When local chefs Terry Chandler and Jon Bonnell saw how badly Port Aransas needed help, they couldn’t stay away.
For most of the last month, either Chandler’s crew from Fred’s Texas Cafe or the team from Bonnell’s, Buffalo Bros. and Waters cooked in Port Aransas, serving first responders, volunteers, the homeless and anyone else in need.
With the help of $30,000 in online donations and donated food and equipment, they helped serve from 2,000 to 3,000 people daily until more Port Aransas restaurants opened last week.
“Everyone is trying like hell to put the place back together,” Bonnell wrote by email, “but the sheer volume of work seems to be insurmountable.”
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The closest beach resort to Dallas-Fort Worth in drive time is still reorganizing, clearing debris from Mustang Island.
Chandler and other Fred’s chefs led the way after Hurricane Harvey struck the island Aug. 25, making sandwiches and fish tacos from the Ought Zero Land & Cattle Co. mobile chuck wagon.
They had been cooking more than two weeks in a relief camp nicknamed “Cowboy Camp David” when Bonnell went down to take a turn.
“I’ve been going (to Port Aransas) since I was a kid, and it’s got a special place in my heart,” he wrote.
Bonnell arrived Sept. 22 with equipment donated by Fort Worth-based Taylor’s Rental and a refrigerator truck filled with donations from Fort Worth-based Ben E. Keith Foods.
One day, he served 140 quarts of his familiar chicken-and-sausage gumbo.
Two messages to pass along:
First of all, Port Aransas needs housing more than household goods. If you’ve got an old RV or house trailer, there’s someone in Port Aransas who’d like to sleep in it.
Second, Port Aransas’ beaches and beachfront resorts are still beautiful. The core of the city took the harder hit.
Some restaurants and lodgings are open now, with more expected by either Thanksgiving weekend or Christmas week.
“Plan a trip, rent a condo, enjoy the beaches, eat at a local place,” Bonnell wrote: “Spend some money in a town that desperately needs it. But be ready to see some things that will truly break your heart.”
Bonnell is back running his restaurants: Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine, 4259 Bryant Irvin Road, 817-738-5489, bonnellstexas.com; Waters Bonnell’s Coastal Cuisine, 301 Main St., 817-984-1110, waterstexas.com; and Buffalo Bros. Pizza Wings & Subs, 3015 S. University Drive, 817-386-9601, buffalobrostexas.com.
Chandler’s Fred’s Texas Cafe has three locations: 915 Currie St., near Crockett Row, 817-332-0083; 3509 Bluebonnet Circle, near TCU, 817-916-4650; and 2730 Western Center Blvd., 817-232-0111; fredstexascafe.com.
Celebrating the taco
Only in America do we line up for National Taco Day.
The annual celebration of the meal-in-a-shell is Wednesday, and one of the most spirited celebrations is at Fuzzy’s Taco Shops.
The formerly Fort Worth-based Fuzzy’s chain was one of the first local restaurants to observe Taco Day.
Fuzzy’s still keeps things simple: $1 tacos all day, including breakfast tacos.
The deal doesn’t include fajita or shrimp tacos. But it does include all the Baja fish tacos that made Fuzzy’s famous, along with the garlic shredded beef taco that’s an insider’s favorite.
Other special Taco Day deals:
▪ The Austin-based Chuy’s chain offers $1 crispy beef tacos with any order. Also, if you have a taco costume, Chuy’s offers a free entree to anyone who comes “dressed like a taco.”
▪ El Fenix offers $4.99 taco plates, crispy or soft. (And Taco Day is already on “Enchilada Wednesday.”)
▪ Blue Mesa Grill locations are serving a street taco buffet with a variety of toppings from 5-9 p.m. ($10).
▪ Blue Mesa’s corporate cousin, Tacos & Tequila, will also host a taco-eating contest at its Dallas Uptown location. Fastest diner to finish 20 mini-tacos wins.
▪ Torchy’s Tacos doesn’t have a special, but the “taco of the month” is the Tailgater: a panko-crusted chicken fillet on bacon and potatoes covered in green chile queso, topped with Diablo sauce, poblano ranch slaw, smoky blue cheese and a drizzle of honey.
▪ Taco Bueno, home of the “party taco,” is giving a free taco with every purchase (limit one), and promoting its $5 Muchaco or burrito boxes.
▪ The Minnesota-based R Taco (Rusty Taco) chain, founded in Dallas, will host a charity fundraiser at its flagship store, 4802 Greenville Ave. (A Fort Worth location is open on Bluebonnet Circle, but a new Camp Bowie Boulevard location will not open until the weekend.)
▪ Taco Cabana offers a free fajita taco if you sign up online for the rewards club at tacocabana.com.
▪ Taco Bell is selling taco “gift sets” for $5. But c’mon.