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Our Think, Texas road trip to Corpus Christi just got bigger. Too big for one visit.

Michael Barnes
Austin American-Statesman
Think, Texas columnist Michael Barnes will not follow up on the tip to walk the Harbor Bridge while on a Corpus Christi road trip. He gets dizzy just looking at this photograph.

We're going to need a bigger road trip.

Maybe two. Or three.

On May 23, I asked Think, Texas readers across the state to tell us what to see, do and eat in and around Corpus Christi

In advance, I had surveyed four Corpus insiders — Natalia Contreras, Andrew Glass, Bryan Stone and Elaine Garza — for their historical, cultural and gustatory tips.

They suggested more than 25 spots from the historic Galvan Ballroom on the West Side to the Selena shrine at the Hi-Ho eatery, from the spookily defunct Sunrise Mall to the sunny Texas Surf Museum.

After the story was published, readers were not shy about sharing their advice. 

A lot of them. After all, Corpus Christi is a big historical city. 

That means my road-trip buddy and I must pick and choose. Then return at a later date to take in the other wonders.

Places to see, eat and experience in Corpus Christi

Some readers sent long lists. Others made singular suggestions. Several endorsed Elaine Garza's encouragement to visit that seafood oasis, King's Inn, in Riviera south of Corpus.

Meagan Falcon, a former entertainment reporter for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, kindly sent a link to her article, "Under-the-radar things you've (probably) never done in Corpus Christi, but should." She recommends staying the night on the docked U.S.S. Lexington, taking a nature walk in the Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve and sailing in Corpus Christi Bay, among other activities. 

She also advises walking the Harbor Bridge, calling it an "unsaid rite of passage." Little does Falcon know that I can barely gin up the nerve to drive across that tall bridge, much less walk it. I can't even look at a picture of it without getting dizzy.

Falcon also linked to another article that she wrote, "Under-the-radar restaurants you have to try in Corpus Christi." Among her tips were Eirini's Gyros & More on South Alameda Street, Gordo's American Eats on Old Robstown Road, Recio's on Old Brownsville Road and Sandi's Diner Red, Hot and Blue on Ayers Street.

Texas author Stephen Harrigan writes: "You might want to see if anybody can unseal the tunnels for you that used to connect uptown and downtown Corpus. When I was a kid they were very mysterious. Also check out Snoopy’s — great place to eat fried shrimp and watch the boat traffic and bird life on the intracoastal."

A 1972 aerial photo from Corpus Christi Bay overlooking downtown, seen in the front, the West Side in back, and the Port of Corpus Christi on the right.

Sailor and writer Aaron Reed reminds me: "The port is coming up on its centennial in 2026. The library downtown has some terrific old photos — some available online. Watch the ships come in from the public viewing platform under the bridge near the Ortiz Center, across the tracks from the museums. Also check out the Seaman's Center on North Mesquite Street."

Corpus Christi lover Betty Mounts suggested 14 places or events. She included helpful links in her email. One in particular about Old Bayview Cemetery stood out.

"I was lucky enough to stumble upon a crowd there one day in early November 2021," she writes. "There were historians dressed in military gear as well as old-timer, 1800s-era clothes. There is a gentleman named Ram Chavez who leads our local veterans band. He would know more about this cemetery as he was there that day along with the band. I am sure he could refer you to some of these historians."

Austin environmental activist Mary Arnold agreed that we must visit Old Bayview, as well as another ancient graveyard called Nuecestown. She counts ancestors in both spots, including the Wade family at Old Bayview.

Old Bayview Cemetery in Corpus Christi, seen here in March 1969, is the oldest federal military cemetery in Texas.

"John Wade was from Yorkshire, England, and came to Corpus Christi in 1852, along with his wife, Mary, and their son John L. Wade, and daughter Elizabeth Wade Almond and her husband Joseph Almond," Arnold says. "Several of John and Mary's children stayed in England. I would love to go back to the cemetery and just wander around to see what other familiar names I can find. I have done a lot more genealogical 'research' since that visit to Old Bayview Cemetery."

Max Butler strongly advises: "Lunch at Portis Country Kitchen in the Wells Fargo Bank basement downtown. Cafeteria-style soul food. If you're lucky you'll get to hear Portis sing. He's a story by himself."

