By: Emma Comery Photos by: Rachel Benavides & Lillian Reitz
Bold flavors are in abundance here in the Coastal Bend. From new spots popping up on the scene to tried and true hole-in-the-walls that simply never let us down, the food scene is anything but scarce. Intercontinental flavors are wafting through the high rises and canals of Corpus, innovative preparations are making waves on the island, and everywhere we turn, we seem to find another intriguing restaurant we’ve never tried before.
That’s why we’ve created a one-stop guide to 25 local restaurants (in no particular order) you need to check out this year. To curate this list, we turned to our “Foodie Panel” (Aislynn Campbell, GROW Local South Texas; Gerald Flores, Taco Gear; Vianney Rodriguez, Sweet Life Bake). While not tied to any specific restaurant on this list, these folks are always out on the town, in the know, and on the edge of what’s happening in the Coastal Bend. After each panelist submitted a list of their 25 must-try restaurants, our editors then cross-referenced the lists and added a few of our own faves. The final result is a restaurant list that makes us beam with Coastal Bend pride as much as it makes our stomachs rumble with hunger. Let’s dive in.
1. Jaja Cafe
A Home-Cooked Mealbrbrbrbrbrbr
Even on a Wednesday night, after a long shift at the hospital or under the glaring deadline of a term paper, diners at Jaja Cafe take the time to be just that: diners. In the hour I’m sitting, enjoying my meal, I don’t see a single to-go order (though that’s certainly an option). No, folks here sit, chat, and, for the time it takes to eat a meal, call this place home.
Jaja means home in Cantonese, and that’s precisely the environment owner Pam sought to create when she opened her doors eight months ago. Originally from Shanghai, one of her primary goals is to make food that reminds you of your mother’s cooking, no matter which culinary tradition your mother cooks in. Deeply rooted in the traditional flavors and styles of her upbringing, Pam has high standards for quality and freshness. Her dumplings are made by hand daily, and she refuses to work with frozen produce. This is a far cry from styrofoam to-go-box Chinese food. This is comfort, warmth, and care in its edible form. It’s nourishment.
In this vein, Pam’s not afraid to embrace Americanized classics like General Tso’s Chicken, but she’s going to make sure she uses the freshest and highest quality ingredients. “Some American Chinese food is really good,” Pam says matter-of-factly. It’s that blending of authentic Chinese dishes with the Americanized favorites that perhaps makes Jaja feel like home for everyone who walks through the door. Whether you go authentic or not, Pam will take care of you.
5714 McArdle Road
2. Vietnam Restaurant
Get Whisked Away
Walking through the doors of Vietnam Restaurant on the corner of Water and Starr in Downtown Corpus Christi is a transportation. Palm trees and sunshine give way to an intimately lit dining room that feels continents away from South Texas. Traditional Vietnamese instruments and pottery line the walls like a museum curation, and in the center of it all sits a jaw-dropping statue of the gold-draped Buddha, cross-legged on an oversized lotus flower.
For owner Lien Lam, an elegant, relaxing ambiance is just as much a part of her dining philosophy as the quality of her ingredients or plating of her dishes. Nary a lampshade is swapped out without first consulting renowned architect Bibi Dykema, who has been instrumental in Vietnam’s design since day one.
Born into the restaurant business in Vietnam, Lien is self-taught in the kitchen. Alongside her brother Tony, she combines traditional Vietnamese cuisine with experimental fare. Take the Fuji Fried Rice, for example. “That’s a family recipe,” she says, “you won’t find that at any other Vietnamese restaurant.” A shame, because this rice steamed in tomato sauce with veggies, chicken, and shrimp is a flavor explosion, and I’m already planning my next trip downtown for a second helping.
701 N. Water Street
3. Z Counter
Asian Street Food
Tucked into a strip mall on Airline Road, one tiny takeout spot is bringing big-city foodie vibes to the Coastal Bend. From street tacos to banh mi, Z Counter is every Asian food craving you’ve ever had. Between the minimalistic sit-down area and pan-national menu, it’s also your ideal street food experience in the comfortable setting of a brick and mortar.
I sit awhile and watch the orders come out – steaming bowls of kimchi soup, a spicy beef and noodle soup that will cure you of any seasonal congestion, tender pork belly tacos, basil fried rice, bibimbap (a gorgeous Korean rice dish), fishball dumpling soup … are you hungry yet?
