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The Bend Magazine

Hello Neighbor

03/26/2020 05:00AM ● By Emma Comery
By: Emma Comery  Illustrations by: Savannah Garza  Photos by: Rachel Benavides & Maude Coté Davis

Southside

Southside is a portrait of Americana, a flag in the lawn, a cold one on the back patio. It’s kids playing basketball in the street while you experiment with a new dinner recipe, knowing that there are endless take-out options within a five-minute radius if you royally mess this up. The Southside demographic is a friendly mix of young couples, families, and singles investing in real estate early. Picture culs-de-sac and family-owned breakfast joints – a southern suburbia alive with entrepreneurial energy.

The typical Southsider’s Saturday might start at the Corpus Christi Athletic Club. On the corner of Airline and Holly, the Corpus Christi Athletic Club stands out like a mecca of physical well-being. Considered one of the premier fitness centers in all of South Texas, the CCAC offers a non-stop schedule of group classes from HIIT Circuits to Aqua Zumba, plus access to the rec pool, lap pool, sports courts, cycling, massage and spa center, kids’ gymnastics, and free childcare! So, you know … no excuses. 

After the morning cardio has been successfully checked off the list, a pit stop at Nano’s Taco Run should provide the proper fuel needed to continue the day. Breakfast tacos are pretty much a staple in every Coastal Bend neighborhood, but when it comes to Southside, Nano’s is where it’s at. What’s not to love about a taco joint that’s been perfecting and selling 24 different kinds of breakfast tacos for more than 30 years?

Now come the errands that must get done before the new week begins. For some, that looks like getting the car serviced and taking the kids to finally get that haircut. The classic Southside go-to’s for each include Flanagan’s Muffler and King’s Barber Shop. When the salty South Texas air finally disintegrates your exhaust pipe and your 11-year-old Chrysler Town & Country starts sounding like a muscle car, everyone tells you, “Go to Flanagan’s.” Lance has saved many a driver on more than one occasion. Over at King’s Barber Shop, Robert will engage the wee ones in conversation as he gives them a perfect cut. 

But, wait! What about the fresh cuts needed for Sunday night dinner? Have no fear, Moody’s Quality Meats is always the right option (even if you don’t live on the Southside, to be honest). The line is nearly out the door, but you’ll happily wait – it moves quickly and it’s worthwhile. Family-owned and operated, Moody’s Meats is a throwback to the old-fashioned meat markets where everything is fresh and manufactured in-house. At the counter, owner Terry Moenche (son of Moody) displays traditional and specialty cuts in the shop’s various homemade marinades and rubs.

If the kids still have a little more energy than you’d hoped for after a long day, the perfect neighborhood staple for this classic crisis is a trip over to the Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve. Take a stroll through this hidden gem of a wetland preserve, rife with bird species, flora, and various reptiles. Two laps is just about a 5K, and the paths are pleasantly busy with walkers, runners, and cyclists on the weekends.

The errands are done, the kids are with the sitter, and it’s now time to get a little you-time in. Might we suggest a theatre night at Aurora Arts Theatre and pre-show festivities at Lazy Beach Brewing Company? Lazy Beach has become a classic neighborhood go-to and you’ll catch half the neighborhood there by Saturday night. After a few brews and a bite from the food truck of the night, your seats await you. At Aurora Arts Theatre, 110 seats are sold for each show, which means every seat is essentially front row. The cast has made their final bows and your ideal Southside day has now come to a perfect end. 


Flour Bluff & North Padre Island

Out on Padre Island, residents enjoy a close-knit community and picking their kids up from school in a golf cart. Halloween, Barefoot Mardi Gras, and the La Posada Lighted Boat Parade are essentially island-wide block parties. Across the bridge, Flour Bluff is Corpus Christi, born and raised. Flour Bluff, on the other hand, is Hornets football, dive bars, locally owned breweries, fishing in the laguna, a slowly up-and-coming neighborhood of entrepreneurship. 

All days in this neck of the Coastal Bend woods should start with a delicious cup of joe from Island Joe’s. Among the island’s adobe homes, shops, and restaurants, this two-story, multicolored coffee shop built from shipping containers stands out like a lighthouse for those in need of a caffeine jolt. Built by the owner and his son, this island hub has the best espresso protein bite around to get your day started on the right foot. 

Now that you’re fully awake, you might be heading to Fancy Paws to drop off your beloved four-legged friends for a good groom. If you’re a resident of this area, you presumably have a particular relationship with sand. It’s in your car, your shoes, your carpet, and your dog’s fur. And with temps hitting above 100 F, keeping those coats short is a must. Fortunately, Fancy Paws is right there on the island, and they treat every pet like their own. The best part? Your pup gets a cute little seasonal bandana to wear when they’re done! 

