South Padre Island is a spring break haven for rowdy tourists, but the Texas island, and its beaches, are open year-round. Whether you’re there for kiteboarding or to kick back at the beach, South Padre Island offers a wide variety of restaurants for cuisines, including Tex-Mex, Italian, and fresh-caught seafood, many with stunning Gulf views.
If you’re there for a fishing weekend, try ending the day by asking one of several local restaurants, such as Dirty Al’s or Sea Ranch Restaurant and Bar, to boil or fry your catch for you.
Here are 14 of the best restaurants on South Padre Island.
Cafe on the Beach
This decades-old resort offers breakfast, lunch and dinner with a view from its restaurant. But you don’t have to be a guest at the resort to try the food, which includes seafood like red snapper and oysters or twists on brunch favorites such as migas and malted pancakes.
Josephine’s Kitchen, which is only open from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., is a brunch favorite to fuel up before a day at the beach. Check out its award-winning shrimp and grits or weekend specials that can include a roast pork hash or brioche French toast stuffed with strawberries and cream cheese.
Padre Island Brewing Co.
South Padre Island’s stop for brewed-on-site beer also has a vast menu, though those expecting a traditional pub menu will instead find fresh snapper filets and beer-battered shrimp, as well as entrees like Texas quail and pizza topped with smoked meat. Padre Island Brewing Co. offers various dietary substitutions, like a cauliflower pizza crust, Beyond Burger and vegan mozzarella, all provided without an extra charge.
Chilitto Pikin offers heaping plates of cheesy and meaty Tex-Mex classics. Its specials showcase a variety of Mexican dishes, rotating between plates like tortas and French fries or all you can eat pork tacos for $10.99.
With an all-day breakfast menu, Grapevine is arguably the best breakfast and lunch spot on the island. Find standout lemon blueberry goat cheese pancakes topped with lemon zest and whipped cream, breakfast platters, agua frescas, and coffee roasted in-house. Need something on the run? Stop in for the tacos Tejanos. In both regular and supersize, these come packed with scrambled eggs, with the choice of adding a plethora of meats, including beef fajita and chorizo, and veggies.
The Meatball Cafe
The Meatball Cafe is a South Padre Island favorite for pizza and pasta to feed a family. Its gorgeous patio surrounded by greenery is also a great date night spot to dine on lobster ravioli or fresh-made linguini and clams.
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Daddy’s Seafood & Cajun Kitchen
Load up on fresh seafood at Daddy’s Seafood & Cajun Kitchen, which serves everything from Cajun-style seafood boils loaded with crawfish, snow crab, shrimp, and platters of oysters on ice. The restaurant also has a fish market so that you can bring some Gulf Coast goodness home.
For a different kind of seafood feast, Rocotto Grill offers Peruvian and Japanese food, including a small variety of sushi rolls and seafood-laden dishes such as black paella, which is loaded with clams, mussels, shrimp and octopus and takes its name from squid ink which is mixed into the rice.
For a fast raw fish option, Ceviche Ceviche offers fast casual ceviche that can be loaded with a choice of fresh vegetables, avocado, fruit, citrus, sauces and more. Come early — it opens at 10:30 a.m. and tends to sell out before closing.
South Padre Island has plenty of seafood restaurants, but Sea Ranch has an extensive range of fish, shrimp, crab, scallops, lobster, oysters and more. One of its signature dishes is its red snapper, which can be prepared in various sizes and presentations, including fried, broiled, blackened, grilled, or Cubano.
Mahi Nic serves a straightforward menu with pulled pork-loaded nachos, thick-cut fries, burgers, and tacos. Check out its frozen margaritas and frozen lemonade, too, to keep away the Texas heat. As a bonus, it is on a South Padre Island dock, only steps away from the water.
Dirty Al’s opened in 1986 by Alfonso Salazar, whose family now owns several notable South Padre Island restaurants, including Daddy’s Seafood & Cajun Kitchen and Josephine’s Kitchen. But the original still serves Gulf Coast staples, like peel-and-eat shrimp, seafood tacos, po’ boys and, of course, baskets filled with heaps of fried shrimp, fish, oysters, and chicken.