Monday, February 21, 2011

Shockley Market - Corpus Chrisit, TX

The food is upscale, but the prices are not. Shockley Market is a small bistro style restaurant located in the Village at 3815 S. Alameda (, on the corner of Doddridge and S. Alameda. The atmosphere is bright and cheery with a casual elegance. Shockley Market serves lunch and dinner using locally harvested vegetables and Gulf caught seafood.

It is evident that the chef and owner, Doan Shockley, has a real respect for the home cook. The tables are covered with handwritten and newspaper clipped recipes. The menus are cookbook covers and include such items as Meatloaf (Mamaw's special) and Chicken Pot Pie, mixed in with Tenderloin au Poivre and Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon! There is literally something for everyone, and at prices that are reasonable.

We asked for Laurel, who has served us before, and is a delightful young woman with a great sense of humor and she is well versed in the menu and wine list. Not only that, but she remembered us several weeks later, after waiting on us once. This night we had trouble deciding. Should we go with a favorite, or try one of the few dishes we'd not had yet? With Laurel's help we decided to go with something new. We both chose the Soup du Jour over salad. It was a thick rich beef and vegetable stew, served in a china cup along with a bowl containing small rolls that are sweet and fluffy.

For my main dish I decided to go for the Pork Tenderloin, five large tenderloin medallions covered with dried fruit in a port wine sauce. I also had the Lemon Potatoes and Asparagus sides. The pork was moist and tender and the sauce was sweet, but not syrupy. A generous amount of raisins and other dried fruits added to the rich flavor of the sauce and was the perfect accompaniment to the pork. The Lemon Potatoes were a little unusual and took a little getting used to in those first few bites, but before I knew it, they were gone. The Asparagus was crisp, just the way I like it.

Rob settled on the Lasagna, which is described as beef and Italian sausage in tomato cream sauce with three cheeses. So, we expected a square of Lasagna with a meaty sauce. No. First there is enough to feed us both in a large oval dish that spans the diagonal of the plate. It is piping hot and cheese just drips from his fork as he lifts his first bite. I reached over to get a bite and I come up with mostly meat. The flavor is savory with a little crunch left in the sauce's vegetables, just to let you know that it's made fresh. Very nice. For his sides, Rob chose the Green Beans and Asparagus. This is his way of testing the chef. Rob will only eat his green beans one way, crisp. No overcooked green beans for him. He was satisfied.

We had no room for dessert, but from past experience, I can tell you that all of Shockley Market's desserts are wonderful.

Some of our favorite dishes at Shockley Market are the Tomato, Onion, and Goat Cheese Tart, the Fish and Shrimp Tacos and the Boeuf Bourguignon. I cannot say enough good about Shockley Market. Rob and I have tried nearly everything on the menu at this point, and we've never had a bad meal.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

La Playa Mexican Cafe -- Corpus Christi, TX

Complimentary Tortilla chips with two salsas
Another restaurant we frequent is La Playa Mexican Cafe at 7118 SPID ( There are other locations for La Playa in Corpus Christi: 5017 Saratoga, and 4201 SPID. Now these other two are labeled La Playa Restaurant and they are much larger than the cafe, but we prefer the quieter, more relaxed setting of the cafe over the restaurant locations.

Rob and I usually order the Tacos al Carbon. There are two large tacos on the plate, so we order one plate, extra sides and guacamole. I take the plate, give him one taco and pile guacamole and pico de gallo on top of my taco. So good! This evening, though, for the sake of the blog, we decided to try something different. Rob had heard that their seafood was good and we had not explored that part of the menu. So, we dove in.

Rob ordered the Fish or Shrimp Tacos. Since the plate comes with two tacos, Rob asked for one fish and one shrimp. Of course the traditional Mexican rice and refried beans completed the plate. The tacos contained grilled fish/shrimp, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. He liked the flavor of the fish, though it was mild and he felt like it needed something more, so he took the lemon from his water glass and added a squeeze to each taco. He like them much better with the lemon, and thought they should add a lemon wedge to the plate. We later realized, after viewing our pictures, that the something more those tacos needed was the "creamy lemon sauce" that the menu description promised.