Butler adds another tasty tip, the "Black Diamond Oyster Bar. And I prefer to sit at the bar for both food and drinks."

Stephen Williams writes: "I read your article regarding taking a road trip toward Corpus Christi and thought I would add my $.02 worth of recommendations. I lived there as mostly a teen from 1963-1970, so I have a little knowledge of some interesting places around there."

Williams goes on to recommend 14 sites; two of the sites are vanished grand hotels.

"At the corner of Ocean Blvd and Alta Plaza streets you will find a historic marker for the Alta Vista Hotel. People continue to dream big in that area, and this was one of the dreams of one Elihu Ropes," he writes.

The entrepreneur and land speculator's resort-like hotel burned down on June 8, 1927, according to a historical story in the Caller-Times.

Elihu Ropes’ Alta Vista Hotel, a luxury resort patterned after one in Santa Monica, Calif., was built at Three-Mile Point in Corpus Christi in 1890. The old derelict burned in a spectacular fire in 1927.

"Another great hotel that was still standing during my time there was the grand Nueces Hotel," Williams continues. "It was downtown between Waters Street and Chaparral Street and People Street. It was razed in 1971, but I believe there is a historical marker now where it stood."

"I haven’t been to Corpus in years," says playwright Marty Lange, "but my longest lasting, most impressionable memory is of Ocean Drive, and dreaming of living or visiting in one of the fabulous homes that face the bay."

I agree with Lange. That's a dreamy drive along the gently curving shore.

"For your piece on Corpus Christi, an often overlooked story is Ed Harte’s role in the creation of Padre Island National Seashore," writes journalist Melissa Gaskill, "and the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies."

Rod Paul says: "If you are going to spend time in the SEA (Sports, Entertainment and Arts) District, stop in at the Texas State Museum of Asian Culture and Education Center — across from the Art Museum of South Texas. You'll be surprised what this small museum offers."

D'Ann Johnson pointed us toward Holy Cross Catholic Church, built in 1914 and associated with social justice in the city. "There was a thriving Black community in Corpus," Johnson writes, "but the highway and refineries cut it off. There was a famous juke joint and stores and theaters."

Lanterns hang from the ceiling of the the Texas State Museum of Asian Cultures in Corpus Christi.

Barbara Leschber remembers special lunches: "As a young child, we would visit one of my aunts in Corpus and eat at the first Whataburger site," she recalls. "Wow! We thought that was some treat and such big 'What-a-burgers.' I think the building is still in same location but has been modernized."

In fact, a replica of the original burger joint stands next door to an operating Whataburger, so that's a delicious lunch and culinary history all at the same stop.

Two readers recommended stops in the town of Falfurrias on the way into Corpus.

"My hometown of Falfurrias is a mere shadow of its former self, but remains the original home of Falfurrias Butter and easily on the way to your must-dinner stop: King’s Inn," writes Carter Pettit. "And while you’ll probably stay in Kingsville following that Bombay Salad and Fried Shrimp dish, take in the King Ranch Museum and Saddle Shop."

Don Pedrito Jaramillo, “The Healer of Los Olmos” who is honored with a shrine and chapel and a Texas Historical Marker at Los Olmos, near Falfurrias.

Jimmy Hendricks on Falfurrias: "I highly recommend a visit to the shrine of Don Pedrito, the legendary curandero of Los Olmos. Family stories passed down to me tell of how he mysteriously cured my great-grandfather Felipe Salinas of blindness, and my great-grandmother Dolores of some severe stomach ailment.

"Decades ago, a friend took me to the shrine erected over his grave, guiding me along wheel ruts running through someone's cornfield. Finally, we arrived at what appeared to be a church in the middle of nowhere.

"This was in fact the shrine. Inside, we found his grave with a statue of this unofficial saint of South Texas sitting over it. Garlands of handwritten prayers and notes of thanks adorned the statue. A restaurant range hood was in place to spirit away the smoke from all the votive candles burning at any given time, and there were piles of discarded crutches propped up in the corners of the shrine."

Michael Barnes writes about the people, places culture and history of Austin and Texas. He can be reached at mbarnes@statesman.com.

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