A devastated kitchen wouldn’t keep Jim Riedel from reopening his sizable Paradise Key Dockside Bar & Grill as quickly as possible. In late September, Riedel brought a food truck to the huge parking lot adjacent to his restaurant and set up picnic tables where diners could eat. Not wanting to lose his employees, he launched an abbreviated menu and kept the cocktails flowing. “We’re not only not leaving, we’re doubling down,” Riedel promised last fall, talking about plans to enlarge the entire operation. Guests ate burgers and the like, with a view of quiet waters—nobody dared move their boats through the Intracoastal Waterway beside the restaurant with so many sunken boats hidden just beneath the surface—and of the smashed-up, five-story boat stack next door, where George Strait and hundreds of other owners had stored their watercraft. Returning this trip for dinner, we find Riedel seating customers and servers hustling orders out of the spanking-new kitchen to at least 90 guests in the rebuilt dining rooms. The blackened snapper, caught nearby, is exceptional; the fried shrimp gets two thumbs up. Riedel says he’s happy to be serving such a supportive crowd but, like all restaurants, needs more employees to keep up with booming business.
Jim Riedel, general manager of the Paradise Key Dockside Bar & Grill.
John Raley, owner of Moondog Seaside Eatery in Fulton, also determined to keep his employees at work, reopened in November. His place sustained up to $250,000 in damage, and several pieces of kitchen equipment had to be replaced. “It’s a miracle the building was pretty much unscathed, though we heard reports it had been leveled,” says Raley, who evacuated to Luling during the storm. “I’m a big believer in prayer.”
Enjoying a platter of fresh oysters and a bowl of gumbo one sunny afternoon on this spring trip, we breathe in the sea air and toast the fishing boats bringing their day’s catch to the pier next door. Just a few steps from our room, we revel in a dinner on the upstairs deck at Charlotte Plummer’s, which Griffin reopened two weeks after the storm. The cool starter of lump crab and avocado with Crab Louie dressing and a plate of spicy grilled shrimp goes down easily with wine by the glass. The reflection of a full moon shimmers on the water beside us, setting the mood for a quiet dinner date far removed from the fury of the storm.
For visitor information and updates on reopening businesses, contact the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce, 319 Broadway St. Call 361-729-6445 or 800-242-0071; rockport-fulton.org
A lifelong Rockport devotee, Fort Worth-based writer June Naylor is heartened to see the community on the mend. Photographer Dave Shafer of Richardson was awed by the magnitude of the hurricane’s aftermath.