Casa Tapatia: !Muy caliente camarones!

It is very curious to me how Casa Tapatia Mexican Restaurant and Bar on I-10 in Beaumont never has a busy lunch hour. That is a plus for me. Whenever I pine for  Mexican food I appreciate not having to wait for long line. The double-edge sword is, of course, a place that doesn’t have a good lunch or dinner crowd may be a precursor of a spot that might someday disappear.

The I-10 service road just south of Laurel Avenue could be tricky for those not familiar with the Beaumont landscape. There are a few really good restaurants to the South of Laurel, Frankie’s Italian Grill, Chili’s and in between is the Mexican restaurant, Casa Tapatia, that once was Willie Ray’s Bar-B-Que.

Barbecue royalty once resided at 145 IH-10 North, the freeway service road to the south of Laurel Avenue. The road also goes by the aforementioned restaurants, a medical complex with my Beaumont VA Outpatient Center at the very back, and a couple of storage places before one has to make a “U-ey” under the freeway. If you want to go north, you take the U-ey. If you want to  take the freeway south. you can drive around the connecting roads from Chili’s to 10 Medical Plaza, and take a tricky entrance to Interstate 10 toward Houston or U.S. 69/96/287 to Port Arthur.

It is a definite and difficult maneuver to get to those locations on that particular freeway service road. But when Willie Ray’s was once the barbecue superstar at that address, folks from all around seemed to find it.

Willie Ray’s was named one of “The top 50 BBQ joints,” noted in 2008 by Texas Monthly. A high write-up also appeared the year before in The New York Times “The Quad,” a blog on college sports. One may find many others web stories galore singing praises of Willie Ray’s.

I liked Willie Ray’s. The restaurant made a killer hamburger besides the great barbecue turned out there. I have no idea what prompted the owner’s to leave the I-10 spot for a former 50-year-old steakhouse on Eastex Freeway. I never went to their spot just north — and on the same side — of Parkdale Mall. I am sure my presence had nothing to do with Willie Ray’s shutting down. I am not certain why it shut down. But it did. At least the folks of Willie Ray’s are serving the white flight to the north in Lumberton.


Back to Casa Tapatia. This is such an excellent Mexican restaurant. I have no idea why Beaumont seems to have not caught the buzz for it.

It has a bar! I’ve not checked it out. I will when I feel a margarita is needed. But I have eaten there several times. They have an extensive fajitas choice. The menu even notes the “best seller” for those who might be overwhelmed by the big menu.

One gets the serving of  chips and two types of salsa. One is an enjoyable red and the other, a verde salsa, is the best.

The menu features 10 different categories including fajitas, Tex-Mex, chicken favorites, burritos, seafood special, enchildadas, tipico Mexicano as well as a big lunch special with great combos for a base price of $8.99 + drink + tax (and hopefully a nice tip for the very attentive and friendly wait staff.

Today I chose from the seafood menu. The Camarones a la Diabla or devlish shrimp was indeed devilish. The waitress came out within 10 minutes with my order. The plate includes 12 butterflied shrimp cooked in what appeared to be a chipolte sauce with several of the hot peppers floating around among the shrimp. With the shrimp came a Spanish rice, charro beans, a lettuce leaf with a tasty side of guacamole — which I normally don’t  eat but the green dish here is excellent — along with pico de gallo and a choice of corn or flour tortillas.

All of the staff are very nice and one nice lady didn’t laugh at my attempt at telling her while checking out that the camerones were “muy caliente.” The atmosphere is a traditional Mexican fare for this part of the county, along with the wonderful music that takes one for at least maybe an hour takes you to a smaall dusty Chihuahuan town where one might sit and drink Tecate with lime, and perhaps a shot of Sauza every now and then.

Beaumont has a number of Mexican restaurants. If you straight up Tex-Mex, then visit Monterrey House on South 11th. That has to be the best Tex-Mex. But for a great variety for choosing, excellente atmosphere, wonderful service, and a very great selection of typical Mexican or Tex-Mex, visit mi amigos (who probably would recognize me by face, or not,) at Casa Tapatia.

What: Casa Tapatia Mexican Resturant and Bar

Where: 145 Interstate 1o North, Beaumont, Texas 77707

Phone: (409)832-0848

Beer and liquor served

Here is love to my friends at Casa Tapatia!