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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Uchi Cuisine

UPDATE JULY 2012 - HAS A NEW NAME...NAMI CUISINE - An updated review can be found August 19, 2012
After a couple of stressed-out days, I headed to the island to get a mani/pedi at Venus Nails and Spa.  Jenny is the best and I knew I would be de-stressed before leaving.  She (and her massaging pedicure chair) did not let me down :-)  I headed down to Paragraphs to pick up my copy of El Valle and, DUH, it is Thursday - open at 12:00 - soooo, with a pocket of time to fill and a hungry belly, I decided to swing into Uchi at 2300 Padre Blvd.  I had not been there for lunch but was hankering for a bit of oriental fare - I thought it would fit the bill! 

My hubby and I had dinner there this winter when he was in town between assignments and we really enjoyed it.  The food was extremely well-flavored and abundant...we could have easily split a plate.  Of course, we didn't.  The soup was light and flavorful - not salty as is sometimes found in Asian restaurants - so that was a great start.  I have to admit, in the oriental arena, I have rather plebeian mainstream tastes - so I ordered the Sweet 'n' Sour Chicken.  I'm not a big fan of bell peppers and had to leave a lot of those on my plate - but the sauce was really good and the chicken was tender with good-sized chunks.  Crisp onions and carrots were a good complement to the dish, with a generous side of rice.  My husband had the General Tsao's chicken and was very satisfied with his meal.

So, having not dined there during the lunch hour, I took a few minutes to scan the menu.  They have a huge selection of sushi (of which I am not a fan) and a modest lunch selection - several of which I could be happy with.  I was feeling like a little spice, so I ordered the General Tsao's chicken since I knew it had gotten the thumbs up from my main man.  I also ordered a side of fried Spring Rolls and a glass of iced tea.  I was the first one in the door and the tea was just brewing - slight delay - but worth waiting for - and I had a book, so no worries.  A really excellent glass of iced tea.  I had refills! (I'm an iced-tea snob - and this was a 10!)

My spring rolls came out first with two dipping bowls - one, a white sweet 'n' sour sauce (thank you - who needs red food color added to the sauce?) and two, a melt your eyeballs, steam out the ears garlic/pepper sauce.  Holy moly!  I just touched the edge of my spoon and touched my tongue - and my nose started running and eyes watered - I literally choked.  That's some powerful pepper thing going on!!!!  There were two large spring rolls cut on a diagonal and they were steaming hot (temperature - not spice).  I liked that they had a very thin and fragile wrapper - crisp and brown - seemed freshly made.  It was absolutely delicious...frankly I could have made a meal of them.  I chose the chicken spring rolls - but there was a choice of shrimp spring roll.  Possibly the best I've ever had - and I've had a LOT of egg rolls!

The General Tsao's chicken was excellent as anticipated.  Big, tender, fried nuggets in a delectable spicy yet sweet brown sauce, lightly stir fried onion, red and green bell pepper (but not too much this time), lots of carrot slivers, and a couple of big old "better avoid them" dried peppers.  I could easily fork cut the large chicken pieces (not always the case at some places I've been).  I ordered fried rice when given the choice of steamed or fried.  It was lightly fried, with a bit of egg and typical peas and carrots.  A small egg roll (finger sized) was on the entree plate as well (I think it was shrimp).  Not too much and not too little - just right.  If I hadn't ordered the Spring Rolls I would have been in good shape.  I couldn't finish it all, although I gave it a good effort.

The service was excellent - very friendly, attentive waiter.  It is a small venue - just a few tables and the sushi bar.  By noon they were about 1/3 full.  It was very pleasant and relaxing and I left with a full tummy, ready to head back to Paragraph's to pick up my books.  Total price just over $18 before tip.

It's nice to have a good place to get Asian food on the island.  I probably can't take the picky teen there - but I will definitely return any chance I get.  It's not a "cheap lunch" place - but it's definitely a nice change from my usual shrimp baskets and, to me, worth the price!  I can't speak to the sushi...but I did hear someone behind me telling the person they were with that they had excellent sushi ;-)  So, there you have it, good old word of mouth!

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

Uchi Cuisine on UrbanspoonStumbleUpon

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

PadreRitaGrill - Revisited!

My friend and I were in dire need of adult conversation and some time out of the house... so, we decided to hit PadreRitaVille for lunch Tuesday.  I suggested it in an email last week, and I baited my hook with a link to the Island Breeze article last week that had me salivating for most of the menu items mentioned.  She, being weak, like me, succumbed rapidly.  Yay! 

Today finally arrived and we hopped in the car and headed out to lunch.  I was nearly giddy with happiness!  I didn't even need to think about looking at the menu... but I did.... in great detail.  I knew, going in, that having to decide between a volcano of nachos and the Tuesday lunch special, Shrimp Scampi, was nigh impossible...but I managed.  Up until the last minute it was going to be the special and then I had a quick step switch to the Nachos.  My friend got the special so I can speak to both.

My 1/2 order of supreme nachos were delicious - I had beef this time since I had chicken before.  The chips were delicious, generous dollop of guacamole (freshly made) on top and fresh salsa, jalapenos, and sour cream on the side.  Piled high with beans, cheese, onion, (skipped the tomatoes), and a LOT of nicely-seasoned ground beef....overall, excellent.  I couldn't eat more than half of the half order.  It was an extremely generous serving.  The $6 lunch special my friend got was deemed very good (and I challenge you to find a lunch like that for the price anywhere else on the island).  It started with a mixed lettuce with tomato and red onion side salad.  The entree was served on a large, very attractive, pewter fish-shaped platter filled with pasta topped with shrimp and a tasty garlicky butter sauce; broccoli on the side, and garlic toast.  (there were other side choices, she chose broccoli)   My meal, with iced tea was in the $15 range and my friend's was $8 before tip.  She had a generous mug of freshly made French Roast coffee and said it was delicious.  I opted for iced tea and it was as good as I remember (despite the waitress topping it off with raspberry tea instead of regular tea - I'm not a raspberry tea fan - I didn't have the heart to tell her at that point).

I'm sure restaurant owners wish people would stop taking pictures of their food with their cell phones - I read an article in Bon Appetit magazine that said so - but I feel irresistibly compelled when something is so exciting to me that I think the whole world needs to see it!  I held off because I kept imagining my mother giving me the stern "big eyes" if she saw me.  I had my camera in my purse, but by the time the food was in front of me, I was starved and just dug in.  It was delicious.  Unfortunately, that leaves me - again - with no pictures from PadreRitaVille!

The follow-up visit was as good as the previous visit.  There was a slight mis-step in both of our orders arriving "not as ordered", but it was taken care of pretty darn quickly.  We weren't overly concerned because we were gabbing.  The shift manager checked in a couple of times and apologized for the beginning mis-step.  No problemo.  Regardless of the few service bleeps, I continue to totally enjoy the food here.  Really nice.