I had the Shrimp Stuffed Avocado. I have enjoyed the chicken stuffed avocado before, so I was looking forward to this. It's an avocado half stuffed with shrimp and cheese, lightly breaded and fried. This is accompanied by a fish taco, Mexican rice, refried beans and a cup of tortilla soup. I was a bit disappointed with my dish. My taco also needed something more, and I gave it a squeeze of lemon which helped a lot. Though it's not promised in the description, I imagine the fish taco would be quite delicious with the lemon sauce. My stuffed avocado also let me down. It was rather bland, even with all the cheese, and the shrimp were a little tough. I guess the extra heat from frying overcooked them a little. The tortilla soup should be called tortilla mushroom soup. The flavor was pretty good, but I'm not that crazy about mushrooms which seems to be the main substance of this soup.

I feel bad having to give La Playa Mexican Cafe a bad review, but even in the best restaurant you're going to get a meal, now and then, that just doesn't live up to expectations. Although this trip was disappointing, we will return to La Playa, because they do have really good food, too. My favorites there are the Tacos al Carbon and their Chicken Soup.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Yoshi Zushi -- Corpus Christi, TX

Wednesday night we met a bunch of friends for dinner at Yoshi Zushi, (5898 Everhart, This is not your typical Asian restaurant. Where most serve Japanese, Chinese, or Korean, Yoshi serves all three plus sushi. This was my first visit and I don't know why I've not heard anything about it before. It seems to be quite popular judging from the crowd it draws on a Wednesday night. We found the atmosphere to be comfortable with a lean towards elegance.

Rob and I shared two dishes. One off of their sushi specialty rolls menu, the Corpus Christi Roll. This roll is normally $12, but is $8 on the Happy Hour menu. Crab, avocado, cream cheese, with salmon, tempura fried, and topped w/ eel sauce, and spicy mayo. Yum! Eight slices made for a hefty appetizer. We shared a couple of pieces with others at the table who did not realize that not all sushi is raw fish. Our second, or main dish was Teriyaki Chicken off of the Japanese menu. This dish was serve with the chicken cut into strips, the vegetables to one side of the plate and the teriyaki sauce poured over all. The chicken was tender and the vegetables crisp, just the way I like them. We went with the white rice. Fried rice is also available for an extra $2. I like to make an attempt at using the chopsticks. The way the chicken was cut made handling it with chopsticks a bit difficult and there was no knife for cutting, although a fork did accompany the dish. Rob got the fork, so I struggled a little, but I managed to eat my fair share (I stole the fork to eat rice . . .ssh!).

Being with a group, we got the opportunity to get some feedback on a wide range of dishes. One of the dishes that another shared with us was from the appetizer menu. The Garlic Edamame. They steam the edamame with salt and garlic. Very simple and very delicious! As you slide the hull between your teeth, releasing the soy beans into your mouth, you get a marvelous essence of salt and garlic that is very satisfying. Everyone at our table enjoyed their food. No one had a complaint.

I have to say up front that the lovely Stephanie, who was our server, is the daughter of one of our friends in party. I think she was simply wonderful, but I may be a little biased. I can comment in general that the waitstaff was friendly and accomodating; even willing to move large divider planters to add another table to ours. I asked Stephanie for a to go sushi menu and another waiter spent several minutes trying to print one out for me because they had none on hand. Of course, as technology can be very finicky, he was having a great deal of trouble, and even when I told him I would just access it online, he still tried. I thought I would have to tie his hands to get him to quit. It was not to be and he did stop trying after a while.

 We would recommend Yoshi, if only for the specialty rolls. Though I cannot say that the food was spectacular, it was good and we will certainly be back.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Van's Barbecue -- Oakville, TX

Van's is the quintessential barbecue joint. It has even made the rankings of Texas Monthly. Located on I-37, almost exactly halfway between San Antonio and Corpus Christi (exit 65), it's a great place to take a break from the trip. Van's is open from 7am to 7pm, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The menu is simple, and straight forward. It's also on the wall. There's the Country Breakfast which includes, two eggs, bacon or sausage, hash browns (not the grated stuff you'll get in most places, think real pan fried potatoes), a large biscuit and a cup of gravy. For an extra charge, you can get a slab of grilled ham (my favorite) or link sausage (Rob's favorite), and not those little bitty links others offer -- we're talking a real link of sausage! There's an array of condiments set on your table to accompany your breakfast, including honey, salsa, butter and jelly, and coffee is ever-flowing. Of course, if you'd rather, you can get a breakfast taco, or a sausage link wrapped up in a tortilla, but I recommend going for the full treatment.

