Back in the spring, I came up with the notion of celebrating summer with a Texas seafood cookout on our very own Gulf Coast. I thought it was a good idea then, and I think it’s a good idea now. Despite the devastating effect of the BP oil spill on our neighbors in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, Texas has been spared. Prevailing ocean currents have kept the oil and tar far from our beaches, and locally caught seafood is safe. It’s true that supply and demand has caused prices to go up, but coastal markets are trying to keep them as low as possible.
So when you’re thinking about a weekend getaway, check out these recipes for sauces and seasonings provided by Bryan Caswell, chef and co-owner of Reef, in Houston. They’re delicious—and easy enough to prepare ahead of time and take to your favorite spot on the coast. Not only will you have a feast, you’ll win the gratitude of Texas fishermen, shrimpers, and other folks who depend on tourism for their livelihood.
If you’re still a little dubious, RoShelle Gaskins, spokesperson for the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau, said, “We encourage people to visit galveston.com/webcams to see for themselves. Our beaches are looking great and we have not been impacted by the oil at all.” At Katie’s Seafood, also in Galveston, manager Nicholas Gutierrez said, “Federal agencies have closed a big chunk of the Gulf south and west of Louisiana, but they said the Texas coast is still safe to harvest from.” In Port Aransas, Colby Gilley, co-owner of the Port “A” Seafood Market, said, “We get oysters out of Port Lavaca and Rockport. We also have some of our own boats that shrimp the bay, and we contract with others that operate out of Palacios. They are still producing.” In South Padre Island, Dan Quandt, executive director of the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, “South Padre is the furthest U.S. Gulf destination from the BP incident. It has had absolutely no impact here.”
So feel free to head for the coast for a cookout. Generally speaking, you may bring your own smoker or grill and you may also build a fire on the sand if it’s no more than three feet in diameter. To save you the trouble, I spent a few days on the Gulf Coast earlier this year, scouting locations.
Where to Buy Seafood: Boats, including some belonging to Katie’s Seafood Market, unload seafood directly into the back of this small downtown outlet on Pier 19. You can purchase red snapper, grouper, golden tilefish, flounder, oysters, shrimp, blue crabs, and more, depending on the season. 1902 Wharf Rd; 409-763-8160; open 7 days 8–6.
Where to Cook It: As for a good spot to pitch a few lawn chairs and set up your grill, I suggest avoiding the usually crowded, close-in beaches. Instead, drive about 25 miles southwest to a nice stretch of sand that is about as isolated as it gets around here. Park behind the condos and walk over gently rolling dunes to the public area. 23584 San Luis Pass Rd (FM 3005), at beach access 39.
Where to Buy Seafood: The Port “A” Seafood Market downtown owns several shrimp boats, which bring in catches from waters close to the town of Palacios. The little market, co-owned by Linda Gilley and her son Colby Gilley, sells seafood, shrimp, oysters, and extras like potatoes and frozen corn on the cob. 108 S. Alister; 361-749-6456; open 7 days 9–6.
Where To Cook It: You have numerous choices for beach picnics, including Padre Island National Seashore, but I like the five miles of Gulf beach at Mustang Island State Park, located thirteen miles southeast of the city. 17047 Texas Hwy 361; 361-749-4573; $4, children under 13 free.
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND
Where to Buy Seafood: Stop in Port Isabel, on the mainland, at Calvin Byrd’s Quik Stop for curios and both fresh and frozen seafood. 501 Texas Hwy 100; 956-943-1159; open Sun–Thur 6 a.m.–8 p.m., Fri & Sat 6 a.m.–9 a.m.
Where to Cook It: Then continue over the causeway to South Padre. Head north on Padre Boulevard (Park Road 100) and drive about five miles to beach access 6. Turn in, pay $3 a car, and drive north a couple more miles, or until you like what you see. If the sand is soft, don’t chance it without a four-wheel-drive vehicle.