Saturday, May 4, 2013

Closed! What do you mean closed?

We pulled up to Stingaree Marina and Restaurant in Crystal Beach, TX (located on the Bolívar Peninsula)

to find a chain across the long flight of steps leading to the restaurant level. Hanging from the chain was a sign. “Closed,” it read.

Well thanks to my complete misreading of the marina and restaurant’s website, we arrived on a day when the restaurant wasn’t open for lunch. But a small sign hung over a door on the ground level. “Down Under,” it read. “Open.”

While both of us assumed that this was a bar, we decided to check it out. Yes, it was a bar. Perhaps even a dive bar. But they also served a short bar menu with limited choices. But then, Crystal Beach had limited eating choices too.
When we walked in there were two guys munching on poor boys and guzzling beers and two women sitting on the deck overlooking the Intercoastal Waterway. But other than the four of them, the bartender, and a couple of waitresses, the place was empty.

But one can picture a busy Friday or Saturday night when these long tables would be filled with boaters drinking their Shiners (from the Spoetzel Brewery in Shiner, TX) and recounting tall tales of fishing.

Reviews of the main (upstairs) restaurant raved about the fresh fish and seafood, magnificent sunsets, and views of barge traffic on the waterway. Since we were there for lunch, the sunset views wouldn’t be a factor, but we did see a number of barges slowly making their way up and down the waterway. But would we get a chance to sample any of the fish and seafood?

As I said, the menu was extremely limited and included a small number of appetizers, both fried fish and fried shrimp plates, and both fried fish and fried shrimp poor boys. But there was also the choice of fish tacos and that is what I ordered—but I am not sure why.

I have never been happy with most of the fish tacos I have eaten. I think that’s because most contain what I can best describe as a fish stick. Like those from Mrs. Paul’s or Gorton’s or Van de Kamp’s. I stopped eating fish sticks when I was a kid.

But the medium-size piece of fish in each taco hadn’t been breaded. Rather, they were dusted in a Cajun-like seasoning and then grilled. And each piece of fish was topped with shredded cabbage (a bit thicker than I like) and then covered with a white crema that was both slightly sweet and slightly tart.

With the tacos came sweet potato fries. When I saw the combination on the menu I wasn’t sure if it would work. But work it did—perhaps because the fries had been perfectly cooked.

And talk about perfectly cooked, that’s the only way to describe the fish in Chuck’s fish poor boy. First, the fish had been dipped in a beer batter that was so thin that it would make an Englishman stand up and sing “Hail to the Queen.” Second, the fish (catfish) was sweet
and flakey and was everything that the reviews of the upstairs restaurant promised. The sandwich was dressed New Orleans style with lettuce, tomato and mayo and came on a nice crusty roll. And the standard fries that came with his sandwich were also first-rate.

As we watched another barge head up the waterway, we resolved that
someday we would return when the main restaurant is open. But this 4.5 Addie lunch did prove to be a very pleasant surprise.

One last thing, while Down Under was virtually empty when we arrived, it wasn’t long before large groups started arriving. The locals must know something.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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