Their unique and tasty menu is packed with fusion food items you can’t really find anywhere else in town. Green onion pancakes, Miso Mac, and Sloppy Tso’s Buns are just a few fun items you’ll find when attempting to make a selection. Order takeout or sit and stay a while; no matter your preferred dining method, Z Counter never fails.
1220 Airline Road #155
The Real Chicken Sandwich
Move aside, Chick-fil-A and Popeye’s, because 8TE is here to show you what a real chicken sandwich tastes like. It’s clean, simple, hand-breaded and marinated in buttermilk and sweet tea, and it comes with homemade maple mustard. Can you get any more authentically southern than that?
With every bite, the chicken falls apart between your teeth, so tender it’s like pulled pork with wings. Crispy, juicy … this is the chicken sandwich you’ve been waiting for – sans the drive-thru.
They say that beside every killer chicken sandwich is a pile of fries to die for. Well, 8TE brings its A-game with – you probably didn’t guess it – beet fries and sriracha ranch; the perfectly reimagined complement to this classic southern comfort dish. A little bit old school, a little bit trendy, each bite makes it harder not to think how much this meal feels like everything I love about Corpus.
1220 McArdle Road #250
5. Big Bowl Korean BBQ
Korean on the Go
Texas may have a long history of grilling the best barbecue (cocky but true), but that doesn’t mean we don’t love trying other styles! At Big Bowl Korean BBQ, uniquely Korean preparations and flavors are hitting the grill. And, lawdy, they will rock your world. Don’t let the 10-item menu fool you; this BBQ joint is the very definition of small but mighty. Beef, pork, and chicken bulgogi showcase a traditional form of Korean cooking called gui, where thin, marinated slices of meat are grilled on a barbecue. Bulgogi literally means “fire meat,” and, y’all, this food is pure fire. If restaurants were rated with flame emojis instead of stars, Big Bowl would be a five-flame take-out experience.
If you do opt to dine in, you can relax in the minimalistic metro design of the dining space. Modern tables and chairs, a magnet board menu, and framed prints of London, New York, and Paris create an aesthetic that is half metro, half childhood whimsy. This is easy, fun food that hits the spot every time.
6410 Weber Road #19
6. Latitude 28˚02′
An Artistic Masterpiece
Oh, Latitude, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love your beachy tables and high back chairs, your big bay windows looking out at the water. I love your intimate bar and artsy cocktails (hey there, Jungletini). I love your art-covered walls and your dedication to supporting local artists. I love the large abstract statue out front that makes me pause and consider its shape every time. I love your oysters, your crispy crab tostadas, your U-Peel-Em Shrimp, your Sambuca Chocolate Mousse …
The first time I ever ate at Latitude, I had the red snapper in a tarragon tomato sauce. One bite and I was ruined. It took every ounce of selflessness I have ever had to stop half-way and ask the waiter to box up the rest so I could take it home and share with my sweet, starving boyfriend.
Husband and wife team Craig and Ramona Day opened this spot with inspiration from years of culinary experience in various forms. This coastal luxury of a joint serves up Shrimp Gilroy, Craig’s Crab Cakes, and dozens of other mouthwatering dishes for all.
105 N. Austin Street
7. Ginger Cafe
A Trip Around the World
Inspired by travels to countries with unparalleled culinary histories – Greece, Turkey, Germany, France, South Africa – brothers Jordan and Ramzi bring refreshing, flavorful dishes from everywhere and anywhere right to your table.
“We only cook with olive oil,” says Jordan. “There’s no real butter on the market.” Olive oil, he asserts, is “the only non-cheating oil.” Hear, hear! This insistence on standards and quality is what established Ginger Cafe as the golden standard for Corpus Mediterranean and eastern cuisine since 2014. When Jordan and Ramzi opened the restaurant, they established three core values: quality of ingredients, impeccable service, and straight-up good eats. Everything must be organic, must be fresh. And if Jordan isn’t satisfied with the quality of one of his ingredients, he’s been known to drive hours just to find it.
There’s no point in asking for a recommendation at Ginger Cafe. You may as well order the whole menu. Tender lamb chops, homemade pita chips, hummus shwarma, gyros, kebabs. It’s street food, fine dining, and comfort food all rolled into one.
