Review: The Angry Marlin Restaurant and Coolwater Bar

The Angry Marlin and Coolwater Bar
15605 South Padre Island Dr.
Corpus Christi, TX 78418
Telephone: (210) 272-9973
E-mail: gmier@theangrymarlin.com

In recent years there has been an upswing in what I would describe as casual upscale dining on North Padre Island just across the JFK from Flour Bluff and the greater Corpus Christi metropolitan area.  Popular eateries like Dragonfly and Black Sheep Bistro have joined in with long time favorites like Island Italian to create a food scene that’s as varied and vibrant as any in the area.  They each tend to offer something a little more than just your standard dining experience, be it an outdoor area, distinct dining environment, culinary distinctiveness or infused liquors and unique beverages, each is little different and worthwhile to visit.  The Angry Marlin is a welcome addition to the Island dining scene and describes itself as:

“The Island’s newest restaurant experience, where fresh and local ingredients are always a must. Explore the ever evolving menu of seafood and Santa Fe flavors of chile, corn, and beans with a fusion of French and Italian cuisine.”

On this, my first visit to The Angry Marlin Restaurant and Coolwater Bar, I was accompanied by my parents, so three adult diners on a sunny afternoon for lunch.  Truth is, I didn’t find this place on my own, it was recommended to me by a friend whom had found it the weekend before and had stopped by for a watermelon jalapeno margarita and appetizers.  It was about 11:30 a.m. when we arrived at the restaurant.  It is way out towards Padre Balli Park, across Park Road 22 from Island Italian.  It’s right on the road, but due to the way it is decorated and landscaped, it can be a little more difficult to find than some other places.  Luckily, I had been there before, well been to the location before.  Can’t remember the name of the restaurant it was upon my previous visit, but it was a couple of businesses ago.  No need to dwell on the past though, especially not when the present is so great for this location.  When you pull up to the outside of the building the restaurant gives off a strong beach decor vibe in keeping with the location.  It is very colorful with many palm trees and a large patio area for outdoor diners and those that just want to relax outside on a beautiful summer evening with a cold margarita.

Upon arrival at the door, we were immediately greeted by a pleasant young lady that had us seated and had taken our drink orders as quickly as possible.  The surroundings inside are much in keeping with the outside, but a little more subdued color scheme wise.  Still very beach, however.  It was a comfortable and inviting place to be.  One of the nicest things inside the building is the lighted bar in the next room after the dining room.  I would certainly be interested in coming back out for a drink or two and to hang out at that beautiful bar.   On this Wednesday, at lunchtime, they weren’t that busy at all, in fact there was only one other group that was having lunch when we arrived and left shortly after.  Having said that, it is my understanding from the hostess/waitress that they have only been opening for lunch for a short time, so with any luck things will pick up for them at lunch as the word gets out that they are available then.  After being seated, we were given menus that reflected what was available during the lunch hour, which wasn’t as extensive as their dinner menu, but that is not unusual, and the choices were numerous enough to create a sufficient feeling of variety for the midday meal.

After looking over the menu, both the lunch and dinner sections, curiosity you know, we settled on our choices for lunch.  I chose the Cuban Sandwich, described by the menu as, “Braised Pork, melted swiss, sliced dill pickles, yellow mustard and whole grain mustard.”  My father decided to try the Enchiladas Grande, listed as a vegetarian option, described by the menu as, “Three rolled or flat cheese and onion corn tortilla enchiladas, topped with melted cheddar cheese and your choice of red chile, green chile or christmas (New Mexico’s way of saying both)”.  He chose his with christmas.  My mother chose to try the CoolWater Green Chile Bacon Cheese Burger described as, “1/2 pound hamburger with red chile glazed bacon, roasted green chile, and pepper jack cheese with aioli and grain mustard.”  Due to our great love of fish tacos, my mother and I decided to split an order of those as well.  The menu described them as, “Mahi Mahi fried with a dried banana breading served in 2 flour tortillas, red cabbage slaw, roasted corn salsa, and chipotle aioli.”  Having settled upon our lunch, we chatted and enjoyed the ambiance for a while waiting for our entrees to arrive at the table.  Unusually, we didn’t have an appetizer, but it was also unclear from the menu whether they were available at lunch or only after four p.m. with the dinner menu.  One thing that I don’t like is when the dinner menu is not available at lunch time.  Drives me crazy.

