IT'S the unknown that lures everyone in, repeatedly. Who drives for an hour across barren land to have a taste of some dish that made it to the most popular list? Perhaps those who wish to uncover a secret, or those who have become devotees that whatever it is that got them addicted doesn’t really matter. Let the secret remain a secret.

This is the charm of King’s Inn tartar sauce, a spicy and creamy dip that goes well just about everything the restaurant prepares. It’s a recipe passed from father to son, and the only ingredient divulged is the Serrano peppers, in place of the original chili petines that has become hard to find.

Though this side dish has gained prominence in the King’s Inn unprinted menu (carte du jour is memorized and recited by the servers), every food-loving Texan also knows that this bayside eatery has the best seafood fare in the area, a “not too far” one-hour drive from Corpus Christi to the shores of Baffin Bay where this famous family-owned restaurant is located. Served by the pound and family-style, the fish fillets, shrimps and oysters (much of it prepared from fresh catch out of the bay that’s visible from the window) are the best sellers along with the other house specialties—the sliced avocado salad and onion rings.

It was in 1945 when the Cottle and Faye Ware inherited King’s Inn from Blanch Wright, the French war widow who opened the café and it into a legend. By 1978, the son, Randy, took over the business he grew up in and is the current keeper of the tartar sauce recipe.

The tartar sauce’s ingredient may remain a secret but what’s not is the good food that has earned King’s Inn the acclaim as one of the best seafood restaurants in its region, and these are what the locals and returning visitors keep coming back for more.

Yes, I know I will find myself in this joint when I make it back to Corpus Christi. I won’t mind the hour drive across the deserted highway with not much of a scenery to enjoy just to sate a seafood and tartar sauce craving. Who knows, I may just bump into famous personalities. I heard George W. Bush, Matt Dillon, Betty White, and Nolan Ryan have dined in the place.

Here’s a wonderful tip—you can bring your own bottle of wine (no corkage!) and dessert. How perfect can that be? And finally, a word of advice, it gets pretty busy during the weekends, calling in for a reservation is wise.

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