I want to come back for dinner - the "steak night" special has been luring me for a couple of weeks now.  However, I'm finding now that school is back in session, homework is abundant, and eating out on a week-night is just not feasible unless there is a special occasion (like no homework for the teen or a parade).  I also know I need to keep trying new places...but, by golly, I just want to go back to PadreRitaVille so I can try some more of their menu.  It all looks soooo good!

If you haven't made it by - you MUST go...  'nuf said!

UPDATE 1/3/2014
My son and I had a delicious lunch here on a gorgeous January day on the island.  Excellent prices for delicious food.  I continue to love PadreRittaGrill! (note name change)

Here's the slightly edited update from my Facebook page:

"Yummy lunch at PadreritaGrill Spi with Ian Hook. Outstandingly creamy and delicious Tomato Basil Soup with a plentiful and diverse Salad Bar for me. Generous Shrimp Po'Boy with fries for him. Mine was great and he said his was really good. (high praise from the usual shoulder shrug)  All for a reasonable price. "

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

PadreRitaVille on UrbanspoonStumbleUpon

Monday, September 27, 2010

Red Snapper en Papillote

Photo Source:  Google Images

As October approaches, it is one of the best fishing seasons of the year.  The weather is gorgeous, the Red fish are running, and speckled trout are plentiful.  October is also Red Snapper season.  Yum, yum!  Who could ask for anything more?  One of our favorite seafood dishes is derived from an Emeril Lagasse recipe and adjusted to our tastes.  The teen-ager "created" this particular recipe and I act as his Sous Chef on the evenings we make it.  He does enjoy telling me what to do!  One of our first efforts in 2008 is shown here, with freshly caught trout from the Laguna Madre, although we have tweaked it a bit since that time.  I've made it with jumbo Gulf Shrimp, I've made it with bay trout numerous times, and most recently, it's been Red Snapper.  If you want to impress your guests...this is a sure thing!
Bay Trout en Papillote ala Ian

Red Snapper en Papillote

  • Whole Wheat Orzo (available at HEB in Port Isabel)

  • Chicken Stock                                   

  • White Fish (Red Snapper, Trout, Tilapia all work well) OR Jumbo Shrimp (just reduce cooking time to 15 minutes for shrimp)

  • Olive Oil for drizzling

  • Butter – 2 TBSP for orzo and 1 Tsp per piece of fish

  • Basil – about 3/4 cup, rolled and thinly chiffonade - do not use dried basil

  • Fresh Thyme if you have it – sometimes I can’t find it down here and do without

  • Green Onions – thinly sliced white and green sections – about 2 per serving (or thinly sliced shallots are a great substitute)

  • 1 large clove garlic for 4 servings– extremely finely chopped

  • Lemon Pepper to taste                                               

  • Lemon Slices – 3 per piece of fish – thinly sliced – seeds removed

  • Lemon halves to squeeze over fish

  • Crisp white wine (like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc) - use what you need and drink the rest!

  • Parchment paper - one 18-20" sheet per serving to form individual packets

  • Baking sheets with edges  - half sheet pans - cookie sheets.
Prepare orzo in chicken stock instead of water per package directions – slightly undercook.
While orzo is cooking - prep all of the rest of your items so you can put the packets together without stress ;-)
Drain partially-cooked orzo and return to pan, toss with 2 TBSP butter, a pinch of salt, a handful of the chopped green onion, and some of the basil – set aside. 
Prepare packets by folding a large piece of parchment paper in half.  Lay it on the baking sheet so one side is down as a base, and the other side is a “top”.  Place a cup of prepared orzo inside the bottom half – close to the fold and place the fish in the center, on top of the orzo.  Season fish with lemon pepper and salt if desired.  Sprinkle with basil, a tiny sprinkle of garlic, green onions, and a bit of chopped fresh thyme if you have it… and top with lemon slices.  Squeeze lemon juice over it all (to taste).  Put pinched bits of butter all over and drizzle with Olive oil – sprinkle about a half tablespoon of wine over it all.  Fold the top (the cover) of parchment paper down so the sides meet.  Tuck the corners in at the fold, and starting at one of the folded sides, roll the parchment into a packet…working around to the other side, gathering and crimping as you go.  Roll it tightly, to the edge of the orzo.  Repeat for each packet – each cookie sheet will hold 2 packets, maybe 3.  If you can't get it to hold together - you can secure it by threading a toothpick to the end where the roll ends.  I've only had one packet leak...they hold together better than you imagine.
Photo Source:  Google Images

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or so depending on size and thickness of fish.   Place each packet directly on individual serving plates and open at the table.  With a sharp knife, carefully slice a steam vent in the center of the packet.  Cut the rest of the way across once steam is released and tear open the packet.  Eat directly from the packet on top of a dinner plate.
You can do the same process without the parchment packets by using a large chef’s skillet on the stovetop – put down a bed of partially cooked orzo, place the fish pieces on top, proceed as directed above, put the lid on the pan and cook on a medium low temperature until fish is done.  Will need a very large “fish spatula” to lift the servings onto serving plates, gathering up the orzo under the fish, and spoon the rest of the orzo onto the plate next to the fish servings.
We generally serve with a simple steamed vegetable, like broccoli, and a crusty loaf of hot bread.  Woo wee, them are some good eats!!!
Bon appetit y'all!

SPI Seafood and Music Festival

What are you doing next week-end?  October 1st and 2nd?  Yep, that's the date!

The South Padre Island Seafood and Music Festival is where you'll find me! 

I'm looking forward to hearing Vallejo on Friday evening as well as The Toadies and more!

Saturday will bring lots of sun screen and a hat, a free seafood basket if you are one of the first 5000 to be in line to get one, coastal and Texas art vendors, lots of festival food, and an all-day line up of excellent Texas music, including Kevin Fowler, that cutie Wes Hayden, The Trishas (they remind me of music I might hear at the Kerrville Folk Festival - really nice sound), and the very nice voice of Phoenix Hart.  There's more...check out the full line up on the festival's Facebook page or the website above.

Although you can hear him on a regular basis at PadreRitaVille, I look forward to cheering for South Padre local favorite,  J Micheal Laferty, who, I hear, will be playing Saturday afternoon from 1:30 -2:30 .  Can't wait!

If you can't make it down - well, you probably didn't try hard enough....but, if that IS the sad case... you can always spend some time surfing the best live web cams spread out over the island to see what a beautiful day you are missing!  They have some cool controls so you can control the cameras for short periods.

If you are still standing come Sunday morning, it wouldn't hurt to stop by for some fabulous fresh local products before heading home.  The South Padre Island Farmer's Market is held from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. every Sunday, just north of the Convention Center Stage where you partied the previous day.  It has some of the best produce you'll find make a point to head that way before heading home!

As you are planning your trip - be sure to check out the archives here so you can be sure to pick a great restaurant for your dining pleasure.  And remember, what happens on the Island, stays on the island!
All Photos on this page are from my personal collection!


Sunday, September 26, 2010

It's Raining, It's Pouring...but I'm in my kitchen Cooking!

