When visiting South Padre Island, choose from dozens of restaurants, ranging from take-out casual to relaxed upscale fine dining. Whichever SPI restaurants you try, I strongly suggest focusing on fresh seafood and Mexican/Tex-Mex. Local South Padre foods you should try include ceviche, red snapper and trout, shrimp, Mexican, and hush puppies.
On my recent South Padre trip I ate probably the best ceviche I ever had (twice), perhaps the best tuna (sorry Mobile!), and maybe the best grouper (OK, let’s say non-Florida grouper for now, wink!). I also had my first ever Whataburger and it was quite good.
My cousin and his wife—restaurant and hospitality veterans—accompanied me on this trip and provided expertise about the culinary quality and other insights. I also received advice, tips, and suggestions from many local residents. Their information is incorporated into this article along with my/our personal SPI dining experiences, and advice, tips, and suggestions from SPI residents and visitors. Enjoy!
McCool Travel 2020 update: while restaurants are not hosting guests during the social distancing paradigm, many of the following and other great South Padre restaurants are serving the southeast Texas community with carryout service. Please support them and all Texas Gulf Coast restaurants as often as possible.
While the City of South Padre Island Convention & Visitors Bureau—and various properties, attractions, and restaurants—hosted McCool Travel and picked up the tab for much of this glorious trip, please be certain that my message is carefully crafted for my awesome audience so that you can make informed decisions in order to Travel Happy on future trips.
South Padre Island Restaurants: Fun Places to Eat in SPI Texas
1. F&B, 3109 Padre Blvd.
Visit F&B SPI for an upscale casual dining experience and probably the most elegant food on the Texas coast. F&B opened a little over a year ago (June 2018) and people come from San Antonio specifically to eat here (two couples did during my visit!). That is great news for SPI.
The seafood ceviche of the day changes (wait for it …) EVERY DAY and our version was magnificent. It was served in a coconut shell on a bed of “sand.” The seafood fritura had a kick, those spicy peppers accented the local shrimp, snapper, and calamari.
Tonight’s dinner at F&B South Padre Island was exceptional. Chef Walter Greenwood formerly worked at Commander’s Palace…
The craft cocktails were magnificent, the entrees were sublime (we had seafood risotto, scallops, and red grouper), and the desserts were over the top. After putting in our order for the chocolate soufflé (20 minutes advance notice required), we debated and ultimately selected the remarkable lavender panna cotta. It was a wise choice and the fresh Texas honey heightened many senses.
McCool Travel tip: Visit F&B SPI for happy hour, Sunday through Thursday 5-7pm for drink and food specials. On first Sundays, F&B hosts Paw on the Patio, when people can bring their dogs to brunch and Friends of Animal Rescue SPI promotes rescue dog adoption.
2. The Painted Marlin Grille, 202 West Whiting St.
The open-air environment, bayside setting (on Laguna Madre), and the bright colors of The Painted Marlin Grille really are a testament to the Tropical Texas moniker of southeast Texas. Although my group of four tried six different shrimp and seafood dishes, the tuna appetizer stole the show. It is remarkable. For dessert, try their SPI version of key lime pie, made with papaya and topped with a mango glaze.
My kind of place for a work meeting. So nice and #SoPadre. Thank you to Ed Caum and the marketing team of South Padre…
3. Yummies Bistro, 700 Padre Blvd.
Order breakfast or lunch every day between 8 am and 2 pm at Yummies Bistro. They have an extensive menu for both and it is tough to choose. I appreciate a place that has consistency and quality. You will want to visit multiple times.
This Huevos Colima dish is outstanding. This salsa is ????????????❤️. Yummies Bistro. South Padre Island Tropical Travel
4. Sea Ranch Restaurant
With a nice location at Sea Ranch Marina, Sea Ranch is a beautiful old school kind of place right on the water. Sea Ranch specializes in local seafood and masterly prepares every dish. The Grouper and the Redfish were AMAZING! They have a tantalizing dessert menu but the meals filled my crew. Note to self: next visit save room for dessert. The seasonal watermelon martini was fantastic.
