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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Louie's Backyard

This venerable hot spot of the island, Louie's Backyard, has been entertaining and feeding tourists and locals alike for as long as I've been coming to South Padre. 

If you are a visitor - it's a "must do" before you go home.  Summer offers Friday night fireworks viewing from their fabulous deck overlooking the lower Laguna Madre.  The marvelous display of the stunning South Padre sunset is applauded nightly by viewers as it sinks over the horizon.  It's a beauty and the unhampered view from Louie's is as good a spot to view it as I've ever seen.  It's a huge venue.  I've had a party of 28, a party of 7, and a party of 4 - all had good times and good food and were handled equally well by the industrious wait staff at Louie's.  When we take guests, we tend to do their extensive seafood buffet and dine on the deck.  With generous provisions of prime rib, fried shrimp, peel-your-own shrimp, crab legs, blackened fish, fried fish, scallops, an array of pasta salads, succulent fresh fruits, salad bar, potato's sure to please those with the need to stuff themselves silly.  I, personally, wouldn't rate it gourmet quality - but it is consistently good and plentiful.  In the depths of summer, it can be pretty hot, despite the many whirring ceiling fans.  Be prepared - and keep the drinks flowing (alternate in some water!) to remain hydrated.  Most people from Memorial Day to Labor Day, on Friday nights, plan their dining around being on-site at 9:15 for the fireworks.  Plan accordingly - tables don't turn often that night!

I've gone to Louie's as a "local" and eaten inside in the a/c.  (much more comfortable, but not as scenic) They have a full and varied menu and one of my favorite items is their Mexican Style Shrimp Cocktail.  I can make a meal of it - muy bueno!  I've had my share of frozen margaritas at Louie's and they were tasty as well.  There is a kid's menu, but we found, once (the party of 28), that they did not offer the kid's menu on Friday night for some reason.  They were kind enough (because we had a large group of special needs kids) to make an exception and got the kids what they wanted (the few who didn't want the buffet).  Bless them....because that could have been a big problem!  That was 5 years ago though...the kids are grown now and they want that buffet!

I never have room for dessert - but one year for my son's birthday, they brought out The Bomb - a chocolate brownie based explosion of chocolate deliciousness.  If you have room - I can vouch for it being a yummy selection!

After the parental units return to their condo, the adult "kids" often return for after hours live music or DJ and drinks.  They take The Wave home and always declare that they have a blast.  I can't vouch for the music, the dancing, or anything beyond a dinner drink...but the boys always seem to have a grand time.

Their website provides a list of scheduled entertainment - and it looks quite extensive!  I think I'll have to make a point of taking in some of the offerings... a Luau night, Mariachis,  Karaoke, a locals Sports Bar with over 60 televisions and big screens...WOW.  I've been missing out!

Whether you are a visitor or a local - Louie's Backyard is sure to be a good time.  Louie's is only open for restaurant dining in the evening (no lunch service) and their website says they are closed on Sunday.  The Sports Bar is open 7 days - and opens at noon on the week-ends.  You can't miss the big pink building at 2305 Laguna Blvd.  It's packed in the summer, but Fall is a wonderful time on the island.  I'll be looking forward to sitting on the deck in my shorts and flip flops in November, watching those beautiful sunsets, with a frosty margarita in my hand!
(photo from Google Images)

3 1/2 – Pretty Yummy - I feel my flip flops wanting to head back from time to time!

Louie's Back Yard on UrbanspoonStumbleUpon

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sea Ranch Restaurant and Bar

Photo source:  Google images
When we want to go somewhere nice for a family occasion, nine times out of ten, the family member requests Sea Ranch Restaurant and Bar as their dining establishment of choice.  This is one of those places where I wear my sparkly rhinestone encrusted flip flops I regularly purchase at Ship Shape on the island.  I'm addicted to their purty shoes...  However, I digress.  Back to food.

Sea Ranch was completely renovated after Hurricane Dolly and it is beautiful inside.  The staff are attentive and friendly.  The cosmos are good (the only drink I can attest to) and my son's girlfriend enjoyed the Appletini.  Everyone else had wine - and they sure seemed happy!  Mainly, though, the restaurant is visited for those special occasions, over and over, because the food is so delicious and the evening becomes an event to be remembered. 

The appetizer most loved by us all is the hot Artichoke Parmesan Cheese Dip.  Yum.  My hubby tends to get the Island Fiesta Combo - which is a pick 2 items kind of thing - he likes to get fish and shrimp.  My son learned to love Red Snapper here.  He also learned to love Filet Mignon and Lobster here.  Hmmmm...wish he learned to like something a little less pricey!  My brother-in-law and nephews enjoy bringing their catch and having the chef prepare it for them.  That option comes with some sides so it works out great for them.  Me?  I am in LOVE with their Seafood Alfredo...and their delicious fried shrimp...and their shrimp scampi over angel hair pasta.  Actually, I've never had a bad meal...or even a mediocre meal at Sea Ranch.