I got up and ready to go to the South Padre Farmer's Market ... picked up my purse, looked out the window and IT WAS POURING DOWN RAIN...Arrrggghhhh....<big sigh> I put the purse back down and did some laundry.  I wrote a blog post, felt hungry and thought I would go get some lunch....then read a Facebook post indicating that Padre Blvd was possibly flooded again.  So, maybe not :-(  We've had so much darn rain that there's no place for it to go!

So, when it rains, I always want to cook.  I had put out some ground beef for spaghetti and meat sauce for dinner tonight.  But, that didn't sound I called the teen in and we made meatballs together.  I was making small ones, and he demanded BIG we dumped them back in the bowl and started rolling again.  I think they will be great for dinner tonight!  I didn't really have a recipe, because the one I used to have was my ex-husband's family recipe and he grabbed it on his way out the door.  No problem - I figure I can make a meatball - I do know the basics!  I'll be serving them in a jarred sauce - but frankly, I love Bertolli sauces so, that's good enough for me.  The meatballs are waiting in the fridge for dinner time.

I've had the Cooking Channel going in the background - and that seems to make me want to cook.  Nigella Lawson is making desserts - so, me too!   :-)

I've laid out all the ingredients for Toll House cookies...just waiting for the butter to soften.  I had wanted to make Forgotten Cookies (a chocolate chip meringue cookie) but the returning rain has spoiled my chance for that option.  They just don't do well with this level of humidity.  I've made that recipe since the early 1970's, when my mom's friend gave it to me.  It is still on the recipe cards I wrote in my childish high school script.  I'll share it below - if you aren't here in the humidity with me, they are a great, easy cookie to make.  They store very well in a tightly sealed container.

Meanwhile, I think my butter is softened - I wonder if the teen has finished his homework?  Maybe he wants to make cookies with his Mom.  Not much else he wants to do in my company these days. <big sigh again>  Oh well, that's okay, I'll take whatever quality time I can get!


2 Egg Whites (room temperature)
Pinch of fine salt
3/4 cup fine sugar
6 oz pkg chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat egg whites and salt until foamy.
Slowly add sugar and beat until stiff.
Stir in chocolate chips and pecans (if desired).
Drop on ungreased cookie sheet by
Place cookies in oven.  Turn off oven.
Leave overnight (hence, forgotten cookies)



Blackbeards' Restaurant

Photo Source: Google Images

The first time I went to Blackbeard's on South Padre, over 10 years ago, we went for lunch at the end of the lunch rush on one of our early family vacation trips down here.  I fell in love with their fried shrimp po-boy.  It was so basic and simple...and so very delicious.  The next time we came down to the island was in February and we came to celebrate our anniversary and use up some Southwest Airlines tickets that were going to expire.  We had no idea it was such a winter-Texan haven and laughed about being the youngest on the island.  That time, since we were without children <hooray> we went to dinner at Blackbeards' and, while a little more crowded on this occasion, we were in such good spirits we didn't care.  We ordered drinks, we took our time, we were just glowing with the happiness only a parent of teens and pre-teens can relate to, on the exciting event of a week-end free of responsibility.  I selected Stuffed Shrimp - a delectable concoction of Gulf shrimp stuffed with a crabmeat dressing ...perfection on a plate.  There was so much on the plate, I couldn't even begin to put a dent in it.  It was superlative (or maybe I was intoxicated with Cosmos and Happiness).  Whatever it was, we went home happy. 

Photo Source: Blackbeards' Website

We made Blackbeard's a regular stop on our trips down to the island...until an unhappy meal in 2005.  You know how it is when you bring a crowd to a restaurant you've been raving about and on that particular day, it unfortunately sucks?  That's what happened to us.  After waiting in the unbelievable crush of a July dinner rush, having our food be nothing like I had raved about, my son getting sick afterwards...well, we just didn't go back again.

My sister and her husband and sons always rave about Blackbeards' and it is a "must have" when they are here on brother-in-law gives his highest regards to the flounder particularly.  So, when we were down in April 2008, looking at real estate after our big decision to leave Austin, we decided it was time to give Blackbeards' another try.  My son had the red snapper - loved it.  I had fried shrimp - loved it.  I think my husband had the Shrimp 3-ways - loved it.  What we didn't love, was how crowded the tables were next to each other.  We couldn't talk, it was so loud and the wait staff could barely get through the tables without bumping our chairs.  We decided we didn't want to deal with that when there were so many other places we could go on this lovely island that didn't involve feeling like we were rubbing elbows with the tables next door.

Then, winter of 2010, the teen and I were driving along, scoping out a place to eat dinner when I swung right into the Blackbeards' driveway - which was half empty (or half full if you want to focus on optimism).  I thought, I miss Blackbeards' food - and since it wasn't crowded...

Photo Source: Blackbeards' Website
Sure enough - I had a lovely evening in one of the back areas where we were able to converse and I enjoyed a steak with shrimp and a lovely broiled fish for the teen.  Blackbeards' Restaurant had returned to my good graces. 

What I learned from this, is a lesson I've learned well since moving to the lower Laguna Madre...whether it is on the Island, or in Port Isabel...avoid eating out for dinner in July....go out on week nights only during most of the summer... and learn where the crowds are going to be and when they are going to be - and don't go there.  Lunch, during the summer is "a good thing".  It fulfills my need to dine out with minimal crowding (especially if you go to lunch as soon as they open).  Avoidance of crowds - THAT is what I've learned.

Photo Source:  Google Images
September and October are two of my favorite months at the coast.  Unhindered by those much-needed tourists and the beginning of a slight cooling in the atmosphere.  This is the time of year that moves me to euphoria on the island.  It's time to schedule a night out at Blackbeards' Restaurant again!

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

Blackbeard's Restaurant on UrbanspoonStumbleUpon

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mexiquito Restaurant

For those following my blog you will perhaps recall my disappointing search for tasty Tex-Mex vittles in my immediate area.  I may be able to finally give a two-thumbs-up to Mexiquito Restaurant -n- Seafood Market at Hwy. 100 and Garcia Street in Port Isabel (on the south side of the road next to Causey's).  I've only been twice but both times I was happy and cleaned my plate!  They are very friendly folks and it is a true mom and pop sort of restaurant.  At first, I was the only gringa on site, but before I left, the dining room was filling with all sorts of people.  I heard one gentleman say on his way in, as I was leaving, "this place is surprisingly good" as his companion looked around dubiously.  I do believe the companion was in for a nice surprise! 

It's brightly painted (you can't miss the bright green building) turquoise, purples, reds, yellows - very cheerful.  Both times I've been there, the windows have been sparkling clean and the overall appearance is tidy and clean enough to pass a cursory inspection.  That's always a good start in my book.  The menu consists of basic Tex-Mex fare, some "American" offerings like steak, burgers, and chicken-fried steak, and of course there was seafood.  I was there for the Mexican food so, didn't really focus on the rest.  Today I was immediately served steaming hot freshly fried tortilla chips and some salsa to go with my Diet Coke (in a can - glass of ice on the side).  The chips were excellent.  I haven't had such good chips since I was last at PadreRitaVille!  The salsa is cooked - not my favorite as I have mentioned in the past - but it was good.  Not too spicy, but I did feel a bit of an after-burn if I waited too long for a sip of my coke!  Last time I was there, everyone at the table ordered a beef enchilada plate.  It was excellent and generous.  The "gravy" was beefy like my momma likes it.  I almost wanted to order that again today...but I feel, if you are going to write a review, you better try more than one item!