The rumble in your stomach reminds you that espresso protein bite wasn’t quite enough. You check your watch and realize there is just enough time to head over to Pappy G’s for lunch. This no-fuss soul food restaurant next to Lorelei Brewing always seems to have a line out the door, even in the heat of the summer. Deciding what to order is easy, since the menu only offers a rotating choice of three or four entrees and sides. You’ve arrived just in time as the line begins to move and those within it are ready for a down-home southern comfort meal. Good thing you arrived when you did, because (as it normally does) the food ran out just as you squeezed your way in. 

A drop-in to Dockside is a must before heading out to Bob Hall Pier for the remainder of the sunlight. When your backyard is the beach, your wardrobe tends to be rooted in the sand (i.e.. fishing shirts, flip flops, coverups, and board shorts). But where do you buy your beach clothes without driving over the bridge? Dockside. Definitely Dockside. Now you’ve made it to the beach, and it just feels like home. You can’t say you’re really an islander unless your Instagram is at least three-quarters Bob Hall Pier. Jutting out into the deeper waters of the Gulf, Bob Hall offers casters a chance at some of those fish that don’t swim in close to shore.

After you’ve rid yourself of sand, you’ve got date night on your mind. Be it with your partner, your friends, or even just yourself, the answer is: sushi. If you want to start a heated debate on the island, ask a group of locals where the best sushi is. Within minutes, you’ll be able to clearly divide the island into two groups: Island Time People and Rock N Roll People. Whichever your preference, both plate up elegant and innovative dishes that combine the best Coastal Bend seafood with classic Asian preparations. Stomachs full and properly tanned, your day in this area is now complete.


Bay Area

Spanning the length of Ocean Drive and reaching from the corners of TAMUCC to the spine of SPID, Bay Area is the intersection of “the established” and “the just starting out.” Here, old Corpus homes meet student apartments, and settled families share a fence with young professionals. Among its standout qualities are the shady arboretum feel of its streets, residential walkability, and quick access to the action of Downtown. 

If you find yourself a resident of this area, a typical day for you might start off with a quick stop at Coffee Waves. College student, freelancer, or coffee addict, Coffee Waves on Alameda is your second home. To get some serious work done, grab a booth in the cozy study alcove. For a more social experience, relax on the outdoor patio and indoor couches with a London Fog in winter or homemade gelato in the warmer months. Or just zip through the drive-thru with your caffeinated beverage of choice in hand. 

You might be heading to get your hair done after you’ve now been properly caffeinated. Blow Dry Therapy is the Bay Area girl’s secret to gorgeous, wind-resistant, humidity-defying hair. Because the Corpus weather really is that ruthless. Mimosa in hand, Christina and her team pamper you with a scalp facial and blow out that will glam up any outfit you have planned for the night ahead. 

A day filled with outdoor fun and shopping is on the agenda, but first, you have to finally get that pesky inspection sticker renewed, so you’ll head over to James Mathis Exxon, but of course. To the casual passer-by, the corner of Airline and Alameda is always curiously abuzz with old and classic cars driving in and out of Exxon Mathis, the full-service gas station and auto repair shop. Why exactly it attracts the vintage crowd remains a mystery, but we’re fairly certain it has to do with the exemplary service.

Mid-day breaks to get wiggles out are a must. A palm-lined waterfront daydream, Cole Park is an oasis of green. Spanning more than a mile of Ocean Drive, it gives Bay Area residents quick access to a 10,000-square-foot skatepark, large playground, and amphitheater. 

After you’ve had your fair share of fun in the sun, it’s time to treat yourself. Fuel up at Hamlin Fountain & Gifts + Bakery for a casual lunch. The menu is old-school, featuring about five items straight from the ’50s – milkshakes and all. You can even start your shopping adventure while you’re there with their awesome array of gift-shop items. 

Next stop is Antique Row for consignment paradise. Lined with a slew of vintage shops, Antique Row is home to some of the Coastal Bend’s best scores. It’s easy to get lost in just one of the shops on this street, but make sure you stop into each of them! 

Perhaps your desired afternoon of shopping will lend itself to Lamar Park. which has maintained a steady reputation for stylish shopping and dining over the years. Mosey through Julian Gold and Alexis Hunter Interior before browsing the eclectic inventory of Pilar. Bring a book and sip a coffee at Hester’s Cafe if you need a break in between spots. Then close out the ideal Bay Area day with delicious bites and craft cocktails at BKK thai kitchen + bar or The Post.