5. Josephine’s, 3409 Padre Blvd.
Open only six weeks during my July 2019 visit, Josephine’s Kitchen is owned by the group operating several other SPI restaurants, including Liam’s Steak House and Oyster Bar. I was tempted by the Cuban Sandwich but chose the tasty Juan More Omelette containing chorizo, onion, potato, and garlic. My backup choice that morning was Ted’s Diner, a local favorite and always packed, but I wanted to try the new place! Next time, Ted.
6. Wanna Wanna Inn Beach Bar and Grill, 5100 Gulf Blvd.
OK, truth, I arrived at Wanna Wanna as the grill was closing but really visited for the adult beverages. Being a tiki bar located on the sand, Wanna Wanna was on my radar from the moment I heard about it. Sitting on Wanna Wanna’s outside deck, I glimpsed the Perseid Meteor shower BEFORE I even had a sip of a Turbo Piña. This hot spot is SPI fun central, with a fantastic beach location, sand volleyball games, the grill, the bar, and even lodging.
7. Padre Island Brewing Company
Because I stopped first at Whataburger (my first one!) and Padre Island Brewing does not allow outside food (understandable), I asked if I could have a flight outside. That was allowed—yippee—so I savored five generous six-ounce pours—from Texas’ second oldest brewpub—under Tibetan prayer flags. I have been to quite a number of craft brew places and this is the first one I recall with Tibetan prayer flags (leave a comment below if you know of others). The Speckled Trout Stout was nice (and I loved the name) but the Blonde Ale was most sensible on the 95-degree day. I hear the pizzas and seafood are great choices for food here.
8. Aloha Shaved Ice
After a super fun visit to Sea Turtle, Inc. on a very hot day, I spotted the temporary signs for the just-opened Aloha Shaved Ice SPI along Padre Blvd and did a quick left turn to check it out. I opted for a standard shaved ice—more snow cone than Hawaiian style—with mango, watermelon, and pineapple flavored sugar syrups. McCool Travel tip: I regretted not trying the Mexican styled treats so you should order one!
9. Ka Motion Sailing Adventure Sunset cruise
What? A sailing cruise? OK, being on the water, on a catamaran, for sunset was fun and relaxing. But the food on Ka Motion was really good. This may have been the best ceviche I have had—freshly made with just-caught (I think) mahi and ripe fruit. It was a teaser, albeit the culinary star of the cruise, as a taco dinner followed—served buffet style with beef and chicken, corn and flour tortillas, veggies, and fresh salsas.
10. Cook Your Catch
Many SPI restaurants offer a “Cook Your Catch” program. You go fish South Padre Island waters and bring your catch to a participating restaurant. They typically charge by the pound and you can choose from various preparations. Mmmmm, blackened is my choice! Some will even filet your catches.
11. Port Isabel Restaurants
Located right across from the Port Isabel Lighthouse, Marcello’s Ocean Grille is a popular Port Isabel restaurant and I stopped in for Sunday brunch. Pleasant Sunday vibe music from Jamie Whetstone sweetly complemented my Migas entree. Several people recommended nearby Manuel’s Restaurant for the best Mexican food in the area. Seeing their reviews, I definitely will visit next trip.
South Padre Island Food Trucks
- Pineapple Ninjaz (meals and drinks served in half pineapple shells)
- Smoothie Truck
- El Chilango Taqueria (in entertainment district)
South Padre Island Restaurant Wish List
Talking to locals, these places were mentioned several times and I will try on future visits.
- Blackbeard’s Restaurant
- Parrot Eyes Restaurant & Bar
- Grapevine Cafe & Coffeehouse
- Ceviche Ceviche
- Chillito Pikin
- Liam’s Steak House & Oyster Bar
- The Quarterdeck and Whiskey Shack (located inside Isla Grande Beach Resort)
- Ted’s Restaurant
- Cafe on the Beach
- The Shrimp Haus (located at Schlitterbahn Waterpark)
- Manuel’s (Port Isabel)
- Gabriella’s Italian Grill & Pizzeria
- Williedean Bagels
Let me know your favorite places to eat on South Padre Island.
See also these articles about South Padre:
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