After so many rainy days, I'd kind of been wishing for some Carne Guisada.  Of course, today is back to the sunny humid tropics, but when I saw it on the menu I thought "ah ha" and asked the server if it was good.  She said "oh yes" so I said, well then that's what I'll have.  She said it came with corn tortillas and I said great, that's what I like with my Carne Guisada!  Boy, did I make the right choice.  It was falling apart tender chunks of lean beef in a delicious perfectly seasoned gravy/sauce.  Comes with a side of rice and beans and a small lettuce and tomato salad on the plate.  I have to say I ate every bite and sopped up all the sauce with my tortillas.  Good, good stuff.  I'll mention as I walked to the counter to check out - there was no seafood visible in the seafood don't know about the Seafood Market part of the sign....and there was a white board I missed announcing the specials - Menudo and an all-you-can-eat seafood thingy.  Look for it as you walk in the side door - the sign is against the wall across from the check out area.

The only problem I see is that it is nap-inducing grub.  I am fighting to finish typing this before I crash on the couch for a brief siesta before picking up the teen from school.  I was so stuffed and leaning towards drowsy town when I left, I forgot to check their hours.  I feel fairly certain they are a breakfast and lunch establishment...but don't take my word for it.  If the neon "open" sign is on...well, they are!


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

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Quik Stop

Photo Source: Quik Stop Facebook Page
People ask me where I buy my shrimp when I have them over for dinner, or when they are in town and want to take some home.  I have two answers.  I'll write more on the other answer another day...but my number one answer is Quik Stop in Port Isabel.  I used to buy at the B&A shop when I was here on vacation - even used their mail order once.  Then, one day, after I'd moved down here, I went in for shrimp and they were sold out.  The woman said "just go across the street to Quik Stop...we own that too".  So, I did and that was the beginning of a happy relationship (good thing because they closed the B&A shop - I'm guessing they bought the business???).  Anyhooo...I buy my Red Snapper filets there when they have it.  I buy my Gulf Shrimp there - and they always seem to have it.  I've bought flounder filets there...when they have it.  You never know what's going to be in the case until you get there.  They have their own fleet of boats and many "secret sources" for the "occasional" offerings you'll find in the case.  All I know is I've never had anything but the best seafood from Quik Stop.  It smells fresh when I unpack it, like the ocean...the way seafood should taste.  They never mind packaging it in ice for me, to maintain the absolute freshest flavor.  And, the people are friendly :-)  Always a plus!

I also buy my son's fishing shirts there.  He likes the Guy Harvey tee shirts and they have a huge selection of shirts, hats, fishin' wall art...and usually they have something on sale.  My oldest son buys all of his live bait there - and the teen buys his frozen bait there.  It's one stop shopping!  I also bought my fishing license there (not that I use it...but when I go with the teen, I like to cast a few lines myself - gotta keep legal).  I have to question the name, though...Quik StopI think not.  Basically, it's hard to get the boys out of the store once we arrive.  They always want to browse the tackle, look at every kind of bait they have, look at all of their clever plaques on the wall, and look at the tee shirts.  Me, I'm there for some of the best local seafood every time!

When my oldest and his girlfriend were here this summer, I fixed a big Red Snapper dinner...and a big old "toss it on the table" shrimp boil another night.  They swear they liked those meals the best of all on their vacation (kiss, kiss... flattery will get you everywhere!).  I figure I fed the 5 of us a superb Red Snapper with Orzo entree, veggies, bread, and dessert for under $65 with wine!  I know the five of us couldn't have gone ANYWHERE for that price! 

It's a great solution if you are having guests and don't want to break the bank...or, if you just want to have some great, fresh tasting seafood at home.

I also enjoy their humorous signage which changes from time to time...I now see they have some great fishing "sayings" on their Facebook page.  Overall - a great family-operated place, at 501 Highway 100 in Port Isabel.  Ask for your bumper sticker next time you are there.  I need to send one to my son in Austin - I know he'd love it!

4 – Lip smackin’ - good quality – flip flops will definitely be walking in their door again!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Marcello's Italian Restaurant

Source: Google Images
After enjoying the small-town big event of the Port Isabel Homecoming Parade, we decided to avoid the immense traffic jam (people wandering the street, talking, no hurry to get out of the way) by eating dinner out before heading to the big bonfire.  Marcello's Italian Restaurant is on the corner of Hwy 100 and Tarnava on the Lighthouse Square and we were parked close situation!  I've been to Marcello's several times and have always enjoyed it so we headed in for dinner and air-conditioning. 

It is an iconic family-owned restaurant and, at this time of year, filled with locals enjoying an evening out.  I like the atmosphere, which includes background music, subdued lighting, oil lamps on the table, white linens, and cloth napkins...kind of old European in atmosphere - nothing like the chain ambiance of the Olive Garden type of Italian restaurant.  Soothingly relaxing after the blaring horns of every police car and fire engine in the area leading the parade!  We were seated at my favorite table in the restaurant - square in front of the window looking out at the lighthouse.  Perfect!

Today, being the first day out to eat all week, I enjoyed the slight delay the apparently unexpected post-parade rush caused for the waitstaff.  Our waiter was great and handled the influx with friendly aplomb, expressing appreciation for our patience.  Our food actually came out quite promptly.  We started off with the included salad (mine with a wonderfully tangy tomato vinaigrette) and a generous basket of lightly toasted Italian bread with a dipping bowl of Marinara sauce.  I was in the mood for something fairly basic so ordered whole wheat spaghetti with meatballs and Marinara.  The teen ordered their seafood lasagna.  I was afraid he would not be hungry after plowing through most of the bread basket.  (We generally eat fairly early on school nights and it was 7:40 when we got to the restaurant - he was starved.)  I tried some of his seafood lasagna and boy was it good!  It was in a white sauce and completely covered with stringy delicious cheese.  I could identify crab and some shrimp in my one bite - the teen wasn't able to identify anything else, but did declare it was very good.  It was such a generous serving that he couldn't eat it all (especially having filled up on bread and Marinara!). 

My meal was all that I could ask for in a plate of spaghetti and meatballs.  Meatballs so big I could only eat one (I think there were two on the plate - under all that delicious Marinara) and a literal bowl of pasta sufficient for multiple servings.  We could have easily shared either dish.

In the past I've enjoyed their cheese ravioli in shrimp and lobster sauce - rich and decadent.  Last year when my family was here, we dined at Marcello's, and everyone loved their meal.  Good stuff - reasonably priced.  Our dinner tonight was $36 with non-alcoholic drinks and a tip.  For a nice dinner, that's a good price in my opinion.

