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, 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 Fame and a seat in Valhalla.
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.
The stalwart, rose-colored Old Lighthouse Grocery building has stood on its spot in Port Isabel's historic Lighthouse Square since the 1950s, withstanding both storms and hurricanes. Despite its permanence, the building has undergone change?Manuela Stevenson moved into the vacated space in 1988 and established Marcello's Italian Restaurant & Lighthouse Pub. Much like the building it calls home, the casual restaurant has withstood the test of time, thanks to a casual-elegant atmosphere and a menu of hearty Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. During lunch and dinner, the dining room fills with the aromas of sizzling gulf shrimp, marinated steaks, and baked-pasta dishes dressed in tomato and seafood-based sauces.
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.
Claiming a slew of awards, including Best Chicken Dinner by the Orange County Register, El Pollo Loco fills stomachs on the go with a menu of flavorful poultry inspired by Mexico's kitchens. Enjoy the rich tastes of a four-piece combo ($7.99)—including breasts and wings marinated in herbs, spices, and citrus juices—entouraged by two sides from an expansive selection, including spanish rice, barbecue black beans, corn cobbettes, and mac 'n' cheese. For a more portable lunch during parkour breaks from the office, wrap your chicken in the warm tortilla blanket of a twice-grilled burrito ($5.99). El Pollo Loco's innovative salsa bar can tickle to your tongue until milk comes out its nose with fresh varieties of avocado, chipotle, and pico de gallo.