The Gumbo Seafood in Refugio, Texas.
On the highway between Corpus Christi and Victoria, Texas (30 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico), is the weigh point for 18-wheelers and spurs to other smaller towns. But for locals and those in the know, there is The Gumbo Seafood. It is the perfect blend of Tex-Mex and Gulf Coast seafood, and quintessentially South Texas. Friday nights at 5:30 the restaurant starts to fill up with families and friends. This past Friday night we joined the crowd.
The menu covers everything from a torta (a Mexican sandwich on French bread), ribeyes with lump crab on top, fried crawfish tails, alligator, enchilada plates, fajitas and tacos to whole flounder, snapper and catfish.
After the waitress brought out the chips and salsa, we ordered the Shrimp Diablos: Gulf shrimp stuffed with a thick slice of jalapeño, wrapped in bacon, and cooked to crispy perfection. When you have Gumbo in the name of your restaurant you better deliver and we were not disappointed. Although the seafood was plentiful, the use of bay shrimp was a tad out of place in that rich roux filled with fish and crab.
My dinner companion got the fried shrimp and another round of Shrimp Diablos. I chose the stuffed flounder and added 3 fried oysters. It’s not on the menu as an option, but they are always accommodating of special requests.
The salad bar was scant but you don’t go for the salad.
It’s a fine balance between pre-made and handmade items here. They hand bread all the seafood and prepare the salsa, gumbo, and many other items in-house. But some side dishes, like the steamed veggies, are straight from a food purveyor. But the entrees are all freshly prepared so it’s easy to overlook the sides. The crab and shrimp stuffing in the flounder was delicious, but the flounder was a little under-seasoned for my tastes (but still flaky and moist). The fried shrimp were huge and delicately breaded. No panko breading either (thank goodness!) which tends to make fried shrimp too greasy.
We finished up with the Tres Leches cake with fresh fruit on top. It was a hard choice between cake and their fried ice cream that is huge – full of chocolate and coconut and enough whip cream to send you into a sugar coma.
The Gumbo Seafood is definitely not fine dining but it’s a great restaurant in a small town where you are always guaranteed a great meal. They are always busy but you never feel neglected by the wait staff. And when school is in you can always talk across the restaurant with other patrons about the local football teams. This is Texas, after all.
A Guest Post by: Karen Cline-Tardiff | Karen lives on the Texas Coast with her husband and daughter. A former restaurant owner, she now spends her meal times enjoying other people’s hard work. She is a poet and storyteller, and, in her spare time, directs plays.