I'm tired and pleasantly full (thankfully I only ate half the dish) and ready for bed.  The evening was so pleasant, we completely forgot about the bonfire!  We swung by on the way home and at least saw it, despite missing the actual activities...not sure what you do at a bonfire...but we were so stuffed and ready to fall into the post-pasta-induced slumbers, that we both said "okay - saw it - let's go home"...and we did.

Marcello's is a place we will go again and again...when we need a nice night out and want to stay on the Port Isabel side of the bridge.  It's definitely mangia bene!

4 – Lip smackin’ - good quality – flip flops will definitely be parked under their table again!
Marcello's Italian Restaurant on UrbanspoonStumbleUpon

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Star Fruit

Photo Source: Google Images
The final piece of fruit in my "tropical fruit trilogy" from Sunday's farmer's market excursion....ta da...Star Fruit.  The most familiar of the bunch, and sadly, my least favorite.  I've eaten Star Fruit before...but for some reason I couldn't remember the flavor - it was always in a salad or on a display.  It simply didn't stand out.  I was eager to give it a try and a bit disappointed in the results.

I'm a real fan of tart fruit generally, and the Star Fruit I ate today was slightly tart.  I don't know if it was the various textures I didn't like; the distinctive mouth feel of the slightly leathery skin, the juicy flesh, the soft but gristly feeling internal spines... or specifically what.  All I know is it just didn't "sing" to my taste buds.  In fact, I could likely go the rest of my life, never eat another Star Fruit, and be A-OK with that.  <shrug>  I didn't hate it - I just didn't love it.

That's too bad because Star Fruit seems like another one of those "pretty foods that are good for you".  One web site I found, Natural Living Cuisine, had a lot of good information about the fruit, as well as the same article I read on Thai fruits which referenced the Dragon Fruit.  I followed the instructions for trimming and de-seeding and cutting my fruit and I had it for dessert with my dinner tonight.  As a matter of fact, it left a little after taste in my mouth - and not in a good way.'s a pretty fruit.

It's a fruit I would, however, use again on a fruit display or as an accent in a would likely stand up to a buffet fruit salad - unlike bananas and pears.... and since I've tried it in salads before and it didn't stick out as distasteful- it will continue to be a consideration when I want an unusual, and nutritious, addition to a fruit salad!

So there we have it - three fairly unusual tropical fruits.  I intend to try some more unusual tropical fruits when I next visit the South Padre Island Farmer's Market.  I saw some things at the Rivers End Nursery and Farm stand that I didn't have any clue as to their identity.... I'm sure I'll be writing about one of those oddities in the near future.  For now, however, there ends the tropical fruit trilogy...I'm about ready for dinner out.  Hmmmm....where to go, where to go???StumbleUpon

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dragon Fruit

Continuing in my unusual tropical fruit theme, today I am trying the Dragon Fruit.  Purchased at the South Padre Island Farmer's Market on Sunday from Rivers End Nursery and Farm, it is an unusual looking fruit - mine is HOT PINK on the outside.  I'm guessing it gets it names from the "scale-like" outer skin of the fruit (the part you don't eat I presume?).  The inside is white with tiny black seeds.  It is succulent and sweet.  I halved and then quartered the fairly large piece of fruit (it's bigger than an average apple) and it was very easy to cut.  I scooped the flesh out of one of the quarters to get a sample of the flavor.  The seeds are lightly crunchy and the flesh, or meat of the fruit, is sort of similar to a cantaloupe or honeydew melon...just interspersed with crunchiness from the seeds.  Unlike raspberries or black berries, though, I didn't end up with the irritating feel of seeds in my teeth.  They are a soft crunch :-)

So, wanting to know more about Dragon Fruit, I Googled it and found a nice series on it at  I'm clipping a small portion from their site - you can link here if you want to know more about it.

"Dragon fruit is a beautiful fruit grown in Southeast Asia, Mexico, Central and South America, and Israel. The plant is actually a type of cactus, and the fruit comes in 3 colors: 2 have pink skin, but with different colored flesh (one white, the other red), while another type is yellow with white flesh. Dragon fruit is low in calories and offers numerous nutrients, including Vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, plus fiber and antioxidants."

So, besides being tasty, pretty to look at, and an unusual addition to add to your fruit salad - it is good for you and low in calories...helping me meet my goal for this week!!!

I also found a web site that talks in great detail about the health benefits of Dragon Fruit.  I can't attest to the validity of their information, but it sure sounds like this is a fruit we all might want to add to our repertoire of "pretty food that does good things".  I'm certainly hoping to get some more next week when I'm at the Farmer's Market again!

I think I'm going to go finish that Dragon Fruit now - it was delicious - and it is calling my name!!!StumbleUpon

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Sugar Apple

Photo Source: Google Images
If you read my post about yesterday's visit to the Farmer's Market, you know I bought a couple of fruits I'd not tried before.  I was shocked to find my Sugar Apple, which was hard yesterday, was soft today and obviously ready to eat.  I tried to cut it, but frankly it was easier to pull it apart with my fingers.  The outside is kind of leathery feeling and did not slice easily.  It was, as described by the farmers, easiest to scoop out the insides and suck the seeds.  There is no obvious way to get to the fruit otherwise.  I used my fingers and plucked the seeds out one by one and then gently scraped the inside with a spoon.  That garnered less than a teaspoon of pulp (the scraping).  I took a couple of cell phone photos (I left my camera in the car and don't want to fight the mosquitoes to go get it right now).  You can see that there are a lot of black seeds with a thin coating of fruit.  The first bite tasted sweet, yet had an underlying starchy taste.  The texture is almost gelatinous.  I ate about 1/4 of the content and then went to Google the fruit to see what I could find out about it. 

I found this link from what looks to be a Purdue web site which gave a great amount of background on the fruit.  If you find one - and try it - don't swallow the seeds.  They are apparently toxic.  It's a lot of work for just a little bit of fruit.  However, it tasted sweeter and sweeter as I continued popping those seeds in and sucking off the pulp.  I am unsure whether or not I'll buy one again...but I'd LOVE to see this fruit as the Iron Chef America secret ingredient :-)



Dear Restaurant Owners with web sites displaying hard is it to scan a menu and upload a .pdf file to the web site? Basic skill - learn it - or pay someone to do it. 

I'm one of those people who actually uses a restaurant's web site.  I check operating times, menu selections, location, events or activities if any.  I find it incredibly frustrating to check a menu - go to a restaurant BASED on that online menu and find the menu has changed...and web site was not updated.

Hours of operation change with the season?  UPDATE the web site!!!

Seasonal menu?  UPDATE the web site!!!

There is no value to a pretty website if it isn't accurate. 

While important anywhere, it is particularly important in a resort town.  Visitors often pre-plan their dining activities based on information found online.

Thank you for listening...I'll step down off the soap box now, and let someone else have it.