Downtown & Portland

Downtown boasts walkability, big-city entertainment, and a diverse culinary and cocktail scene. With minimal traffic, it’s a more relaxing urban scene than most downtowns, and attracts young professionals and retirees alike. Over the bridge, Portland offers a rural suburban alternative. Residents enjoy no end of outdoor activities, including some of the best fishing in the Coastal Bend. 

Mornings in the Downtown Corpus Christi Area must start at Lucy’s Snackbar. Fuel up for the day ahead amid their modern and cool atmosphere. Their presence on Chaparral St. has brought coffee, delicious food items, and easy access to Hamlin Bakery’s sweet treats to downtown residents’ lives, and we are thankful for it. If you’re in the Portland neighborhoods, Bloom City Coffee is the stop for you without having to cross the bridge. Whether you’re looking for a quick pick-me-up or a minimalist space to read or work, Portland locals head to Bloom City. 

After you’ve provided your body with the necessities to get the day going, get that nagging workout out of the way! Although the downtown area is just starting to attract residents with upscale condo living like the Cosmopolitan, more and more Coastal Benders are trading in the suburb scene for the skyrise life. These folks have all the eats, drinks, and activities right at their fingertips, but where do they do the daily stuff? Where do they work out, for instance? All Good Fitness. Located on the first floor of the Nueces Lofts, this gym is within walking distance of most offices and apartments. If a gym workout isn’t your thing, there are plenty of ways to get your recreation done outdoors. From running hills by St. James to climbing the stairs of the Seawall, working out with a view has never been easier. 

Depending on the type of day you’re looking to have, your next stop might be the North Shore Country Club for a relaxed day of activities. It remains a foundation of community for folks from every corner of the Coastal Bend. Golfers will enjoy the unparalleled views of the Corpus Christi Bay, and the kids will absolutely love a pool day or tennis lessons. 

Maybe you’re looking for a day that’s a little more inspired by arts and culture – if that’s the case, you’re most certainly in the right neighborhood. The best part? You can pretty much park your car and walk the rest of the day. Start at ChelsMarie Boutique or 20/20 Vintage for an antiquing trip on this side of town. Then head over to the Water Street Market for a stop into the Texas Surf Museum and a stroll through the South Texas Music Walk of Fame. If hunger pains strike, not to worry. You’re literally in the heart of downtown and surrounded by Water Street’s three restaurants, Water Street Oyster Bar, Sushi Room, and Executive Surf Club. 

You might have a little extra time to kill before the baseball game you have tickets for tonight. Wander through the galleries at the Art Museum of South Texas, K Space Contemporary, or the Art Center of Corpus Christi and be amazed by local and worldly artists alike. 

The day in this neighborhood is finally coming to an end. You’ve gathered your family and friends for tonight’s Hooks game and you’re heading to Whataburger Field. From the corrugated metal architecture to the two antique cotton presses framing the videoboard, the field embodies the nostalgia of the Port and the building’s former life. Plus, nothing beats those Friday night fireworks. 

Get one last drink in over at BUS before heading home to rest those tired, locally engaged eyes. Life in an urban setting means forgoing the yard in lieu of the balcony. Not to worry, Downtown has a sort of shared backyard – and it’s always a block party. The indoor-outdoor patio bar supplies lawn games, food trucks, and even water bowls for the four-legged bar hoppers and is the perfect way to end your day. 


Rockport

Rockport residents are like mermaids. Half sea creature, half land-dweller, the average resident enjoys a day out on the boat, sipping a Shiner and forgetting to wear sunscreen. But a day spent browsing local art at the Rockport-Fulton Market Days isn’t bad, either. Once the core of the Coastal Bend fishing industry, Rockport is a peek into the past and a hidden gem of innovative art and cuisine.

Most days in Rockport will begin and end on Austin Street. Sunhat in hand, the Rockport local takes their time visiting the various locally owned shops of Austin Street. Coastal Junk Gypsy, the Rockport Center for the Arts, Winery on the Bay, Rockport Daily Grind…it’s all either right on Austin or just a block over. As palm trees soar above brick buildings distressed by years of sand and wind, old-timey Wild West architecture meets modern coastal flair. 

For a quick indulgence after all that walking, Rockport turns to the Pink Octopus Cafe, a fruity, tropical joint serving up simple, wholesome soups and sandwiches, decadent coffee drinks, and froyo. In this tiny gulfside community, supporting local is the heartbeat of the culture, and the Pink O, as they call it, is local at its finest.

