Port A's Best Kept Wine Secret
We are proud to introduce to you the second installment of our newest series, We Are Port A. Over the next few months, we will be spotlighting local Port A establishments that are truly remarkable both in the products and services they offer and how they persevere through hardships like Hurricane Harvey.
Nestled on the corner of E. Cotter and N. Station is Port Aransas’ best kept wine secret: La Barataria. This laid back yet sophisticated restaurant boasts over 225 wines that have been hand selected by their certified sommelier (one of only two sommeliers in the south Texas region). Paired with deliciously fresh seafood, you’ve got the perfect dining experience after a long day at the beach.
La Barataria opened in 2010 after Montreal-born Owner and Executive Chef Lezlie Keebler made the move from Chicago to Port Aransas. She has operated many successful restaurants in her career, like The Biggs Mansion, a swanky cigar club in downtown Chicago. (It is also where Jerry Seinfeld and Steve Harvey shared stories and cigars in an episode of Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”) As she eventually migrated to Texas, she brought with her over 40 years of experience in the restaurant industry and a true sense of hospitality and cuisine.
(La Barataria Founder and Owner, Lezlie Keebler)
La Barataria is a cozy, dimly lit restaurant that combines the perfect mix of casual and upscale decor. Take the tables for example—what appears to be pink tablecloths are actually beach towels. “I threw a beach towel on a table once, thinking it’d be for outside, and thought ‘This is exactly how I want this place to look’,” Lezlie says, laughing. “White tablecloths just didn’t do it for me. I want this place to be cozy, warm and inviting, but not stuffy.” Touches like this, along with a jar on the upstairs bar that reads “Ashes of Problem Customers,” show that Lezlie and her team don’t take themselves too seriously.
The La Barataria menu offers a little something for everyone for every occasion, from classic coastal dishes like scallops and lobster cake to chicken sandwiches and pizza. Families can enjoy a weeknight dinner over the pizza bianco—a pie topped with creamy goat cheese, asiago, romano, caramelized onions, rosemary and red pepper flakes—while a romantic date night can be spent savoring the staple chateaubriand for two, a hearty 16 oz. tenderloin served with lobster mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, creamed corn, caramelized carrots, creamed spinach and béarnaise maitre d’ butter in a port red wine reduction. Every meal is preceded by fresh-baked bread and each ingredient, from butter to sauces, is made in house. They even have their own garden in the back where they grow herbs to further spice and add flavor to their dishes. The restaurant has rotating specials every night of the week, from half price wine night on Mondays to Martini Night on Thursdays and half price bubbly for Sunday brunch.
While the entrees alone are enough to make your mouth water, the truly special part of La Barataria is the wine selection. “I don’t want the same wine everyone else has,” Lezlie says, “It has to be our wine list.” Opening that list is an experience in itself. A book of five pages takes you on a tour from Napa to Bordeaux, Chile, Argentina, and everywhere in between. Don’t let it intimidate you, though—Certified Sommelier Brandi Pratt is there to guide you through the menu and help you find the perfect wine for your taste. “Everyone has their own wine journey,” Brandi says. “It’s my job to find out where you are on your journey and match the wine to you.” To add to her impressive sommelier status, Brandi also has a two-year degree in Viticulture—or grape agriculture—from Texas Tech University. The program taught her many aspects of wine making, like grapevine biology, vine nutrition and vineyard management, just to name a few. Not only can she take cues from your existing wine tastes to help you find something to drink with dinner, she can educate you on how the wine is made (giving you a treasure trove of facts to drop at your next wine night with friends).
Owner Lezlie Keebler’s experience in the restaurant industry is apparent. She can assemble a talented team filled with all-star staff like Brandi and curate a menu that perfectly combines the flavors of a region. But what makes Lezlie shine is her hospitality.
The phone number listed on the La Barataria website routes directly to Lezlie’s cell phone, and she answers every single time. “It’s really important that I answer the phone,” she says. “A lot of people don’t know we’re open again [post-Harvey], or that we’ve moved locations. Those phone calls are our relationships, so it’s important that we keep those up.” After the storm, many customers reached out to Lezlie on Facebook asking when the restaurant would reopen. Once they finally did open their doors, Lezlie personally messaged every single user who had reached out to her. She paid a high level of attention to other restaurants’ customers, too.
“I was one of the few people in town who had a big email database of past customers,” Lezlie says. “Whenever another restaurant would open after the storm, I would do a big email blast for them.” Her commitment to rebuilding Port Aransas continued beyond her restaurant’s walls. She wants every business and every restaurant in town to survive and thrive along with her. She credits her grit and positive nature to her spirituality. “I believe that God gave every bird his worm—he just didn’t always put it in its nest,” she says with a laugh.
Whether you take your entire family or escape with your sweetheart for date night, La Barataria is a Port Aransas gem with a meaningful presence in the community. You can savor their eats and drinks Monday and Thursday through Saturday starting at 5:00 p.m. and Sunday starting at 11:00 a.m.
Published on Thursday, August 23, 2018