SPI Flip Flop Foodie
(Yes, I'll take a little cheese with my whine)StumbleUpon

Sunday, September 12, 2010

South Padre Island Farmer's Market Again...'cause it's worth a repeat

I haven't been to the Farmer's Market since early July so I decided I had been in withdrawal long enough.  This lazy Sunday morning I made myself get up and head over in hopes of finding some delicious produce to help me in my endeavor to eat at home a little more this week.  I try not to walk in with more than $20, because I have found that my eyes shop for much more than I can eat in a week's time.  This week, I had $38 in my pocketbook...and I spent every single penny.  The main reason for that is the addition of Buckeye Farms to the vendor lineup since I was last there.  I saw someone's photo last week on the Facebook page for SPI Farmer's Market and I was thrilled to see some grass-fed meat product being sold.  I used to buy pasture grazed beef and bison at the Farmer's Market in Austin so I was eager to try it out.  I got 2 nice size Cornish Game Hens and that took most of the "over $20" part of my budget!  If it is as good as it looks, it will be worth every penny.

I stopped and grabbed a dozen eggs from the Bayview Veggie stand because I usually am too late to get eggs.  I then saw that the folks at Buckeye Farms (the second to last stall I hit before leaving) had eggs as well.  I strolled down to Acacia Farm's booth next because I knew they would have what I wanted.  There I picked up some scalloped squash, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, a big bunch of fragrant basil, and some sweet baby carrots.  I love their produce and am always happy with whatever I get from them.  I wish I gotten some corn and a melon...but I made myself stop!

Next I strolled over to the Rivers Edge Nursery & Farm tables.  They had stuff I'd never seen before!  I sampled a piece of Dragon Fruit, and then bought a piece to take home...and I also picked up a Star Fruit and a completely unknown item called a Sugar Apple.  They told me to let it ripen up a bit and then cut it in half, scoop out the inside and "suck around the seeds".  It sounded like a lot of work...but I've found that the ugliest fruit is sometimes most delicious.  Central Market in Austin has a wide variety of odd fruits so I got into the habit of trying unusual items there.  I would never have bought the Dragon Fruit had I not tried it...and once it was cut, I realized I'd seen it before - just hadn't known what it was!  Here's a bit of a closeup of those stranger fruits - the pink one is the Dragon, the middle is the Star (really fairly common now), and the green bumpy thing is the Sugar Apple.

My last stop of the day - and my last $5 was the little stand that I'm embarrassed to say I didn't notice the was to the left of the Bayview Veggies stand...Annie's maybe?  Gosh I don't know - and the vendor was so sweet.  (inserting this note 9/14/2010 - her name is Alice!)  I had so many baked products to look at - breads, cookies, scones, and these crackers that kept drawing my eyes.  So, I went for them.  I will be stopping at her stand again, let me tell you!  Those are some good crackers.  The seeds and whole grains are visible....they are crunchy...they were different shapes - scalloped, heart, and circles are what I noticed.  I had some for lunch with my salad and they were very filling, as well as nutty and tasty.

A group of four ladies were coming in as I made my way back to my car and they asked me what I got - so I was showing them my bag, weighing my arm down.  They asked, hopefully, are the prices good?  I had to say "no, it's not really about cheap prices - considering the quality, however, it is money well spent - you know where the products came from and you can see the people who grew them - it's worth the price."

My Mom is the same way - she thinks Farmer's Markets should be the cheapest place to get veggies.  I told her she could likely get most of it cheaper at her HEB but the quality and freshness would not be even remotely comparable.  I don't mind paying a bit more for good quality food.  Local farmers are America's true gold and if we don't support them - they can't keep doing what they are doing!

5 – OMG – that was outstanding! I can’t wait to go back :-)StumbleUpon

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Quinoa Salad Recipe...Because blogging causes weight gain...

I keep a scale in the kitchen but it is usually shoved out of sight under a small storage shelf.  I had dragged it out yesterday, causing my son to stub his toe on the foreign object...he frowned and said "why is this out?" and I responded "well, I've been eating a lot lately and I thought if I saw the scale, it might scare me into help me make "better choices".  He rolled his eyes... and with the depth of sarcasm only a teen-ager can muster, said "Mom, it only works if you stand on it".  Dead Silence.  I gave him the "skunk eye" and thought to myself "smart ass".

So, I stepped on it....

Holy crap! 

I've gained 4 pounds since I started blogging about food and good places to eat (and, of course, the "hurricane cookies" didn't help either).  I have to take a break!!!  All that blogging has made me gain weight!  <grin>  All I have been thinking about is food and where to eat next.  I think I'm going to have to limit myself.  I'm going to look like Jabba the Hut and be broke from eating out!  All I can think about is FOOD!

So, today, I made myself a supply of my favorite Quinoa Salad to munch on when I get the overwhelming urge to go out to eat on a daily basis.  It's darn tasty.  If you haven't had Quinoa before - this is a pretty good way to try it.  Since I'm short a restaurant review today, I'll share my recipe instead.

Debbi's Quinoa Salad

Prepare 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups of water per package directions - fluff with fork and allow to cool completely.


1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1/4 cup champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar if you can't find it)

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

6 packages of Splenda (normally it is 1/4 cup of sugar but all things's Splenda today)

2 garlic cloves - finely minced

A splash of brine from kalamata olives

Whisk and allow Splenda and salt to dissolve before adding:

1/4 cup EVOO - whisked in

Prepare and set aside while prepping rest of salad


4 green onions - thinly sliced - use whites and greens

1/2 purple onion finely diced

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, quartered and chopped

4 large basil leaves, rolled into a cigar and thinly sliced (chiffonade)

1 cup of kalamata olives - pitted - halved or whole

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Add grape tomatoes if you desire - I don't eat fresh tomatoes (childhood trauma)

Toss salad ingredients with completely cooled quinoa. Whisk dressing a final time and pour over salad and quinoa mix. I use a plastic container with a tight lid so I can shake the salad to fully coat.  Refrigerate for an hour before eating.

It's tart and delicious and after eating French Toast, Bacon, Fried Shrimp, Hush Puppies, Onion Rings, a Breakfast Taco the size of a plate, and 2 of the donuts HEB offered for free if I bought Starbucks's GOT to be better for my innards...they needed a break :-)

I'll resume reviews soon!StumbleUpon

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pier 19 Redux

Just back from Pier 19 for dinner.  The local dolphin tribe were gliding between Pier 19 and the causeway when I parked - a cresting dorsal fin caught my eye.  I immediately felt light hearted - I swear the dolphin vibe or dolphin energy (whatever you want to call it) ALWAYS makes me feel "happy"!  So, when I got to the top of the entry ramp I stopped and let the salty breeze blow my hair around and I scanned for the dolphins - and there they were...right next to the restaurant - several arching up out of the water - in slow moving grace.  They are beautiful beasts! <peaceful sigh>

OK - back to food.  I told myself as I drove over the bridge "you should have waited to post that until you got back, ding dong!"....but too late, it was done.  So, now, I find myself having to make corrections. 
1.  The menu is completely different.  Well, not completely, but certainly revised.  What they have on their web page is not 100% accurate - some things gone and some new things.  Didn't seem to have the lunch and dinner differences - but they did have an extensive breakfast menu included now.  The table top had the daily lunch specials and early bird specials and drink specials on a plastic cube like you see at Pirates Landing instead.  And,
2.  The wait staff all had matching shirts - no more sharing with Pirates Landing I guess :-)

I ordered, for the sake of QC, the same thing I had last time I was there, and so did the teen-ager.  I had a shrimp basket (size medium with the choice being medium and large).  The boy had a hamburger.  It was exceedingly pleasant to sit and watch the sun sliding down as we waited for our dinner and chatted about school and other mundane topics.  (The boy always brings a book and would really rather not be involved in social chit chat...but his mother just won't shut up and let him read quietly...poor kid)  The wait staff was very attentive with refills and managers stopped by 3 times to make sure everything was alright.  One gentleman I remembered from Pirates Landing, now working at Pier 19 I guess, stopped and chatted for a while.  He wanted to know why I hadn't been in for a while and I, being within hearing of the table of ladies next to me, didn't want to tell him why.  I guess I hesitated long enough that he quietly asked "something was wrong?" and I just answered yes, but that I was giving it another try!