7009 S. Staples Street
8. Kanto Filipino BBQ
Cuisine of Love
Three years ago, Paolo Cancio left a glitzy position working alongside Wolfgang Puck at an MGM Resort to move to Corpus and open a restaurant with his sister, Kit. Wielding not only classic French training but a cooking resume that included restaurants around the world, Paolo developed a menu inspired by his childhood favorites from the Philippines: lumpia, pancit, adobo pork, fried rice, grilled shrimp and chicken.
In an increasingly diverse and foodie-centric Corpus, Paolo makes sure Kanto stands out by incorporating some finer stylistic twists like grilling his meats to be more tender than traditional, adding pickled onions on the pork belly kebab, and drizzling mustard aioli on the chicken gizzard skewers (trust me, you want it). And when it comes to presentation, he brings it. From the dishware itself to the subtle garnishes, the plating is as much an art form as the cooking, highlighting the fresh, nourishing focus of the food.
Sure, this is comfort food, party food. But casual certainly doesn’t mean less important. “When you’re eating,” says Paolo, “you always bring your loved ones. Filipino food isn’t a romantic cuisine like French food, but it’s still a cuisine of love.”
5425 S. Padre Island Drive #101A
9. Southside Barbacoa
The Southside Staple
Twenty-two years ago, Southside Barbacoa was a cramped little 3-table restaurant that did most of its business with to-go orders. Today, you’re lucky if you can find a seat for breakfast at one of its 20 tables. “The weekends don’t stop,” says manager Cassandra.
Tucked inside the Market on Everhart, this local classic most certainly never fails. No matter your preferred taco order, the folks at Southside Barbacoa will whip up some of the tastiest tacos you’ll ever get your hands on in the Coastal Bend.
Owned by husband and wife team Manuel and Maria Aguilar, this Tex-Mex favorite strives to make every dish feel like everything you love about home and family. “Everything is made with love,” says Maria. From classics like Steak & Eggs breakfast plates and a Machacado Taquito, this is Tex-Mex in its most authentic, satisfying form.
5894 Everhart Road #1
10. La Playa Mexican Grille
After 17 years, La Playa Mexican Grille is a longtime favorite in Port Aransas. As owner Greg Villasana recounts, his grandfather moved to Texas from Mexico and opened a restaurant in Austin. Shortly after, he opened the renowned Tony’s Tortilla Factory in both Austin and Houston. With such a culinary lineage, Greg seemed destined to work in the restaurant industry. “The business is in my blood,” says Greg. When he and his wife inherited her father’s beach house in Port A, they decided to make the leap and open their own restaurant. A man of simple, but very good, taste, Greg knew he wanted two things: a Mexican grill and “a bunch of beer and tequila.” As it turns out, so did Port A.
Given the location, it’s no surprise that La Playa’s authentic menu features a strong focus on fresh, local seafood. That’s what Greg is all about: fresh, local, and homemade. With recipes developed from family traditions, his previous culinary jobs, and his own creativity, Greg and his team at La Playa offer upscale Mexican dining in a casual, quirky beachside atmosphere.
222 Beach Street #5312
11. Bellino Italiano Ristorante
Vitello Saltimbocca, Cacciucco, and Piatto Misto. Trust me: You want all of it. Chef Francesco Inguaggiato brings everything he learned from working in his grandfather’s trattoria in Sicily right here to Corpus. A self-proclaimed traditionalist, Francesco nonetheless enjoys mixing in his own takes on Americanized Italian recipes, and he specializes in traditional seafood preparations.
Since last January, Bellino’s has been making its own pasta and breads in-house, and yes, you can absolutely taste the difference. The pasta is durum flour and water. No eggs, no preservatives. Then there’s the pinsa. An ancient Roman flatbread made of soy and rice flour imported from Italy, the pizza ancestor is 70 percent gluten-free and light as a feather.
The granddaughter of Italian immigrants, I grew up on homemade pizza, hand-rolled cavatelli, and more spaghetti al pesto than is probably good for a girl. As a result, I’m rather snobbish about Italian restaurants outside of Italy. But, oh, was I put in my place, was I converted, was I dazzled. The small, intimate trattoria on Alameda transported me with flavors, wine, and decor. I was in Italy, sipping on a Biscardo Neropasso and munching on a slice of pinsa, perhaps waiting for my cousin Antonella. Dining at Bellino’s was a singular experience that touched more than my palate – it fully changed my sense of place. In that evening, my perspective changed; Corpus expanded to a city of multiple countries and cultures, where any door in a strip mall could lead to a new culinary exploration.
