Last weekend we made the trip down to Corpus Cristi, TX. I made plans last minute with very low expectations of the city or the ocean, knowing what I know about Galveston. I found a room through Kayak on the bay by the main marina for a really good price. The entire premise of the trip was to find something within driving distance that was a break from the norm. Overall I was really impressed. Corpus Cristi is a small town city, if you know what I mean. It was a three and a half hour drive from Houston and is situated in Corpus Cristi Bay off of the Gulf of Mexico. From what I can tell it’s also a pretty old city. It reminded me of Akron in some ways, and many of the building there seem to be from the 70’s and older.
We got in late on Friday night so exploring too much of the city really wasn’t an option. The hotel we stayed at was called The Omni. The room seemed to be newly renovated but the rest of the hotel was very average. I don’t mean this in a bad way, there just wasn’t a whole lot that can be said about it.
Thanks to Yelp we found what can only be described as a treasure; Thai Spice is a restaurant off of the main strip that looks like it’s been around for at least 50 years. We enjoyed it so much we came back for seconds before we left on Monday. The first night I got a Basil Chicken of sorts that was fantastic. I normally stick to curry but thought I’d switch it up this time around. I order some of their Indian Bread (the actual name escapes me but it wasn’t Naan) that was out of this world. Seriously his stuff is almost worth making a trip to Corpus over. The owner, an older Thai man, must have sat around and talked with us for over 45 minutes, explaining everything about the restaurant and giving us tips on what to do while we were in town.
The next day we took the restaurant owners advice and planned a day at the USS Lexington museum and the Texas State Aquarium. We started the day off with breakfast at City Diner. This place looked like it was from the 1950s through and through. I don’t mean that it was designed this way, I mean that it actually survived from the era without change. The walls were dingy and it smelled like grandmas house (oh don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about). The food was all right and the service was horrible, but again we found this place on Yelp and the reviews definitely mentioned both things. Satisfied with our meals, and slightly charmed that the diner had survived all these years, we headed to the marina to catch a ferry.
One of my favorite parts of the city is their public transit system. It would be easy, staying at the hotel we did, to not need to drive anywhere. There are trolleys that have routs throughout the city and the marina has a ferry that can take you from the hotel district to the USS Lex and the Aquarium. Something about walking everywhere gives the city character.
The USS Lex was the first stop we made after getting off of the boat. The only downside to all of this was the weather. It was an unbearable 102 degrees for most of the afternoon, and the Lex was definitely not air conditioned. Just as the ads all around town describe, the boat is huge. It was an aircraft carrier that operated from the early 1940s clean through the 1990s. When it was retired it was the oldest air craft carrier in the US Navy.
Most of the boat is a museum of sorts, with old warplanes and models of past battlefields laid across its decks. Below deck most of the rooms and working areas have been restored to their 1940s condition with some hint that it was updated to suit a 1990s Navy. I really enjoyed the tour, especially the sections that were restored to their World War II glory. After the below deck tour we headed to the runway on top. Since it was so damn hot out, we only spent a short time up there before booking it for some a/c.
Keeping with the straight out of the mid century theme our next stop was a classic malt shop namedDot’Z. Just like the diner, the malt shop was a survivor. No one set out to recreate a 1950s ice cream parlor, that’s just what it was.
The Texas State Aquarium was a short walk from Dot’Z. Unlike the previous stops of the day it was not a blast from the past. When the girl behind the ticket counter asked if I would like an ocean tour of the city, I gladly accepted. The aquarium was just as you would expect an aquarium in Texas to be. My favorite part was a portion that was beneath the dolphin arena, where you could see under the water. The most surprising part of all of this was how busy it was. I didn’t think it would be such a popular attraction, but the line to get in was long and getting longer.
The ocean tour of the city was short; lasting around an hour and focusing on the city’s industry as much as its history. Unlike the aquarium the boat was only at a quarter capacity, if that.
When we returned to the hotel that evening we were beat, but not beat enough to forgo getting some sushi. On the same street as City Diner and Thai Spice was Aka Sushi. Here in Houston one of my favorite sushi houses is named Aka, and hoping this one would follow suit in quality and unique dishes we made our way there. Unfortunately it was not on par with what we are used to. You would probably consider me spoiled when it comes to sushi, and I would probably agree.
The rest of the weekend was spent lounging on the beach. We did decide to drive to Mustang Island rather than spending our time at one of the man made beaches close to the hotel. Mustang Island is directly outside of Corpus Cristi bay, a short 25 minute ride. One of the best parts of these beaches was how lenient the rules are. The sand was wet and hard enough to drive on, so we did. In order to park on the beach you need a beach parking permit (no joke), and sure enough they were selling them right at the entrance.
Down the beach aways was Barnacle Bill’s, a hole in the wall restaurant on a pier. A pound of peel and eat shrimp and few Does Exes later there was no complaining. There’s nothing like fresh caught shrimp, thats for sure. The next two days continued like this. Beaches and seafood and no complaints.
Before heading out on Monday we made one last stop at Thai Spice. When the owner was chatting us up he had said his wife made the best curry around. Since my favorite Thai dish is indeed curry I promised him I’d be back to try it before leaving town. The following paragraph will not do it justice.
The green curry was served in a boiled coconut. When she put it down my first thought was that I was eating out of the monkey head in Indiana Jones. This was the tastiest curry I’ve ever had, hands down. I can’t say for certain, but I’m not thinking anyone in Thailand could make it any better. It was rich, spicey and sweet; all the elements that make Thai curry so great. I’m almost positive that I’m going to get a wild hair craving for it one day and drive all the way to Corpus just to get it. Honestly, I still have dreams about this damn curry. To top it off we had more of their fresh Indian Bread. Unreal.
I can say with some confidence that this won’t be my last trip to Corpus. Next time there’s a long weekend and I’m in need of some sand and shrimp (and curry) I won’t hesitate to make the three hour drive.