By: Julieta Hernandez Photo by: Rachel Benavides
Tucked away in Rockport’s Cove Harbor hides a tasty little slice of paradise. If you’re feeling pina coladas, have an eye for boat watching, or are thinking about that catch of the day, it’s time to find Paradise Key Dockside Bar and Grill. You can drive up or sail in: The tropical restaurant rests right on the edge of the water, with its huge patio overlooking great views of coastal sunsets.
In its unique menu, Paradise Key combines nods to Cajun, Hawaiian, and traditional American cuisine styles. A real Texas-style gem in particular is the Pecan Crusted Snapper.
“This dish really represents South Texas,” laughs Paradise Key’s executive chef Jayson Jones. “You do have sport fishing, especially snapper fishing. There’s so much of that around here. Then, well, one of Texas’s biggest draws is the pecans. Nothing to me really says Texas like pecans, whether you’re east, north, west, or south.”
The rich filet is hand battered in a seasoned flour with crushed sweet pecans, which make the snapper all the more savory. It’s not fried – that slight crisp comes from a slow, buttery pan-searing. It’s blanketed with Paradise Key’s in-house warm, creamy cilantro sauce, and paired with any two sides. “If it were me, I’d go for the green beans with it,” advises Jones. “And I would probably not shy away from that mac and cheese, the white cheddar.”
The pecan snapper has been one of the restaurant’s longest-standing, most popular dishes in its history – and this Rockport treasure has been here through it all. The Paradise Key crew has remained Rockport Strong throughout Hurricane Harvey and the recent pandemic.
“It’s a unique time in Paradise Key history, which is a great history,” says general manager Kent Harman. “We’re committing harder than ever to make this all it can be. We’re aiming to keep the high expectations, elevating what’s already good; the pandemic gave us some operational challenges that we pushed through successfully.”
Paradise Key doesn’t just aim to feed you great food, as the kick-back experience and the friendly staff are key components of the experience. The full bar offers cold margs, spicy bloody marys, and a hand-selected, seasonal craft beer menu. Luckily, front of house managers Jason Brown and Austin Denison have a palate for beer, and can happily recommend a pint.
Paradise Key is the Coastal Bend’s little vacation gem – ideal for Sundays out fishing, a delightful lunch escape, or a night of top-shelf margaritas. “We want people to leave happy and want to come back to Paradise,” says Chef Jones with a smile. “Just for the experience and the way they felt here.”