The Caller-Times asked readers via social media which restaurants that are no longer in Coastal Bend they miss the most.
Readers made more than 50 submissions, including restaurant chains and non-chain residents wishing they could eat out once more.
A prankster even suggested Legs as a restaurant, but snacks at Corpus Christi’s most infamous topless bar don’t count.
Tune in next week when we share the top 10 off-chain restaurants you’re missing, but for now, here are the top 10 chain restaurants you still wish were in the area.
Founded in 1975, Black-eyed Pea made its Corpus Christi debut in February 1991 in its new $1.6 million building at the corner of South Padre Island Drive and Everhart Road. Ahead of the grand opening, local manager Mike Dossat predicted the big seller would be the $5.75 Chicken Fried Steak Dinner.
The place closed in January 2006, a cursed month for Corpus Christi restaurants that also saw Crystal’s Confectionery, Harvey’s Barn Door, Gaetano’s Ristorante and Tony Roma’s disappear in the space of two weeks.
In November 2001, DenAmerica, now operating as Phoenix Restaurant Group, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. As of today, Black-eyed Pea has 10 remaining locations, including one in Texas and nine in Colorado. The only Texas location is in Arlington, while the other restaurants are in the Denver area.
The menu was full of home-style cuisine, including fried catfish, fried chicken steak (including a “Texas Sized” version that took up an entire plate), pot roast, mashed potatoes , fried okra, broccoli and rice casserole, cornbread, and Black-eyed Pea’s signature dish – black-eyed peas.
Established in the Padre Staples Mall in 1988, the 3,900 square foot restaurant and canteen was a popular spot for shoppers, along with Luby’s Cafeteria inside the mall, and featured live mariachi music on weekend.
The mall location lasted just over 10 years, closing in February 1999.
The Tex-Mex restaurant currently has 18 locations in Texas and one in Louisiana. The closest to Corpus Christi is in Victoria. The menu includes fajitas, stuffed avocados, enchiladas, burritos, chimichangas and tamales.
County Line BBQ
Diners were delighted when The County Line barbecue chain opened in July 1986 on Ocean Drive near Oso Pier. The building had previously been the home of another longtime favourite, Ship Ahoy on the Bay. Patrons enjoyed the family-style barbecue portions, a change from many local barbecue joints that favored cafeteria-style queues.
The Austin barbecue chain closed in May 1999 after 13 years of operation. The former chief executive told the Caller-Times that business had slowed down and the 34-year-old building needed repairs, so County Line BBQ decided it was time to pull out.
County Line currently has six locations, including five in Texas and one in New Mexico. The closest location is in San Antonio.
The menu includes everything barbecue-related, including sausages, ribs, beef brisket, turkey, chicken, and County Line BBQ’s famous homemade bread.
It was with great fanfare that Furr’s first local cafeteria opened in the 4300 block of South Padre Island Drive in January 1981. The grand opening of the new $1.5 million building featured a ribbon-cutting ceremony where the ribbons consisted of 100 $1 bills, which were then donated to the local United Way. A second location at 4121 S. Port Ave. opened in September 1982.
The location on SPID closed in 2003, and the South Port location followed around 2011.
With the first location opening in 1946 in New Mexico, Furr’s was known for its cafeteria-style restaurants, but eventually redeveloped into a buffet-style dining room. In January 2003, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and in April 2021 all remaining Furrs were permanently closed.
Along with the fan-favorite gelatin, Furr’s cafeteria offered salads, pork loin, roast beef, enchilada soup and strawberry shortcake.
After serving Corpus Christi for 12 years, GattiTown closed in April 2016.
According to a franchise press release at the time, the franchise operator decided to close the restaurant due to “the trend of declining sales and increasing operating costs”.
Also known as Mr. Gatti’s and Gatti’s Pizza, the restaurant has multiple locations in Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Ohio, Indiana and Georgia. The closest location is in Universal City outside of San Antonio.
Different pizza flavors include Meat Market, Veggie Sampler, Gatti’s Deluxe, and Bacon Dbl Cheeseburger.
Originally known as Grandy’s Country Cupboard, the first Corpus Christi location opened at 4650 Corona Drive, near the intersection of Everhart Road, in November 1978. This location often had #1 sales in volume for the chain, which operated 67 restaurants in 13 states in the early 1980s.
A second location opened on South Padre Island Drive near Rodd Field Road in early 1983 and a third location at 4461 Ayers St. near Gollihar Road later that year. By the early 2000s, only the Corona site remained and it closed around 2004.
The home cooking and comfort food restaurant filed for bankruptcy in 2006 and was sold to seafood company Captain D’s in 2011. Grandy’s currently has 24 locations in Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia, Oklahoma and New Mexico. The closest location is in Victoria.
The menu includes breakfast plates, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, chicken fillets, chicken fried chicken, roast, catfish and burgers.
The donut shop opened in July 2003, attracting over 2,000 customers in its first 12 hours. In May 2004, Krispy Kreme reported that the Corpus Christi site had sold 80,110 in one week, surpassing the most popular site in San Antonio by 3,869.
Unfortunately, Glazing Saddles, the Austin-based company that owned the location, listed Krispy Kreme’s store for sale and closed the business on Christmas Eve 2010.
There are over 360 locations across the country, with the closest being in Brownsville. Donuts on the menu include Reese’s Classic, Cake Dough, Cinnamon Apple, Maple Glaze, New York Cheesecake, and Oreo Cookies & Kreme.
Old country sideboard
Old Country Buffet opened in September 1993 at the Staples Center – now known as Shops at La Palmera – and closed eight years later in November 2011. Specials when the restaurant opened included buffets all day: $4.99 for breakfast, $5.19 for lunch. and $6.69 for dinner.
A regional manager told the Caller-Times in 2011 that the company seemed unsuccessful in growing its business in Corpus Christi and was losing popularity compared to other buffets.
After the company filed for bankruptcy three times, the COVID-19 pandemic was the final nail in the coffin for the permanent closure of all Old Country Buffet restaurants.
The Old Country Buffet menu included rolls, mashed potatoes, fried chicken, grilled fish, fried shrimp, salads and ribs.
Pancho’s Mexican Buffet
Pancho’s Mexican Buffet held its grand opening in December 1969. Fans of the Mexican restaurant will remember “raising the flag” and tasty sopapillas. The chain is eye-catching TV commercials even featured Freddy Fender at one point.
The Corpus Christi site closed around 2005. In 2017, the owners of the company began closing stores due to poor performance. There are currently two locations in the Houston area and two in the Dallas-Fort Wort area.
The menu includes tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, taco salads, nachos, and tamales.
Sea Island Shrimp House
For seven years, Sea Island Shrimp House served Corpus Christi before closing its doors in November 2006.
The company’s president told the Caller-Times in 2006 that operating within Corpus Christi no longer made strategic sense for the company.
The Texas-based seafood restaurant currently has six locations, with the closest being in San Antonio.
The menu includes grilled flounder, shrimp tacos, teriyaki-glazed salmon, fried oysters, shrimp gumbo, and ceviche.
John Oliva covers education and community news in South Texas. Allison Ehrlich writes about things to do in South Texas and has a weekly Thursday column on local history. Consider supporting local journalism with a Caller-Times subscription.