could symbolize a simple and powerful name, that says “We are fish, and that’s all you need to know. We don’t need to charm you with clever word play or kitschy metaphors. We stand by this strong, simple, direct name.”
Or it could be a lack of imagination.
Yep. I’ll take Restaurant Cliches for $1000, Alex.
You want cliches? I asked the waitress how the fish would be prepared. She said grilled.
…waiting for elaboration…
…a little panic in my eyes that this might get awkward…
…yep, it’s awkward.
Just grilled. I should have taken that as a clue. Later, she came back and said “It’s not wahoo (or whatever). It’s trout. Very fresh.” I can see why the name of the place is not so highly specialized. Fish house covers your bases. But she came back with a caesar. Fresh, but not really a caesar, with long red onion slices on top. But it was fresh and I’ve had worse.
And then the fish came. and it was…
grilled. Just grilled. Not seasoned. Not embellished in any way. Just grilled. I guess they let the sides do the talking. That would be the potatoes. Beige foods unite!
Yep. Definitely a lack of imagination. The fish was not overcooked, like you’ll usually find in Port A. But that’s the extent of the nice things I can say about the Fish House.
We’re grading on a curve here because of beach rules. A star and a half.. we’ll round up. Beach rules, you know.
I ordered a couple of appetizers instead of dinner. The first came out: tuna with some good sauces drizzled on and pepper slices on top. It was absolutely sunning in presentation, and I am a big tuna fan. But it was a disappointment. Tuna when prepared well is supposed to melt in your mouth. This was cooked a little too long, or at the wrong temperature, and the result showed. It was still ok.
I also ordered the oysters parmesan. This dish caught my attention. They were served over spinach and with parmesan and other cheeses on top. They were perfectly cooked and flavorful. I liked them.
The new digs are nice. They don’t have the quirky charm of the old slightly creaky dome, but the structure is grand and impressive, with a nice view and a very large serving room.
All in all, it’s a decent option in Port Aransas. It’s not the best, but there are lots of worse options in town. If you want to check out an institution and a cool touristy experience, or if you’re willing to do do a simple dish or a good salad bar, this is a good bet.
Three solid tunas. Beach rules round up… in Port A, you could do much worse.
Cafe Phoenix (Bruce’s Yelp Review)
229 Beach Ave
Port Aransas, TX 78373
The main course was probably the best seafood sandwich I’ve ever had It was a crusted Tuna, cooked-double gasp- medium rare, and with a Wasabi aoli dressing that had a wonderful kick on a beautiful, fresh artisan roll. Top it off with sweet potato fries that were airy and just about perfectly cooked. This is right up there with the best lunches I’ve ever had. All in all, my check was around 20 bucks, after adding the soup and extra side.
For the money, this is the best restaurant in Port Aransas. And maybe the best, regardless of price.
Castaways Seafood and Grill
320 N. Alister
Port Aransas, TX 78373
Category: American (New)