3815 S. Alameda Street
12. B&J’s Pizza
The Perfect Combo
There are some things in life that should never change, and a good sauce recipe is one of them. B&J’s Pizza owner Chris Baker understands this truth, and he’s preserved B&J’s beloved pizza sauce and dough recipe since his parents bought the original restaurant on SPID in 1987.
A good change? Six years ago, Chris added a brewpub to the newer Staples location, and recently brought in a brewmaster and sent him to train at the Appalachian State Brewery School. To date, the team has brewed more than 100 original beers to boast of alongside the 200+ imported and craft beverages available. I have to ask about the Hairy Porter. Legend has it, the name developed from a homebrew recipe gone awry when the brewer’s dog, Hairy, dropped a tennis ball in the brewpot. No worries, the ball-free version is pretty fantastic.
Perfectly paired with any of their brews, their menu includes wings, subs, salads, and of course, pizza. Each of their pies are made with the freshest of ingredients, which make for some of the best pizza you’ll find in the Coastal Bend. Anything from the garlicky Jack’s Special (which also happens to be a wing flavor) to a classic cheese pizza, you really can’t order wrong when you’re here.
6335 S. Padre Island Drive
6662 S. Staples Street
Flavor Off the Grill
The backside of the YWCA probably isn’t the first place you’d go looking for authentic, gourmet Mexican street tacos. But that’s where you’ll find them. Here, beneath the shade of an oak tree, Chef A.J. Brooks is whipping up bold flavor combos you didn’t even know existed. With no formal culinary training, he takes inspiration from the authentic cooking traditions of his grandmother, Gloria, and adds twists, tangs, and unexpected toppings to elevate old favorites to new discoveries.
Deeply authentic but bursting with irrepressible and unconventional creativity, these tacos question and challenge their very definition. What makes good food? The preparation? How you cook the meal? The ingredients you use? The risks you’re willing to take? A.J.’s flavor combinations invite you to debate just that.
One bite of his Pork Carnita Confit and I’m a believer: high-class French preparations can have down-home South Texas flavor. Crisp textures and fresh veggies like poblano raja (strips of poblano pepper), carrot, and cabbage balance out the dark, fatty meat before a jicama slaw comes out of nowhere and takes you in a whole new flavor direction. Fresh, rich, flavorful, and multidimensional, an Artesano meal is an edible version of an Andy Warhol; an abstract reinvention of a classic.
4601 Corona Drive
14. Thai Sun Island Cafe
Dinner and a Show
I push through the door of Thai Sun to a game of verbal ping-pong. “Girl, I saw you strut in here strong as hell!” Chef Toui Thongsavanh calls out to me. I freeze.
“I saw her strut in here like she just stormed the gates of hell!”another man — Chef Joe Brock — counters.
Not to be outdone, Thongsavanh throws back, “I saw her strut in like she was walking the catwalk for Victoria’s Secret.”
(This is my twenty-fifth restaurant in two weeks. If I’m strutting down any catwalk, it’s in Spanx.)
Turns out this bizarre yet entertaining greeting is part of Thai Sun’s unique brand of warm hospitality. “We treat all of our guests like family,” says Brock. Born into a military family in Japan, Brock spent much of his youth in Thailand before moving to Texas as a teen. With Thongsavanh’s twenty-plus years of owning Thai restaurants and Brock’s extensive background in traditional sushi and fine dining, this culinary team is exactly what Padre Island has been missing. Just a few months old, Thai Sun is still in its early stages and recently added additional seating to offer a casual dine-in option. The ever-expanding menu of entrees and sushi rolls has been drawing diners from over the bridge and making loyal regulars of them.
