Corpus Christi loves its restaurants — whether still in business or long closed. So when Bill Fisher of Rockport told me in February that he found an old menu from Shoop’s Grill, I was excited for the chance to glimpse a piece of history I’ve only read about.
Robert Lee “Bob” Shoop came to Corpus Christi in 1930, and the number of popular restaurants he started is impressive. On Armistice Day in 1932 he opened one of the most infamous restaurants in Corpus Christi, the Dragon Grill. He later sold that restaurant and club to Linn K. “Doc” Mason. A 1954 article in the Caller-Times mentioned Shoop sold to Mason around 1936, and agreed to stay out of the restaurant business for a year.
Bill Walraven wrote about Shoop and his restaurants in two columns, on Dec. 2, 1981, and again on Jan. 11, 1982. Walraven spoke with contemporaries of Shoop from the 1930s who confirmed it was common knowledge Shoop was a bootlegger during Prohibition.
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“I met Bob and his partner when I first moved (to Corpus Christi in 1931),” CC Dew, who ran Port Printing, told Walraven. “At the time they were engaged in the business of processing bathtub gin. Like Bob’s later reputation for the best food in town, the gin was the equal of most shelf goods today.
“They brought in pure grain alcohol from Kansas City in five-gallon cans. They did not deal in moonshine whiskey — just quality gin. Regular customers never went to their place to pick up a jug. (And I’m sure a stranger was never lucky enough to get one.) They delivered in person. Both were always immaculate. They used briefcases to deliver their gin in. The man on the street could have mistaken them for Philadelphia lawyers.”
As the timer on the agreement with Mason ran out, Shoop was back, this time with Shoop’s Grill in the fall of 1937 at 1017 N. Water St., close to the Princess Louise Hotel. He moved the business to the 200 block of Water Street, at what is now Water and John Sartain streets, and held the grand opening at the new location on Dec. 31, 1941. The old location didn’t stay closed long — it reopened quickly with new owner MJ Frangos, as Ship Ahoy.
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The Shoop’s menu Fisher sent me is from 1943 and features a large selection of menu items, from the seafood everyone praised, to steaks and chops, spaghetti, Mexican food, salads and sandwiches and even omelets.
The seafood dinner came with a choice of cocktail or soup or salad; fried fish, shrimp, oysters and deviled crab with potatoes; plus drink and dessert, all for $1.35. Shoop’s “raviola” dinner (how the menu spelled it) came with a choice of antipasto or cocktail or soup; spaghetti and ravioli; a dessert and drink for $1.25. Or diners could select the Mexican lunch option: enchiladas with chili, rice and beans along with a salad and choice of drink and dessert for 50 cents.
Other menu highlights are an anchovy appetizer (nine) for 45 cents, a 16-ounce broiled sirloin steak with potatoes for $2, or even a chicken liver omelet for 60 cents. A cup of coffee set you back a nickel, but you could get a Texas beer for 12 cents; to Budweiser, Schlitz, Pabst or Muehlebach for 21 cents; or a 12-ounce Mexican bottled beer for a quarter.
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Shoop expanded in 1950, opening Shoop’s Coffee Cove at 201 N. Shoreline Blvd., just across the street from the grill. He sold the Coffee Cove in 1956, then bought it back a year later and renamed it Shoopburger Drive-In, though that didn’t last. In March 1958, he sold both restaurants to a new owner, with the stipulation they couldn’t continue using the name Shoop.
Shoop’s Coffee Cove became Andy’s Coffee Cove in August 1958, and eventually moved to the Southside and became Andy’s Country Kitchen — which is still in business. In July 1958, Shoop opened Town & Country Restaurant on South Alameda Street.
The following year, Shoop took the owners of his former restaurant to court to force them to stop calling the Shoreline location “Shoop’s Seafood,” claiming it was interfering with his new business on Alameda. The owners agreed to stop and changed the name to La Cava Seafood.
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Shoop briefly renamed Town & Country Restaurant to Shoop’s Seafood, but changed it back and sold the business, then opened two other Shoop’s Seafood restaurants, one in the Holiday Inn on Leopard Street and another at the Viking Motor Hotel on US Highway 181 in Portland.
Shoop died in September 1966 at 75 years old, leaving a legacy of very popular restaurants in the city.
Allison Ehrlich writes about things to do in South Texas and has a weekly Throwback Thursday column on local history. Support local coverage like this by checking out our subscription options and special offers at Caller.com/subscribe