There is no distinction between lunch and dinner. You can have a plate or a sandwich. Meat choices include sliced beef brisket, chopped beef, sausage, and ribs. A plate is actually served on butcher paper. Only breakfast comes on a plate. The "plate" consists of your choice of meat, potato salad, a cup of beans, a cup of sauce, a large slice of onion, half of a jalapeno, two slices of bread and a dill pickle wedge. The barbecue is always tender and delicious, and if you're still hungry after eating all of that, they'll bring you more.

The best thing about Van's is that it's so laid back. So much so, that on your first visit, you might want to turn around a leave due to the first impression that the place offers. Yes, those are cobwebs in the corners and the walls are dingy and even Texas Monthly states that they doubt the floor has ever been mopped, but don't leave. Trust me, the tables and all of the important things are clean. Rob and I have been eating there at least once a month, for I don't know how many years and, not only is their food consistently good, we've never suffered any illness after eating at Van's.

The atmosphere is welcoming and friendly. I would recommend dining on the weekend if you want the best experience. It's great anytime, of course, but you're more likely to run into Marty and/or Jennifer on the weekends. These are our favorite waitresses at Van's and they have been there longer than any of the others. Jennifer is a teacher and Van's is her second job. She is about as friendly as they come. She always has a smile on her face and a sweet disposition. Marty is a little more colorful. Marty is an older woman, but I would never call her elderly. She is probably in her eighties, and she's little rough around the corners, but she's fun and lovable. She'll be the one sporting the bright red or yellow cowboy hat, calling everyone "honey." Both of these ladies will take great care of you and make sure you get plenty to eat and drink. It's like having your best buddy's mom waiting on you.

Van's is a treasure. It's not fancy, heck it's not even the cleanest place around, but it is the friendliest and you'll not regret stopping in.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Snapka's Drive In -- Corpus Christi, TX.

This is our stop-for-lunch-on-the-way-home-from-church place. Snapka's is a burger joint. A drive-in burger joint. A drive-in, where the car-hop (translated: waitress) comes to your car, burger joint. It's been around since the late 40's and it's still going strong. They also have seating inside, if you prefer. There are two in town: Snapka's Drive-In #2 at 4760 Leopard and Snapka's Drive-In #3 at 4434 Weber (don't ask me about #1, I don't know).

I can't speak for the Leopard location. Rob and I always eat at #3. They serve Burgers, of course, Tacos, Chalupas, Enchiladas, Fish Sandwich, Chicken Sandwich, Chef Salad, Grilled Cheese and much, much more. I usually get the Grilled Chicken Sandwich. A juicy chicken breast on a bun, dressed with mayo, lettuce and tomato. I always ask for pickles, just because I really like pickles. Always get the basket! The basket includes the sandwich and either fries or onion rings, or a combination of both. For the longest time, Rob would order onion rings and I would get fries. Here's a little something you should know. Get the combination in each basket, because you'll wind up with nearly a full serving of each!

Now, just a word about the fries. I love the fries at Snapka's, because they do them right. They are crinkle cut and fried up to a beautiful golden brown, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. They are not greasy at all, just perfect! The onion rings are really good, too. They are so crunchy and contain a large slice of sweet onion.

Rob usually gets a burger. The burgers come in two sizes. If you order the Burger Basket, you'll get the smaller size, which is plenty for either of us, considering all of the fries and onion rings stacked next to it, in the basket, but if you have a really big appetite, go for the Dixie Burger. It's about twice the size of the regular burger. Both burgers are your basic meat patty with mustard, lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion. Of course, they'll add or subtract ingredients to suit you, and it's always good.

Other items we've tried we have to give mixed reviews on. One of Rob's favorites is the Steak Sandwich, though he always regrets having it later (his system, not anything wrong with the sandwich). I really like their Tacos, and I've heard good things about the Chalupas, but if you're looking for a good Mexican Plate (Enchiladas, Rice and Beans), head across the street. Snapka's is not the best place for enchiladas. They do have the best shakes around, though, made with Blue Bell Ice Cream, so you know that's going to be worth the trip all by itself!