13925 S. Padre Island Drive
15. Thai Cottage
At the cottage, a rich history awaits. Our Thai Cottage here in Corpus is but one of nine Thai Cottages bringing standout Thai food to Texas. Originally founded by husband and wife team Chai and Ting in Houston, Thai Cottage has been serving up knockout food for over 30 years. The intimate, elegant dining room is accented by an exposed brick wall and the stunning mural that spans it. Brightly colored and depicting Thai farmers carrying buckets of water and picking rice, the painting was purchased by the owners in Thailand and shipped to Corpus in panels. They’ve also completely redone their outdoor patio. Draped in luscious greenery and plenty of seating, the scene both in and outside are set for you to dine with others.
The classic Panang Curry soars with the lightest of coconut milk bases, fresh vegetables, and basil. Creative dishes like the crab-wrapped Shrimp Mermaid are more unique to Thai Cottage and showcase inventive plating that lends a modern edge to this traditional fare. And the desserts … oh, but the desserts. Contrasting temperatures and textures of the sweet rice and thai custard symphonize on my tongue, and I am at the mercy of my spoon.
5830 McArdle Road
16. Hoegemeyer’s Barbeque Barn
There’s something irresistible about a restaurant that says, “When we run out, we’re out.” You just know it’s going to blow your mind. So, while South Texas certainly doesn’t skimp on the BBQ options, if there’s one place you visit in 2020, make it Hoegemeyer’s. From slow-smoked brisket, smoked chicken inspired by the owner’s days owning a fried chicken joint, or pulled pork to Po’Boys, this is homestyle cooking with a subtle German twist – that’s what owner and pitmaster David Page is all about. Oh, and also quantity. That’s right; you can order by the platter or the pound, so wear your stretchy pants.
If you’re like me, you can barely spare the time between bites to stop and take in the atmosphere, but I truly recommend that you do. The 90-year-old warehouse was remodeled entirely with reclaimed materials and furnishings that were found at garage sales.
The overall dining experience at this local favorite is top notch. Consistently smokin’ the good stuff, Hoegemeyer’s serves up their barbeque from the heart. Simple methods, fresh ingredients, and a loving crew all make this spot a must.
711 Concrete Street
Three slabs of thick-cut French baguette sit before me, soaked in strawberry brandy compote and topped with the merest sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar. This is just one of Chef Christian’s many French Toast options at Sugarbakers’ Saturday Brunch. One bite and I am, well, toast.
Sugarbakers is a charming European-inspired cafe serving up indulgent breakfasts and inventive salads and sandwiches. Fresh breads and bright veggies bring you Caprese Paninis, Wild Field Salads, Black Bean Quinoa Burgers, and Blackened Mahi Mahi Wraps. It’s not all sweet and sugary, we promise. This is hearty food prepared impeccably.
For Chef Christian, it’s a creative outlet. Classically trained in French and Italian cooking, he took over Sugarbakers from a Polish woman seven years ago. Rather than starting from scratch, he heightened the European feel she had created in the restaurant, expanded the menu about 300 percent, and doubled their baking capacity.
Today, it’s a local go-to for coffee and a pastry, as well as birthday and wedding cakes, or brunch and mimosas, or a quaint lunch. Sweet or savory, Sugarbakers offers the whole breakfast/brunch spread from donut breakfast sandwiches to the Lobster Avo-Toast Benny.
2766 Santa Fe Street
18. Black Marlin Seaside Grill
A three-dimensional marlin, shimmering and open-mouthed, erupts from the wall like he’s trying to grab my Grouper Reuben. I don’t blame him. The art is half the experience here at Black Marlin. Large, captivating, textured artwork accents the shiplap, and a marlin statue outside arches like it’s fighting a hook. Small but airy, the dining room is beachy and casual, the very embodiment of “island time.”
The real art, however, is a la Chef Gail Huesmann, whose Le Cordon Bleu training doesn’t mask her southern roots. Gail is all about comfort food, fresh fish, and lunch you can lick off your fingers. Try the Bacon Crab Beignets with a spicy orange remoulade, or the award-winning Shrimp & Grits. Don’t let the gorgeous plating stop you from diving in.
19. Yola Cocina Mexicana
The One We’ve Been Waiting For
Black-and-white art deco walls with gold mirrors and modern accent lighting wasn’t what I was expecting of a Mexican restaurant. “There is this idea,” says owner Ryan Rios,
“that for something to be ‘Mexican,’ it has to be bright and colorful.” YOLA’s interior was inspired by Rios’ visits to the Polanco District of Mexico City. “It is elegant and stylishly fashionable, from the old to the new. It feels glamourous and intimate with a level of sophistication.” With hand-laid tile and handmade materials from SquareFoot Design Studio, that’s the atmosphere he has created at YOLA. Like its sister restaurant, BKK, YOLA strives to provide an elevated dining experience where every detail, from the hot sauce to the goldware, is carefully curated to present Rios’ interpretation of Mexico.
