By nature, beach towns are populated with casual eateries catering to flip-flopped families and sun-soaked seamen. Still, vacations are often an opportune time to celebrate the special occasion of being away from home in an exciting unfamiliar locale.
A fancy meal is one of the best ways to commemorate a well-deserved break, and in Corpus Christi , it doesn’t get much fancier than the Republic of Texas Bar & Grill (900 N. Shoreline Blvd., 361/886-3515, $9–40). Located on the 20th floor of the Omni Bayfront hotel, this restaurant serves upscale Texas fare in a refined environment with incredibly stunning views. Meat is the main event here, and the range of options and methods of preparation are as impressive as the surrounding scenery. Can’t-miss menu items include Chateau steak with sautéed asparagus and broccoli, pork rib chops in an apple-ginger glaze, Texas crab cake with lobster and cognac sauce, and perfectly prepared venison, buffalo, and redfish.
The new kid on downtown’s upscale cuisine block is Katz 21 Steak & Spirits (317 N. Mesquite St., 361/884-1221, www.katz21.com , $12–37, closed Sun.). A traditional steakhouse specializing in prime grade-A beef, Katz’s features quality cuts of beef as well as fresh seafood, veal, and lamb. Unlike many traditional stuffy steakhouses, however, Katz’s offers a lighter lunch menu with soups, salads, sandwiches, and pastas. Popular menu items include the prime rib served au jus with horseradish sauce, the bone-in rib eye, the rack of lamb, and veal picatta. Reservations are encouraged.
OK, enough with the fancy stuff. Two of Corpus Christi ’s most venerable downtown eateries specialize in comfort food in a casual atmosphere. The 1950s-style City Diner & Oyster Bar (622 N. Water St., 361/883-1643, $4–14) is known for just about everything on the menu except its unremarkable oysters. From greasy burgers to zesty peppercorn ranch onion rings to classic chicken-fried steak to snapper smothered in a creamy crab and shrimp sauce, this retro establishment gets home-style regional fare right.
Just a few blocks down the street is another esteemed local hot spot, the tourist-friendly Executive Surf Club (309 N. Water St., 361/884-7873, www.executivesurfclub.com , $5–14). This is an ideal place to grab a big ol’ juicy cheeseburger and a Shiner Bock while you contemplate your next beach activity. Standard bar fare is the main draw here, and the Surf Club delivers with fish and chips, fried shrimp, tortilla wraps, and chicken-fried steak, all served on tables fashioned from old surfboards. Stick around after dinner for some local licks from hot blues and rock bands.