Sea Ranch is on the bay side and the evening is enhanced by lovely sunsets, boats coming and going, happy people, and a truly excellent dining experience.  It is located on the south end of the island and is only open for dinner.  So, put on your sparkly flip flops ladies and a nice tropical shirt guys... it won't be your cheapest meal on the island but I bet it will be one of the meals you remember.  I've been going to Sea Ranch for over 10 years...and when my birthday comes around...that's where I'll be wanting to go this year too!
(Image source - Google Images)


5 – OMG – that was an outstanding meal! I can’t wait to go back.

Sea Ranch Restaurant-Bar on UrbanspoonStumbleUpon

Dirty Al's

Having sampled Dirty Al’s several times over the past couple of years, I must say it’s a good value with consistent quality. I've been at various times of day, both high and low seasons...and have never been disappointed.

My oldest son heard about Dirty Al’s from a friend in Austin and they visited Dirty Al’s while on vacation a few years back. They raved about the fish tacos and the “Dirty Al’s Sauce”.  They assured me we should try it...despite having the word "bait" on the restaurant signage!  I didn't make it that trip, but I did once we moved down here.  Dirty Al's proclaims to have “the world’s best fried shrimp” and I’ve sampled their fried shrimp on enough occasions to know that it is indeed dependably tasty.  Lightly breaded shrimp, butterflied to the extreme, with onion rings instead of French fries for me… the small shrimp basket fills me up (so why do I keep ordering the large serving?). Last time we tried the fried calamari. I wasn’t overly fond of the dipping sauce (although my older son liked it) but they immediately brought some excellent tartar sauce and some Ranch dressing which I used instead; truly excellent calamari.  Service is attentive, friendly, and we've never had too long of a wait once we were seated.

My younger son is a picky eater but he declares their hamburger “thumbs up”. My only “dislike” was my granddaughter’s upset at ordering a corn dog and being served mini corn dogs. Tired little kids are fairly concrete. If that had been explained on the menu – it would have been one less melt down for the adults to experience! Their online menu is incomplete – so don’t think that is all they have. The menu on-site has options not listed online.

The original location on the south end of the island (on the bay side before you get to Isla Blanca Park) can be really crowded during the tourist high season. Going early for lunch or dinner will possibly score you a shorter wait. Their second restaurant, Dirty Al’s Pelican’s Station (bay front and less than a block south of Hwy 100) in Port Isabel, has a beautiful bridge and bay view, several televisions tuned to sports and news channels, and an ambiance more to my liking. The island location has a small gift shop attached and the Port Isabel location appeared to have a separate gift shop to the left of the entrance although I didn’t stop in.

They advertise that they also serve breakfast – which I haven’t tried; will be doing that soon. I’ll keep you posted!
(Photo source - Google Images)


4 – Lip smackin’ good quality – flip flops will definitely be parked under their table again!

Dirty Al's on UrbanspoonStumbleUpon

Gabriella's Italian Grill and Pizzaria

My family loves Gabriella’s Italian Grill and Pizzeria. It is always on their “list” when I have visitors and I try to put it on “the list” for new visitors. The wait is long during high season, but there is outside seating on the sidewalk if you can handle the sun. I prefer waiting for an inside table unless it is one of those lovely balmy island evenings in the Fall and Spring. The wait is worth it in my opinion.

The meal starts off with wonderful hot bread with herbed olive oil for dipping, a small communal plate of antipasto, and a family-style bowl of salad dressed with vinaigrette. They have an amazing beer and wine selection to complement your meal and a good cup of coffee, if that is your thing. The hand-made brick oven pizza, the chicken Marsala, the fried chicken (yes, fried chicken – with truffle gravy and garlic mashers – I’d order the gravy on the side – it’s intense), the spaghetti with meatballs, the bowtie carbonara….I should stop – everything I’ve ever eaten there has been outstanding. The one thing I have to have every time – fried calamari. It is the best I’ve ever eaten….and I’ve eaten a LOT of calamari.  It's just good food and a lot of it!

My younger son is a picky eater but he never fails to find something he likes there. The basic menu items are good as are the more gourmet offerings. My son tried his first Tiramisu there. His response was “WHY haven’t I had this before???” I just smiled “uh, because you won’t try anything new?”

My only “dislike” has been that the wait staff is sometimes spread too thin. Service has always been courteous but not always timely. I’m always hungry when I go there, so it has bothered me the last couple of times. Not the case during low season, but definitely a problem during high season. I’d be less likely to take my grandkids there. I doubt they could bear the wait.

When I first moved here they were located in Port Isabel and closed a couple of months after Hurricane Dolly. I was thrilled to discover their new location just north of the bridge on the island (700 Padre Blvd.), in a nice, but small, strip mall setting. Please note – when busy, parking may be a challenge. Be prepared. Really, though, for ME, it’s been worth the wait and parking crunch every time!


5 – OMG – that was an outstanding meal! I can’t wait to go back

Gabriella's Italian Grill & Pizzeria on UrbanspoonStumbleUpon

Sunday, August 29, 2010

South Padre Island Farmer's Market

BASED ON TRIPS FROM FEBRUARY 2010 TO JULY 2010          As I drove up to the North shore area, where the local farmer’s market is held, I couldn’t stop the grin from spreading across my face. I was so happy to be back at a local farmer’s market! I parked on the side of the road, tried not to sink into too much sand, hopped out, grabbed my Central Market canvas tote, re-secured my hat – because, of course, the wind was briskly blowing – and just stopped to listen. I heard live music, I heard people laughing, I heard a gull or two, I heard the sound of flags snapping in the wind. Then, I sniffed the air – the salty sea air. The sun was shining and a complete feeling of Zen came over me. There is nothing like a farmer’s market!