Part of that interpretation is working with sous chef Juanita to recreate and reimagine dishes from their youth. For Rios, there’s value in buying the heirloom blue corn imported from Oaxaca – not only for its unique flavor, but because of its contribution to Mexican farmers. As for salsa: “Growing up in South Texas, you get accustomed to a certain hot sauce that seems widely available, but we had a fun time experimenting with pepper varieties and appreciating each for their unique colors and flavors.”
The name YOLA honors Rios’ grandmother, Yolanda, whom he calls his “angel grandmother and North Star.”
3818 S. Alameda Street #36
20. The Pheonix
Turning onto Piper Boulevard (a street so hidden I miss it the first time and have to turn around) in Port Aransas, I think to myself, Where the hell is this place? As it turns out, The Phoenix Restaurant & Bar sits on one of the island’s most postcard-worthy marinas. Framed by palm trees and overlooking glittering waters dotted with sailboats, this small restaurant is an elegant study in shiplap and aqua. In the evening, they wait for the sun to touch the horizon before raising the shades on the windows. Then, the best view of the sunset is yours.
This fine dining island favorite is the passion project of Chef Tiana Worsham and her wife, Vanessa.
With specials like Pork Belly Street Tacos, Grouper Gremolata, and Creamy Mushroom Soup, the menu is heavily influenced by locally available fresh seafood and Asian preparations. “It’s what we like to eat,” Chef Tiana explains, simple as that.
Tiana is the queen of light breading, gentle sauces, and contrasting consistency. Take the crab cake for example: 99 percent crab, 1 percent crumb, and drizzled with a bright lemon aioli. Then there’s the Grouper Gremolata – smooth avocado and tangy lemon meld over a rich fish, and … I think I saw God that night.
3500A Island Moorings
A Fresh Take on an Old Space
At Fresco, Tony and Oneida Maldonado are bringing Mexican culture (and food!) to the heart of Corpus’ downtown area. “We want to make a little ripple in the community,” says Tony, folding t-shirts to sell at their mini-pulga (vintage market) in their front window. Fresco has quickly become a hub of artistic and cultural congregation and exchange. Located next to K Space Contemporary, Fresco has hosted art shows and participates in Art Walk each month.
But, I really need to talk about the food, because any restaurant that has fish head soup as a special and aguas frescas any time of day is my kind of adventure. Primarily featuring on-the-go and quick bite lunch or late-night options like sliders, tacos, and bowls, Fresco will always keep you on your toes with treats like Tejano Poutine, ceviche, and piping hot bowls of chicken pozole. Here, the answer to “Dessert?” is always “Yes,” because you don’t say no to peaches and cream tres leches. Ever.
619 N. Chaparral Street
22. Little Manila Lumpia House
Small but Mighty Tasty
I walk into Little Manila Lumpia House to find four women popping sunflower seeds around one very roasted, very delicious-looking pig. One of the women – owner Elena Eddings – offers me some of the sunflower seeds. Her name is Elena, and she’s chatty, quick to laugh, and absolutely delightful. Born in the Philippines, she took over the Flour Bluff restaurant years ago, and is looking to open a second location over the bridge.
Judging by her pancit, she’s good to go. Fresh veggies, tender chicken, and some kind of magical sauce all combine in a dish that makes it very probable that there will be no leftovers whatsoever. A side of pork lumpia is the perfect snack for the drive home, crispy and flavorful.
There really isn’t a wrong way to order here. You can go the classic route with dishes like Beef and Broccoli or Sweet and Sour Chicken and you will surely be satisfied. Pancit Canton, Sinigang Soup, and Fresh Lumpia rolled daily are a few of our favorites off the menu. Nonetheless, this is straight-up addictive food made by a mother-son team with generations of unbeatable knowledge.
