Fried Artichoke Hearts from Padre Island Brewing Company
Our anniversary trips have gotten steadily less sexy as time has passed – Paris, Portland and this year – South Padre Island. At least we stick with a “P” theme. This year we had a pretty valid excuse for not jet-setting to Prague or Paraguay. We were just not ready yet to drop off the baby and take off. So we wanted somewhere that was driving distance (nowhere is a good driving distance with a fussy baby) and was cheap. Initially, the thought was Big Bend, but it’s eight hours away and Padre was six and much cheaper. We found a great deal at the Travelodge at the very end of the island. We got a two bedroom room with a huge kitchen and living room, plus we got to take Olive and it was only $99 a night. The hotel also had beach access. I highly recommend this place and the location was perfect. It was not fancy by any means, but if you are staying in South Padre you are probably not looking for fancy.
Ranch burger with grilled onions
I wish I could give some positive reviews of the food we had on the island, but man, oh, man, what a disappointment. Our first stop was the Padre Island Brewing Company. This brew pub was located on the main drag, not too far from our hotel. The menu seemed to consist of standard pub fare. But I guess I have been spoiled by Austin and Portland brew pub food – basic, but tasty. This food was really just basic, not too much ingenuity going on. We started with the fried artichokes and the beer battered mushrooms stuffed with crab and served with ranch and a citrus tartar sauce. And then we split the Ranch Burger, which was topped with BBQ sauce and grilled onions.
I know these choices are not terribly exciting, but neither were our options. And while the food was not horrible, it was just kind of – meh. At least with this place we did not get stuck with a large bill, which is not something I can say for a couple of our other dining choices.
And at least they had delicious beer! So all in all the food was bland, but the prices and beer made up for it!
Beet and Raspberry Bruschetta and Parisian Mac and Cheese
The next day was Thanksgiving. We all slept in and watched some football (just like at home!). Then we took Olive and the baby down to the beach – for both of them it was their first trip. So we had so much fun. Olive ran and caught the ball in the waves with Chris, while Owen and I just sat in the shallow part of the water enjoying the lapping water. It was a very nice introduction to the ocean. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by South Padre Island beaches. I am from Florida and I have heard many Texans trash the shore here, so I was a bit nervous. But this part of Texas is not that bad and is fairly comparable to some Atlantic side beaches in Florida.
After the beach we headed back to the room and had a nap. And desperately searched for a restaurant that might be open on the holiday. We found Cafe Kranzler, which seemed like a great option and was ranked highly on Yelp – well, it was ranked highly on Yelp for the area. When we got there, I instantly thought it was a pretty cute place. It’s not fancy, but it’s got a nice vibe to it. And they had what seemed to be a very nice fixed price menu. We decided against it in order to try some of their regular menu items, but it looked great. We started with a couple of appetizers – the beet and raspberry bruschetta and the Parisian Mac and Cheese. Both of these were fantastic and were the highlight of the dining experience. The mac and cheese had brie, mushrooms and truffle oil in it and was superb. The bruschetta was even better, the melange of flavors including the tartness of the raspberries, the earthiness of the beets combined with the creaminess of the goat cheese was amazing – a big winner. If only we had stopped there. But alas, we ordered entrees. I ordered their wiener schnitzel. Mine was not bad, it was pretty basic, it was just bland. It was your standard fare schnitzel, nothing out of the ordinary, very thin. Chris’s entree was just, for lack of a better word – gross. He ordered the mandarin orange crab crepe. While I commend him for ordering exotic, it definitely backfired. The crab filling itself was very sweet and then it was topped with an equally sweet sauce. I think it would have served the chef better to create a contrast versus just piling on the sugar.
Mandarin Orange Crab Crepe
Cold Creme Brulee
For dessert we ordered the creme brulee. It’s a favorite dessert of ours. And while it was cold inside and super thick and sugary on top, not my favorite, it was not bad. It just wasn’t my favorite version. This time, we did get stuck with a big bill. So my feelings on this place are very mixed. I might recommend sticking with appetizers and wine.
My sexy husband at Clayton's beach bar
One big surprise was the food at Clayton’s Resort. If you have ever been to Panama City or any other super touristy beach destination, you have seen this place before – huge open deck playing bad music, beach volleyball nets and a frozen alcoholic drink machine. So I was not expecting much. Oddly, this was the best food we had the whole trip.
Yummy nachos and the requisite frozen margarita
Chopped Shrimp Cocktail
Since we had plans for a big dinner, we just ordered a couple of appetizers – nachos and a shrimp cocktail. The shrimp was hands down the freshest seafood we had the entire trip. And there was a lot of it. At first, I thought the presentation was weird all chopped up in the sauce, but it worked. And the nachos had huge chunks of fresh avocado and tomatoes as well as jalapenos. It was simple and yet very fresh, not what I was expecting.
For dinner on our last night I really wanted to go to the Sea Ranch Restaurant. I had done my research and this seemed to be the best place for seafood. I guess I should caveat this again, it seemed like the best place for the Island. What was odd about this place, is that it is right on the water, but I could swear it was some of the most stale and not fresh seafood I have ever eaten. We started with some oysters, clam chowder and a salad. All were ok. The oysters were very nice and yummy. I would recommend them. But the chowder was just unbearably salty and the salad was fine, but nothing extraordinary. Our entrees were not great either. Chris’s entree – the special of the evening was pretty good. It was a snapper with a cream sauce over pasta topped with shrimp. So it had a lot going on to mask anything fishy. Mine was just bad. It was the Captain Dan, which consisted of a broiled flounder, scallops and shrimp. The seafood was so slimy and I could not even eat the fish, it stunk. There is no excuse for that on an island. And then we got the check, which added insult to injury. I will say that our server was impeccable. And it seems that service overall is a big priority, which is great. I just wish they had better food.
If you want good seafood or good food in general in Padre it seems the best way to do it is cook. But the island overall had a great vibe and it was a wonderful getaway.