You have dinner plans ready for this evening, but don’t quite feel like waiting them out from the couch. What do you do? Allow your local self to be a tourist in your own neighborhood for a quick second, of course! Find incomparable respite in the Rockport-Fulton Mansion. This Victorian mansion invites you to tour the life and luxury of an 1800s Texan family. 

Then stroll over to the Texas Maritime Museum for that last hour before you head home to get dressed for dinner. The rich maritime history of coastal Texas is anchored right in Rockport. Back in the ’70s, residents started a community collection share (kind of like a car show, but with old boat motors and fishing equipment). Within two decades, that collection grew into a nationally accredited maritime museum and was named the official maritime museum for the State of Texas. 

On your way home from the cultural pastimes, you’ll probably stop by Italian Cowboy to pick up a bottle of wine and a slew of cheese and crackers to entertain before dinner. Cowboy on the outside and Italy on the inside, this local mom and pop is raising the bar for Rockport food and entertainment. Explore the modern Italian market, indulge in the flavors of cheese and wine imported directly from the motherland, and discover everything you need to host the kind of parties you thought only existed in magazines.

Your dinner reservations take you to Glow – and man, have you been waiting for this all week. This once-upon-a-time boat repair cottage is everything your dinner dreams are made of. South Texas Coastal traditions meet British comfort food in Karey Swartwout’s innovative and decadent menu. Cozy and inviting, the rustic fishing vibe of the cottage enhances every fresh-picked, fresh-caught flavor, and we raise our hand-shaken cocktails to toast again and again and again to this classic Rockport day.


Port Aransas

While Port Aransas residents love welcoming new folks to town, visiting with the annual vacationers, and getting their beach party on, they also enjoy the peace and quiet of the winter month…that slow, windy romance of an island in hibernation. Active but laid-back, casual yet elegant, Port Aransas is far more than a tourist destination. 

If you live in this area, you’ll know that most Port Aransas mornings begin with a cup of joe and good conversations at Coffee Waves - Port Aransas. This family-owned coffee shop features local art, local pastries, and local musicians year-round. Whether you’re escaping the heat or cozying up in the gray of winter, this retreat offers a space of congregation, a second home for the neighborhood.

Your typical day in a Port A neighborhood might look like a solid 24 hours of relaxation and rejuvenation. If that’s the case, you certainly picked the right area to live. You’ll arrive at your standing appointment at Balinese Wellness Spa ready to treat yourself. The beautiful wood and adobe spa embodies a tropical paradise and features an array of spa and wellness services. 

If R&R looks more like a day on the golf course, you’ll probably be making your way to the Palmilla Beach Resort and Golf Community. You can stay, eat, drink, and play, all within its grounds. The course has 9 holes of links-style golf, perfect for the occasional golfer, but with challenging tee boxes for the pros. 

Maybe your dedication to leisure looks more like a day on a secluded island. Yup, Port A neighbors have that luxury. If that’s the case, you’re packing your beach bag for San Jose Island. Also known as the hidden treasure of Port A, San Jose Island is privately owned, hoarding some of the Gulf Coast’s best fishing and shelling. Luckily, the beach itself is public, offering a cheap excursion just a short ferry ride from mainland Port A. Bring water, snacks, and enough sunscreen to last you, because this island is beautifully undeveloped with nary a snack shack to mar the sands. 

The Port Aransas neighbor might not have time today to get in those relaxation vibes (don’t worry, it’s on next week’s schedule, I am sure of it). If that’s the case, you might be ready to run a few errands you’ve been putting off, and Coastal Closet is the first stop. When it comes to casual elegance, Coastal Closet is second to none. For a daytime outfit or evening look, Port Aransians know this locally owned fashion and home interiors boutique is the first place to look. 

Next stops include Georgia’s and Lone Star Taste. Niche but necessary, Georgia’s is a magical children’s boutique for the beach-going babies, toddlers, and elementary-aged Port Aransians. Georgia’s is baby shower central, grandma heaven, and a life-saver today because you have to get that last-minute birthday gift for your niece. Lone Star Taste is on your list because there are a few things you forgot to pick up on your last grocery trip. Honey, various spices, and a few bath and body products are the purchases made today … but owners Sylvia and Tim Parke know you’ll be back next week for a few more items. 

You’ve chosen to end your classic Port A day with a show at the Port Aransas Community Theatre. Who needs a movie theater when you have a live community theater right here in town? From classic mysteries like The 39 Steps to new-age fan-faves like Frozen Jr, this small-town theater troupe brings big stage presence, delighting audiences from across the Coastal Bend.