One of the best seafood restaurants on the Gulf Coast  is the unassuming yet spectacular Shells Pasta & Seafood (522 E. Avenue G, 361/749-7621, 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5–9 p.m. Wed.–Mon., closed Tuesdays, $8–29). Housed inside a modest blue building, Shells is a tiny place—nine tables with plastic chairs—with an enormous reputation for quality fresh seafood and pasta dishes.
Order from the daily blackboard specials or the regular menu, featuring classic and perfectly prepared seafood dishes such as the signature pan-seared amberjack, grilled shrimp, blue crab cakes, or sumptuous shrimp linguine in a delightfully creamy alfredo sauce. This is elegant food in a casual shorts-wearing environment. Finding Shells will be a highlight of your trip to Port A.
Not quite as fancy yet well worth a visit is Lisabellas (224 E. Cotter Ave., 361/749-4222, 5:30–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., $5–18). Locals love Lisabella’s mermaid soup, a tasty concoction of lobster, shrimp, coconut milk, curry, and avocado. The crab cakes and sautéed grouper are similarly enticing.
If you’re looking for an ultra-casual spot where you can wear T-shirts and flip-flops while gazing upon old fishermen’s nets, mounted marlin, and the ocean itself, head to Trout Street Bar & Grill (104 W. Cotter Ave., 361/749-7800, www.troutstreetgrill.com , $7–22). Sit outside on the covered veranda to gaze upon the marina and ship channel activity while feasting on jumbo fried shrimp, grilled amberjack, snapper, tuna, or steak. A bonus: Trout Street will cook your fresh-caught fish as long as it’s cleaned and ready for the kitchen.
Another venerable seafood spot is the “downtown” Pelican’s Landing Restaurant (337 S. Alister St., 361/749-6405, www.pelicanslanding.com , $6–24). The portions are enormous here, and shrimp is the specialty. Go for the gusto and order one of the Mambo Combos (fried shrimp, steak, crab cakes, beer-battered fries) and savor the flavor on your surfboard table.
There are two kinds of Italian restaurants in many coastal communities: beach grub and upscale cuisine. Port A has both. For a quick slice of pizza in an ultra laid-back environment, check out the immensely popular Port A Pizzeria (222 Beach St., 361/749-5226, www.portapizzeria.com , $5–15, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5–9 p.m. daily). The biggest draw is the buffet, allowing diners to immediately devour hot slices of cheesy goodness. Some diners even choose to wait a few minutes for the tasty calzone. The big crowds usually ensure a quick turnaround on the pizza varieties.
The fancy Italian option in town is the consistently top-notch Venetian Hot Plate (232 Beach Ave., 361/749-7579, www.venetianhotplate.com , $7–29, 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. and 5–10 p.m. Tues.–Sat.). Named for the sizzling iron plates some of the meals arrive on, this upscale spot specializes in tender and succulent meats, including filet mignon medallions, veal, and lamb. The wine selection is excellent, and the desserts are spectacular. Reservations are recommended.