The good news is, the best onion rings ever are still the best onion rings ever!  There were 4 in the basket and it was all I could do to get 2 1/2 eaten.  They are really huge onion rings!  There were 7 large fried shrimp in my basket but no hush puppies.  I asked about that and I my waitress quickly brought 4 big hush puppies (I think there are normally 2, and 2 was all I could eat).  Actually, I could only eat 4 shrimp...they were just huge...but a little too much breading for me.  That always fills me up fast.  Not a major complaint - because it was still a big piece of shrimp inside!  So, for me - it was a good meal.

The teen had his usual hamburger, no cheese, no vegetables, with fries, thank you very much!  He's working on ordering himself - he's deaf and uses cochlear implants to hear and I've ordered for him for so many years, he isn't used to doing it himself.  Understandably though, he really doesn't want "the momma" ordering for him any longer so he orders himself.  People often have difficulty understanding his speech...but today he did really good.  The only thing needing clarification was "catsup and mustard only" kind of got garbled.  The waitress did great by not looking to me but I did speak up and repeat it to the teen in the form of a question.  He looked relieved and said "yes"  :-)  Unfortunately, when the order came out, the veg was on the plate - but at least it was on the side.  I asked him if it was good - he said yes as he gobbled it down.  The fries looked particularly crisp and tasty - they were a seasoned fry which I like.  Apparently he did too because they also disappeared.

So, back home now and feeling stuffed - I am really glad I chose to go back to Pier 19!  I look forward to trying some of the new menu options.  Hope they get the menu corrected on their website soon!

Pier 19 on UrbanspoonStumbleUpon

Pier 19

Hidden behind the KOA Campground on the south bay side of the island, is a great little place to grab a bite and enjoy some really fine views.  Pier 19 is operated by the same folks as Pirates Landing and Sea Ranch so you'll see a lot of the same tee shirts on the wait staff here that you see on the wait staff at Pirates Landing. :-)  The menu, though, is its own and my son and I had enjoyed going there repeatedly...until Mother's Day.  That was where I wanted to go for Mother's Day lunch (my hubby was out of town, so it was just me and the teen - decided to go casual).  I was enjoying the day, the scenery, and the music when much to my dismay, both my son's hamburger and my shrimp basket had hair stuck in the food.  Now, I know that can happen - it's happened to me in my own kitchen with my own scrupulously clean hair.  But, it threw me off for a bit - both of our dishes???  I did notice while I was leaving that none of the cooks I observed had on a hat or hair net (you walk by the open galley style kitchen).  I think that's a no-no, but I'm really not sure.  I left a note on my "how was your meal?" reply card - I presume the waitress gave it to the management - but who knows.  Anyway, I haven't been back since.  However, I've decided to put that entire incident behind me and head back to one of my favorite places to enjoy a meal.  Maybe tonight!  I miss it....and well, you*t happens...I gotta get over it.

Some of my favorite dishes (and family favorites) are the aforementioned Shrimp Basket - they make a great Hush puppy, with their gigantic onion rings (quite possibly one of the best onion rings I've ever had), Shrimp Diablo, Shrimp Pancho, Bacon Avocado Swiss Burger (open wide - it's a big 'un), Grilled Chicken Sandwich, Shrimp Po'boys, and Blackened Fish Tacos.  I know I've probably had other items that I'm not recalling right now...but basically, almost everything I've had was good!  They do have separate lunch and dinner menu items - some things can only be ordered during designated times - so check that closely to avoid disappointment!  The only thing I didn't like that I've ordered was the crab fingers - but that was more out of ignorance than that it wasn't tasty.  I didn't really know what crab fingers were - and the tiny amount of crab meat was, well... disappointing.  They tasted good, but it was just too much work for too little reward - kind of the same way I feel about crawfish.

When I've gone for week-end lunch or dinner, there has usually been a musician entertaining, I've encountered the Black Dragon attacking the pier (the kids love it), and I happened upon fireworks one night.  There seems to be an event calendar on the website - so take a look.  They have a portion of the pier separated to form Hooker's Palapa Bar but it seems I've been the designated driver every time we've gone - so I can't speak to the tastiness of the alcoholic beverages.  Everyone drinking one seemed to be enjoying it though!

I've stopped in once for breakfast - but when I got to the door there was a sign saying they were closed that I didn't get to try the breakfast fare.  Maybe I'll give that another try some day soon.  I'll be sure to report back when I do.

Pier 19 is not hard to find, although it is off the beaten path.  After coming off the causeway onto the island, take a right and then another right into the drive leading into the KOA Campground - there's a big Pier 19 sign there as well.  Go all the way to the back and you'll be on the bay.  The entrance is at the top of the ramp leading onto the pier.  Tons of tee shirts and other souvenirs for sale as well.  Give Pier 19 a try - I think you'll like it!

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

Pier 19 on UrbanspoonStumbleUpon

Thursday, September 9, 2010

More on Hermine

Thursday morning, following Tropical Storm Hermine's Monday night slam into the Texas Gulf Coast, two Mexican shrimp boats still sit "beached" at Isla Blanca Park, just north of the jetties.  It was a gorgeous morning, wind blowing the fine sand like snow across the beach.  All was quiet...and the boats just sat there as if waiting for someone to come rescue them.  The Mexican citizens who wanted to be rescued, were rescued according the, but the boats just sit there...waiting.  They, as well as their masters, are claiming "safe harbour".