The waitresses are friendly, and will visit with you with little encouragement. They will make sure everything is to your liking, and will probably recognize you if you venture in a second time. The atmosphere is cheerful and still has some of the old charm from the era of the Car-Hop. We recommend you give it a try and let us know what menu items you like most.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

La Fogata Grill -- Corpus Christi, TX

This one is quickly becoming a favorite for us. La Fogata Grill (no relation to La Fogata in San Antonio, which is also a wonderful restaurant), has only been opened a few months. It is located at 6646 S. Staples, formerly The Sultan, and serves upscale Mexican Cuisine. This was our third visit to La Fogata Grill, and I can honestly say that we have not had one bad meal there.

The atmosphere is relaxed and casual, yet refined. The waitstaff is friendly and accommodating. Ariana was our waitperson. She has been there since the beginning of The Sultan's days. She has a good knowledge of the food and she's willing to make suggestions to those of us who have difficulty making up our minds. She started us off with the traditional chips and salsa, but the salsa at La Fogata Grill is not what you'll get in the typical Mexican restaurant. This salsa is dark and smoky made from roasted tomatoes and peppers. It has a bite, but not so much that you can't load up those wonderfully light tortilla chips and enjoy its rich flavor.

This night, I was determined to have something new. I have never eaten duck, and decided it was time I did because the Duck Enchilada just sounded so darned good! Rob went with the Spicy Shrimp Diablo. Now, let me just say that Chef Phillips knows what she's doing! First we'll discuss the Duck Enchilada. The menu description: Slow roasted duck confit in chile ancho sauce, stacked between corn tortillas and topped with Queso Fresco, Queso Blanco, tomatillo sauce and jicama slaw. This little stack of awesomeness is served in a moat of slightly tangy blackbeans. Now, the tangyness of the beans may be contributed to the tomatillo sauce running into them and infusing them with new flavors. The duck is shredded and so abundant that I had trouble finding the tortillas. I did find, though, that I like duck; at least in this application. The flavor of the duck was more delicate than I had expected for a dark meat fowl, but the sauces did not overpower. They were applied lightly, not too spicy and did their job of enhancing the flavor of the duck quite well, as did the cheeses. Muy bueno!

Rob's Spicy Shrimp Diablo features chipotle and orange marinated shrimp, sauteed with peppers, garlic, tomatoes and green onions served over rice. According to Rob (no, I didn't eat his shrimp, but I did take a bite of the rice), the shrimp was perfectly cooked and lightly spicy (translation for the average person: moderately spicy) and the lightly sauteed vegetables still had a crispyness to them, just like he likes. The whole mixture was is served atop a bed of rice that clings to the flavors that have been infused into the oil during sauteing. He's had this dish before and said that this time there was a bit more oil in the bottom of the dish than last time, but it was still very good. He says that he wouldn't consider it their best dish, but he did enjoy it.

Ariana suggested the Capirotada for dessert. We asked about other desserts on the menu, but the others are not produced in house, so we took her suggestion. The Capirotada is a wonderful bread pudding with cranberries and apple in a sweet brandy sauce that is served on a fajita skillet sizzling as the brandy sauce and sugar combine and caramelize on the hot iron. Not only is it a spectacularly simple presentation, but the dish itself is melt in you mouth delicious! Just a hint of cinnamon combines with the bits of cranberry and apple to send your taste buds straight into ecstasy! Even Rob, who dislikes -- no hates -- bread pudding, thoroughly enjoyed this dish, and said he would order again. Be warned, though, we received an ample serving that is plenty for two, or even three.

According to Ariana, Chef Phillips has been with La Fogata Grill from the beginning and was the chef for the Sultan. Having never eaten at The Sultan, I cannot comment on her abilities for Mediterranean cuisine, but it seems she has found her niche with Mexican. If I understood correctly, she is from here and studied culinary arts in San Antonio, She worked for a time at Biga on the Banks there. Evidently, she returned here when her father became ill, to care for him. However she made her way here, we are certainly fortunate to have her.

We highly recommend La Fogata Grill. In addition to the specialties that I've mentioned, they have a full menu of more classic Mexican dishes, all reasonably priced in the $7 to $10 range. Specialty dishes range from $11 to $21. They have a full bar including a fair range of wines and a nice variety of beers (not just your typical domestics).