To be forthright, service isn’t the fastest in the world.  Our waitress was friendly and attentive, but the food took a while to come out of the kitchen.  It wouldn’t be a place that I could go for lunch on my work lunch hour, which was kind of surprise given the the dishes that we ordered:  a sandwich, tacos, a burger and enchiladas.  Not really time heavy entrees.  It wasn’t long enough to bother my dad, though and he’s the one that will usually start complaining first.  All the entrees arrived at the same time and looked fantastic so we dug in.  I had a chance to try everything at the table except the CoolWater Green Chile Bacon Cheese Burger (Mom was to quick on the draw for me to get a bite in edgewise).  I started with the fish tacos.  Fish tacos are one of my favorite things, but I end to be on the picky side with how my fish is made and the quality of the fish overall.  I hate it when the fish is old and fishy.  Luckily, that was not the case here.   The first thing that everyone noticed was the size of the two tacos, they were absolutely gigantic.  The fish was fresh and nicely fried, not over done.  The Mahi Mahi was flakey and tasty.  Perfectly seasoned.  The description of the fish said that it was made with a dried banana breading, and I have to admit that I wasn’t able to taste anything reminiscent of banana, but that may have also been because of the other flavors going on because of the other components of the dish.  Banana can be a mild flavor.  Still, that was a minor concern as the batter was the way I like my fried fish to be battered.  Very well done.  In addition to the fish, the tacos also contained a red cabbage slaw, toasted corn salsa and chipotle aioli.   It made for a very juicy taco.  And a very good one.  Not generally a big fan of slaw of any variety, this one was a little sweet, and a little tart and added a nice crunch and acidity to the taco, while the chipotle aioli added a nice creaminess and the corn salsa gave it a bit of grilled flavor and a nice body to the taco aside from just the fish.  If I had to make a complaint about the dish, it would be that the quality of the flour tortillas wasn’t as good as what was inside them.  Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t bad, but they weren’t anything special either.

Next up was my cuban sandwich with a side of potato salad.  Another of my personal favorites is a good cuban sandwich made properly, something that can be difficult to find around these parts.  There are myriad sins that can be committed (and often are in this area) that can screw up a good cuban sandwich, from using the wrong bread to trying to get fancy with the cheese or mustard.  Having said all that I’m always hopeful when I seen one on the menu that this time it will be great.  It’s has been suggested that I just need to get a sandwich press and make them the way I want them at home, but I don’t think expecting them to be made right is too much to ask of an eatery.  So in this instance, the cuban sandwich was a mixed bag.  Overall, I enjoyed the flavor of the sandwich, but it wasn’t properly made as far as what needs to be represented to be a Cuban Sandwich.  In order for a sandwich to be a Cuban Sandwich, it has to have two kinds of pork represented, one of which must be ham!  While the pulled pork on the sandwich was good, the lack of ham was an oversight that can’t be forgiven.  Having put that out there, the issue here isn’t how good the sandwich is, it’s the nomenclature involved.  If it was on the menu as just a pulled pork sandwich, it would be great and an easy recommendation.  Pulled pork is great and when put on a nice bread and served with dill pickles, mustard and swiss cheese, it makes a sandwich to die for, and this one is very tasty.  It’s not strictly a Cuban Sandwich though and since it is on the menu as such, I have to say if that is what you are looking for, you’ll have to look elsewhere.  My sandwich came with a side of mustard potato salad, which is one of my favorite sandwich/barbecue sides of all time, and one which I am very familiar with (my wife makes a spectacular potato salad, you see, and a special version for me that contains jalapeno mustard because I like spicy).  The potato salad was very creamy and well seasoned, although I thought the ratio of mayonnaise to potato was off.  It was too much creamy and not enough potato for my liking.  Like I said thought, the flavor was fine.

Mom was feeling adventurous and chose the CoolWater Green Chile Bacon Cheese Burger, which she said was fantastic and I believe her.  I did get a chance to try a couple of the french fries she got with her burger and they were just great.  They were obviously made in house and were the kind of fries that remind me of my childhood and the way my grandfather and parents made fries.  Perfectly seasoned, hot and flavorful.  I would go back again just for big plate of fries.  On the other hand, my father got the enchiladas with christmas, or both red and green chile sauces on them.  This was a tale of two halves in the truest sense of the meaning.  The place consisted of cheese enchiladas, one half covered in red chile sauce, the other in green chile sauce.  The red side tasted fine.  The enchiladas were good, not great, as was the red chile sauce.  Everything was seasoned properly and was satisfactory.  When it came to the green chili sauce side however, that’s when things shined.  The green chile sauce is spectacular.  Certainly one of the best of its types that I have tried, and I’ve eaten a lot of them.  When placed on the enchiladas, the who dish transformed from good to great.  My dad concurred and vowed that next time he goes to the Angry Marlin, it’s going to be green chile sauce all the way for him.  I can’t disagree because I feel the same way.  My guess is that the green chile sauce is the same as the one on my mother’s green chile burger, and if so, I understand why she had such a glowing review and wouldn’t share.

Finally, after our entrees, we were offered dessert.  Everyone else was stuffed, but I had seen the creme brulee and had to have one.  Creme brulee is one of my all time favorite desserts and I generally try one anytime I see if on the menu.  The one on offer was a vanilla Creme Brulee.  I enjoyed it immensely.  It had the proper consistency for a custard, was sweet but not too sweet, and had a nice vanilla flavor.   The only complaints I can make is it was a bit on the smallish side, and the sugar topping could have been executed with a little more finess.  Those are small complaints though.  Overall it was an excellent finish to a good meal.

I would definitely recommend The Angry Marlin to anyone looking for a new place to try on the Island, not only that but I would also say that it is well worth the drive out to the Island to try it out as well.  From the relaxing surroundings to the enjoyable cuisine, The Angry Marlin is a great addition to the Island food scene and a place that I’m looking forward to visiting again.  Not to mention I hear they make a fantastic watermelon jalapeno margarita that I haven’t tried yet.

The Angry Marlin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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