TS Hermine spewed her wrath in the form of voluminous rain on a tremendous amount of Texas, causing flooding and resulting in at least two deaths that I've heard of.  My friend, Patricia Miller, from Salado, posted some heart wrenching, and heartwarming, photos of the flooding in their small town.  You can see (and purchase) her work at RedBubble

Here are some photos I took this morning at Isla Blanca Park.  Usually I see surfers at this time of day. Today, the few surfers I saw were watching the boats.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Marchan's White Sands Motel, Marina, and Restaurant

(See update at bottom of post)

A friend of mine sent me an email asking me to review Marchan's in Port Isabel.  I thought "oh dear" because I had only eaten at Marchan's once and I wasn't overly impressed.  While the view was very enjoyable, it was crowded, the items my husband and I had were unmemorable, the service was slow...I never went back.  That, however, was over 18 months ago.  My sister and her husband and sons think Marchan's has the best breakfast tacos in the area but I'd just never made it back after my one lukewarm trial.  If I mention it, my husband gives a quick "nuh uh", as in no way.  So, this morning I decided, as I was on my way to the island to check out the storm damage and scan the area for breakfast options, to instead make a quick u-turn and go to White Sands Marina/Motel, the home of Marchan's instead.  It's a scenic little place - the old fashioned drive-up-to-the-door motel geared to fishermen.  The marina has a gas pump and a bait stand and it is where my sons always go to meet Captain Jack Barton for their fishing excursions.  The restaurant is fairly nondescript from the outside but does have a great water view of the Port Isabel deep water canals.  Always lots of gulls and pelicans lurking about - so, scenic in a non-South Padre kind of way.  (Not touristy is what I mean by that comment)  The one time we went it was filled to the brim with locals and gritty looking fishermen (and fisherwomen) and it was a lot bigger on the inside than I expected.  Definitely a locals joint.

Anyway, I pulled in to the restaurant parking area and it looked like there was only one other car there besides mine.  It is a Wednesday morning, the first week of "off season" and past the time folks stop in on the way to work or on the way out to fish.  Perfect...I was in the need of a little quiet and I had a book.  I was open-minded and ready to relax.  Boy, am I glad I made THAT decision!

The server told me to sit anywhere so I took the table in the middle - the only other patron was on her cell phone and obviously just finishing up.  I ordered coffee and perused the menu.  The coffee was good and the cream was not skim milk (that's a good thing) and was in an icy cold little stainless pitcher.  I like half and half in my coffee and I despise when I ask for cream and I get skim milk.  I'd rather skip the coffee if that's the way it is.  So, off to a good start.  One of the first things I noticed was a plaque on the wall from Coastal Living magazine naming them one of the Best Seafood Dives.  I thought that was a good sign!

They had a good menu selection - basic breakfast combos (eggs, meat, potatoes, and toast), breakfast tacos in burrito-sized tortillas, omelets, migas, breakfast gorditos (a kind of Mexican pocket bread) are the items I remember off the top of my head.  The server brought my attention to the dry-erase board for the specials of the day - biscuits and gravy for $1.99 and sausage and egg taco for $2.50.  Once I'd confirmed the taco with sausage and egg was not involving chorizo (not my favorite), I decided to order that and had cheese added for an extra 50 cents.  My sister's family said to order the breakfast tacos...I assumed they knew what they were talking about!

While I waited for my food, more patrons arrived - 2 older fishermen on the last day of their fishing trip, a couple of older ladies who were obviously local and known to the server, an older couple who looked like they had just rolled out of bed...I like to people watch as much as I like to see what they order :-)  My food came out fairly quickly and it was a gigantic taco filling up a 12 inch ironstone platter.  My waitress brought a squeeze bottle of obviously freshly made salsa and a squeeze bottle of catsup.  Diner style - love it.  The taco was so huge there was no way to pick it up daintily so I went for the open face method.  I squeezed a bit of salsa to the side to make sure it was to my liking - it was quite good - had a burn but not vicious.  I hate it when the burn destroys my taste buds and i can't taste my food.  So, I gave the taco a good slathering of salsa on half of it and got to work.  It was DELICIOUS.  The ground sausage was tasty and not greasy and still in good sized chunks.  The cheese was cheddar and melted to stringy deliciousness.  The eggs were fluffy - not too wet and not too dry... just right.  The best though... the tortilla.  It tasted freshly made and had been lightly grilled - just the way I like it.  I ate and ate and just couldn't finish it.  I was starving when I arrived but I couldn't eat more than 2/3 of it (see picture of what I couldn't handle).  Normally one takes pictures of the just served food.  Truly, though, when I thought about doing that I though "hmm, it just looks like a taco" so I blew it off.  At the end of the meal though, I was so in love with it, I needed a photo to remember it by!

Then, the good part - my total bill was $5.25 - more food than I could eat and a good cup of coffee - for $!

Just goes to show you - always try, again, a restaurant everyone says is wonderful - even if your first try is not so wonderful.  Now, I'll have to go for a lunch and a dinner...but maybe not Sunday lunch like we did before...when it was packed and rushed.  Marchan's reminded me of the places my parents took us for breakfast when we travelled.  It's old school - nothing fancy - far from it.  The boats coming and going, the pelicans swooping in to land (less than gracefully), and the people chattering all around will keep you entertained - and now I know, the breakfast is DEFINITELY worth returning for!

Side note - I saw someone's biscuits - they were open faced and grilled - just like at Grapevine Cafe.  Is this a Rio Grande Valley thing?  Or have I just missed out on this concept?  I'm still inclined towards fluffy biscuits - but thought I'd mention it since I saw it on a plate going by!

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

Updated Rating Due to Below:
1 – Okay – but I’ve definitely had better – not sure that I’d return

December 19, 2010 UPDATE

We had some errands to run in Port Isabel at the noon hour and my son asked if we could eat lunch "at that place we go fishing".  I asked "Do you mean White Sands - where you meet Captain Jack?"  He replied affirmatively and I said, "the restaurant there is Marchan's - you want to go there?"  He again said yes, so in we rolled. 

At 12:30 on Sunday I was surprised to find only a few tables filled and the water front area wasn't even open.  Huh.  So, we took a booth with a decent view of the water from afar, commenting on how smooth the bay was after days of choppy, windy weather.  Our waitress was really nice, prompt, and friendly.  I ordered Carne Guisada plate with corn tortillas and the teen ordered a burger and fries as usual.  Our food came out really quickly.  The menu said mine came with a salad - but there was just beans and rice (both were dry) but the carne guisada looked good and I didn't really care about the salad so I didn't mention it.  The tortillas were flour instead of corn - but oh well - I wasn't in a complaining mood and I didn't instantly see our waitress so I just started with what I had.  The teen and I were having a lively conversation and I didn't want to upset the flow (it's rare that we have a lively conversation at a restaurant - but this one had no background noise - so it was possible to converse!).  All was well until I bit into a twig of something...I thought maybe it was from some thyme or some other herb (not that I could see ANY visible herb in the sauce).  Two bites later, something else felt funny in my mouth and I pulled out "something" - again, favorably thinking of the cooking process, thought maybe it was part of a dried chili pod.  THEN, two bites later...a big piece of plastic was pulled out of my mouth...and that was the end of that.  I let the waitress know when she brought my check - by pointing out the items on my napkin.  She looked appalled and snatched it up and said she would let the kitchen know - that was absolutely NOT okay.  She then brought me a revised bill with the carne guisada plate charge removed.   Fairly disappointing meal but excellent and appropriately responsive waitress.  Here's a photo of the two bigger "items" in my food.  Diners beware!  I know that "stuff happens" in kitchens - but really - 3 different ickies???

Items found in my Carne Guisada Plate