Tapping in to fresh, local ingredients, the wing-slingers at Wing Barn offer classic appetizers and sides along with a made-to-order menu of Texas favorites. Jumbo-sized crispy wings—available in orders of five ($4.49), 10 ($8.49), and up—can be smothered in one of 14 original homemade sauces, including garlic parmesan, honey mustard, and cilantro chipotle lime. Teeth can sink into half-pound burgers such as the Ranch Hand ($7.99), as well as fresh salads and Texas State Fair–inspired desserts, including funnel cake, fried Oreos, fried Twinkies ($4.99 each), and fried oil rigs. Head to the outdoor patio, settle indoors within eyes' reach of several big screens, or polish off a dozen of the hottest wings to win the Lava Wing Challenge, thus earning a place on the Wall of Flame and a seat in Valhalla.
Vicente, the resident chef at Gazpacho's by Las Tablitas, specializes in incorporating Mexican flavors into globally inspired dishes. In some cases, these are pretty straightforward—empanadas stuffed with sautéed spinach and caramelized onions, or shrimp tacos doused in chipotle sauce. But the remainder of his menu takes a more roundabout route to Mexican tastes. He fills savory crepes, for instance, with poblano peppers and corn, while his paninis sport ingredients such as grilled chicken, avocado, and herbed mayo. Each globetrotting feast unfolds amidst vibrant oil-painted canvases in a lively dining room, which fills with the upbeat sounds of live music every Friday.
Upside Down entrances the senses with an inverted neon sign, luminous 200-inch TVs, a hypnotic blue-and-white-whorled floor, live music and comedy, and a menu of hearty burgers, salads, and sandwiches. Mesmerize your mouth with six traditional ($5.25) or boneless ($7.59) wings doused in mild, hot, lemon pepper, barbecue, or parmesan-garlic sauce and served with homemade blue-cheese dressing. Cheddar, bacon, grilled onions, and thousand-island dressing mingle on the Black Hole burger ($7.99) and sliced turkey cozies up in the Backwards Bird sandwich with a melted-jack-cheese comforter and avocado throw pillow ($7.99). For a fragrant denouement, choose from more than one dozen flavors of hookah to practice puffing smoke rings or more baroque smoke fleurs-di-lis.
The confectionary composers at A Piece of Cake by Ybarras orchestrate a sweet ensemble of custom-baked goods suitable for a variety of cake-worthy occasions. Outfit a wedding, anniversary, or taxidermy-school graduation with a quarter-sheet cake, which feeds up to 20 famished guests or two hungry Mothras. Cakes sport a solid foundation of either chocolate or white cake and come adorned with a generous slathering of white or chocolate buttercream icing. With decoration options that include balloons, daisies, and roses, the edible centerpiece will enthrall guests and divert all eyes away from the man-eating loveseat in your living room.
Parrot Eyes' laid-back deck lets eaters absorb a sweeping view of the Laguna Madre while enjoying seafood, burgers, sandwiches, and more in the open air. A live band strikes up at sunset each night to complement the menu, weaving its melodies into the crunch of blackened fish tacos, served with red cabbage and the eatery's special sauce ($8.25), and the squishy slurp of tortilla-crusted chicken breasts bursting with melted monterey jack cheese, spinach, and a cilantro cream sauce ($12.95). Burgers such as the Walk-a-Moley satisfy growling bellies with hearty guacamole, sour cream, and pico de gallo ($9.25). Since Parrot Eyes also offers water sports rentals and charters, adventurous eaters can work up an appetite beforehand by hotrodding on a rented jet ski or scouring the sea for Fiji mermaids on far-flung snorkeling trips.