By: Emma Comery Photos by: Rachel Benavides
Towering above every other building, Schlitterbahn has long been a landmark on Padre Island. But as the waterpark makes its transition into Waves Resort Corpus Christi, the spotlight is shifting from the lazy river to the kitchen. The resort’s restaurant, EATS, is quickly making a name for itself as trendy, innovative, and completely in a league of its own.
The chef behind this must-try island restaurant is Javier (“call me Javi”) Chapa, a Corpus Christi native and 2013 Le Cordon Bleu graduate who dazzled diners across the state while working at P.F. Chang’s and Big Daddy’s Barbeque before returning to Corpus to reunite with family and work at Costa Sur and, later, Island Time Sushi.
This impressive career path was just the prelude to his greatest work to date: the EATS menu. “I’ve never built a menu from the ground up before,” he says. “At Island Time or Costa Sur, I was able to come up with specials, but I’ve never had the opportunity to work something like this.” His dishes combine technical expertise with delightful innovation, all while staying true to the food culture of the coast. “I’m French trained but I’ve worked in an Asian restaurant, a barbeque restaurant, a Peruvian restaurant, and then a sushi bar. So I pull from everywhere. But I also wanted to incorporate the coast.”
What does this mega-fusion actually look and taste like in real life? How about mouth-watering Poke, handmade tortillas, Korean Short Ribs, Lengua Salpicon in a jicama taco shell…? Chapa’s menu is an eclectic showcase of pan-Asian, Latin American, and Coastal Bend comfort food at its finest and most innovative.
It’s a love-at-first-taste kind of menu, and people are falling hard. Case in point: in a city where driving over the bridge sometimes feels like too big a commitment, EATS is drawing diners from Flour Bluff, Southside, Downtown, and beyond on a regular basis, bringing people together from neighborhoods across the Coastal Bend.
With an easy laugh and broad, welcoming face, Chapa has the kind of dynamic personality that suggests he’s a natural at building community through food, but he points out that running an entire kitchen is a new – though welcome – challenge for him. “This is probably the biggest kitchen I’ve ever worked in,” he explains. “I’m running around it all day, directing the team, yelling at people...” We’re not buying that last bit. Between Chapa’s laid-back but hardworking energy and the dining room’s warm vibe, EATS is the furthest thing from “Hell’s Kitchen.” From the menu to the atmosphere, every aspect invites guests to unwind and discover something new about their old comfort food favorites.