2124 Waldron Road
23. Shoreline Sandwich Company
More Than a Sandwich
Homemade chips, smoked-in-house meats, and house sauces are just the tip of the DIY iceberg at Shoreline Sandwich Company. Founded and led by chef Kristoffer Busk, this 3-location Corpus favorite is far more than a sandwich shop. As Busk’s wife, Elly, puts it, “You never know what’s happening back in that kitchen.” Forever experimenting, challenging himself and his team, Busk refuses to be limited in what he can create and serve. At Shoreline, the menu has expanded immensely, and now includes entire sections dedicated to different kinds of grilled cheese, burritos, and hot sandwiches. He whips up caviar and ravioli, dabbles in gastronomy, and wins awards for his barbecue. With a food philosophy that includes curing his own bacon and sourcing produce as locally as possible, Busk is leading the growing wave of adventurous, locally-focused dining in Corpus Christi.
After years of trying to build a career as a professional cook, Busk joined forces with his friend A.J. Brooks (the two were working together delivering furniture at the time), and Shoreline was born in the lobby of a bank downtown. Busk describes his career pre-Shoreline as years of “being told ‘no’ all the time.” Perhaps this is why the evolution of Shoreline and Busk’s now multi-business portfolio seems to be built on the concepts of “yes” and “why not.” Within just seven years, Shoreline expanded to include a second location downtown on Leopard Street, and a third in Southside. So wherever you are, you always know where to find the best sandwich around.
600 Leopard Street #106
500 N. Shoreline Boulevard #108
5350 S. Staples Street
24. The Blue Cove
Mexican Seafood Reimagined
Amidst the hubbub of retail and offices on Everhart, The Blue Clove feels like a portside oasis, a lighthouse in the storm of traffic, a secret island of culinary treasures. Father-son team Antonio and Tony Posada wow diners with every plate, serving up seafood both classic and reimagined. While Antonio’s resume includes over 20 years as Chef at the Corpus Christi Yacht Club, Tony’s official training consisted of a year at culinary school.
The school, he quickly realized, wasn’t going to teach him what working alongside his father would. As a partner, one of Tony’s main focuses has been heightening the sophistication of The Blue Clove’s branding, atmosphere, and menu design. “My dad brings the old school,” says Tony. “I bring the new school.”
Together, they have developed an elevated menu of Mexican fusion that includes everything from Grilled Mango Salmon to Sesame Crusted Tuna. An immeasurable range of styles and flavors converge on this one menu, and chef specialties like the Drum Florentine and Tortilla-Crusted Drum will have you licking your plate. If for some reason you can’t find something you’re into on their extensive menu, no worries. Not only are you allowed to go off-book when ordering, it is actually encouraged by Tony!
5884 Everhart Road
25. Frank’s Spagetti House
The Local Spot
I probably look like a nutjob when I walk into Frank’s Spaghetti House at 3p.m. and order a bowl with meat sauce for one. Picture Lady and the Tramp after Tramp dumps Lady and she heartbrokenly stuffs her face with pasta.
At Frank’s, though, there is no heartbreak. Just some supremely twirl-worthy spaghetti.
The menu is classic. Spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna, manicotti … Frank’s does pasta, cheese, and sauce, and they do it well. No surprise, since the original Frank brought his family’s recipes from Sicily to Corpus in 1947, and the business – and recipes – have remained in the family ever since.
And while the middle-of-nowhere location may not be the first place you go looking for Italian fare, locals will tell you the drive is worth it. Humble in curb appeal, Frank’s wins you over with its whimsical interior. Two small dining rooms with a joint fireplace feature floor-to-ceiling decorations like dusty wine bottles, grape bundles, framed art deco, and, naturally, colanders. Plastic red-and-white checked tablecloths cover every table. The whole scene is one note of “Bella Notte” away from a dream.
2724 Leopard Street
Where to Caffeinate Now
• Wired Coffee Company
New Cup on the Block
• Barefoot Beans
• Coffee Waves
• Driftwood Coffee Co
The Tasting Table
Where to Drink Now
• House of Rock
• Bar Under the Sun
The Downtown Watering Hole
• Tapology Texas Pub
Taps on Taps on Taps
• Tannins Wine Bar
The Wine Paradise
Where to Snack Now
• Lucys Snackbar
Downtown Pit Stop
• Hamlin Bakery
Beloved Baked Goods
• Bien Mérité
• Pink Octopus Cafe
Sweets & Savories