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See the sights in Port A

Beans & Buds for Breakfast

Port Aransas isn't your typical beach vacation.

by Margaret Minnick

October 1999

Port Aransas, Texas lies on a barrier island just northeast of Corpus Christi (a.k.a., "Christ's Corpse"). It definitely falls into the category known as po-dunk. This is the kind of beach town with limited functional sidewalks and lots of sand drifting down the streets. The entire road paralleling the beach is completely covered by sand.

The main activities for visitors to Port Aransas are fishing of all kinds, horseback riding, and scenic boat rides. Fishing is far and away the most popular. At any time of the day Texans can be seen launching their own boats, on their way to spend the day or night out on the Gulf, fishing and drinking beer.

If fishing, riding horses, and boat rides don't thrill you, the two other options are laying on the beach or eating. The beach is nice -- fine sand and warm water. But if you're like me, the beach is fun for about an hour. Then you have a headache from the sun, and sand is lodged in your ears, eyes, and nostrils. Soon thereafter the enjoyment wears off.

Would you like seafood, or seafood?

And then it's off to eat. Port Aransas has about 7 major restaurants, most with Gulf views, all featuring almost nothing but seafood. I fell in love with the Trout Street Grill because they serve a grilled chicken salad. Don't get me wrong -- the seafood at all the restaurants is good, it's just that seafood for lunch and dinner for three days straight does not agree with me. But if you like it that much, Port A may just be the place for you.

To be honest, there is one non-seafood restaurant in town. It's a Mexican food dive, whose food and atmosphere are so bad I won't even tell you the name. The proprietor of our motel suggested we go there for breakfast -- just one of many signs that he wasn't quite right in the head. The place was filled with sunburnt fishermen in tank tops drinking beer at 8:30 in the morning. And Budweiser, too! Yuck. Every breakfast came with Rosarita refried beans. Yum (that's sarcasm, get it?).

Cheap sleeping is the way to go.

Most of the accomodations in town are old cottage motels with little kitchens. They are very cute and have great names like Tropic Island Motel, King Fish Courts and Double Barr Cottages. These are a very good bet if you don't require luxury and would like to eat something besides seafood during your stay.

Being non-Texan city folk, we made the mistake of staying at the most atypical Port Aransas accomodation: the Best Western Ocean Villa. It's about 3 blocks from the Gulf beach and is your typical mid-level motel: outdoor corridors, small pool, etc. But for some reason, it cost us $129 per night. We were expecting a somewhat higher level of service for that price than we got. The continental breakfast featured only juice, coffee, plain bagels (no cream cheese), toast and cereal. When our toilet malfunctioned, it took more than 3 hours for someone to come fix it. And, as I mentioned before, the proprietor dispenses very bad restaurant advice.

But I had a good time, REALLY!

Once we had experienced all the questionable things Port A has to offer, we started finding the good things. Our second day there beat the pants off the first one. First, we spent a good deal of the morning lounging by the motel pool, reading. We found a normal place for breakfast (look in the phone book, I think it even advertises itself as "the only normal breakfast on the island"). We went to a great restaurant for dinner, The Crazy Cajun. The seafood here may be the scariest in all of Port A, but the atmosphere made up for it. There was a great band with an accordion and a big ol' bass. We had jumbalaya and red beans and rice, and then they dumped a mess of boiled shrimp on our table. The shrimp even still had their eyeballs and whiskers. I left most of the shrimp to Chris, but I really enjoyed my red beans and rice. Afterwards, we went and looked at the dolphins swimming just off the harbor pier.

In the end, I have to say that Port A occupies a special place in my heart. It is very relaxing and low-key. It is also pleasantly devoid of the grotesque chain restaurant-events (Hard Rock Cafe, Hooters, Planet Hollywood) that litter so many better-known beach towns. In fact, I think the only national chain in town is McDonald's. Port A doesn't make a lot of demands on your mind, your time, or your body (as long as you watch what you eat). I appreciate that.

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