The first trip to the SPI Farmer’s Market was, well, crowded. The Winter Texans were here and it was a new venture…it was a little chaotic. The produce was abundant (lots of greens and lettuce blends, broccoli, cauliflower) but sold rapidly. This trip was a little more laid back – April had arrived – the veggies were different. It was less crowded, more of the feel I’ve come to associate with off-season South Padre Island.

At one of the following visits I got celery, the first of the cucumbers, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, tender little carrots, young green beans, some herbs, speckled eggs, and other delectable vegetables. On other trips I’ve gotten melons, pineapples, greens, onions, broccoli, salads from Zeste and baked goods. This week I hear there is corn, sweet potatoes, melons, an abundance of squashes, and other end-of-summer yummies. My favorite vendor is Acacia Farms – they never fail to have beautiful product. But, really, all of the selections are wonderful for such a small market.

The SPI Farmer’s Market just makes me feel good. I stood in the sun for a moment, listening to guitar music, browsing the offerings at the Paragraphs Book Store kiosk and was so happy to be living here in this beautiful area... with a soul-deep need fulfilled; to be able to access locally-grown produce in a friendly small-town environment – just heavenly. The market is currently held on Sunday each week, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. just north of the Convention Center at The Shores. You’ll see the white tents and the cars parked along the road. See you there!


5 – OMG – that was an outstanding EVENT! I can’t wait to go back!StumbleUpon

Hi, I’m the SPI Flip Flop Foodie!

I’ve lived in the South Padre Island/Port Isabel area for a couple of years now, and I’ve vacationed on the island for many years. Eating out on the island was always one of our favorite things when we vacationed (of course the beach was #1). I still love the opportunity to explore the gastronomical offerings available in the area and decided I would share my enjoyment of good food with others by starting this blog.

I lived in Austin, Texas my entire life prior to the move here, and reveled in the bountiful offerings of HEB's first Central Market, the roots of Whole Foods Markets, a plethora of fine restaurants, and fabulous neighborhood dives. With the debut of Food Network as my catalyst for learning to love more than basic fried southern food and Texas barbecue, I began to experiment with more advanced cooking techniques at home, and began to choose foods I would never have tried in the past when dining out. My husband and I enjoy travelling... and finding great food in unfamiliar places is a true delight.

Since moving to the Gulf Coast, I found myself ridding my closet of almost all of my dress clothes and shoes and living La Vida Isla… in shorts, tees, flip flops, and sun screen. I used to edit and write a newsletter for a hospital where I worked, was editor of my school paper, and my first job was in a small local newspaper. I miss writing and decided I was ready to get back into writing something …and my first thought ran to food!

I hope you enjoy the restaurant reviews, event reviews, and other ramblings I’ll provide from time to time. Eventually, I hope to incorporate recipes and interviews. I’ll keep you posted as things progress!

I have decided to rate the food-related events and restaurants I visit, as described below. Also please take a moment to review my tongue-in-cheek disclaimer.


0 – My flip flops were not happy campers

1 – Okay – but I’ve definitely had better – not sure that I’d return

2 – A satisfactory meal –I’d try it again

3 – Pretty Yummy - I feel my flip flops wanting to head back from time to time!

4 – Lip smackin’ - good quality – flip flops will definitely be parked under their table again!

5 – OMG – that was an outstanding meal! I can’t wait to go back


This blog is intended solely for those interested in my personal opinion of restaurants I have visited. If you don’t like my opinion, you are free to go to the restaurant yourself, decide if you like it or not, and write your own blog. Everyone has different tastes. If you hate a restaurant I love, well, don’t go back to the restaurant I love, go to the restaurant you love. I only go to restaurants where I can wear flip flops. I do have dressy flip flops so don’t think you can wear your swimsuit or cutoffs to all of these restaurants. While South Padre Island has a beachy, no-tie atmosphere, some places are a bit dressier and might be more suitable to having a few sparkles on your flip flops. There may be links or advertisements found on my blog. I try to be conscientious about links but the web is a constantly evolving creature. If you are inadvertently exposed to offensive material, nudity, obscenity, or other unintended obnoxiousness – it was never malicious on my part and I sure didn’t mean THAT to happen! I’m a nice girl – I wouldn’t intentionally do that. Please email me what happened and I’ll try to investigate. Some things are outside of my immediate control. If you own a restaurant I didn’t like, well… I’m sorry. If you want to know additional details about my visit, please email me with the subject “I am a restaurant owner” and I will be happy to have a cordial discussion about my experience. If you yell at me in writing, I will not respond. If you don’t like my writing style, I have misspellings, or there are other technical issues, I suggest you find another blog to read because I’m pretty casual about writing styles. Okay, enough of that icky disclaimer stuff.StumbleUpon