It covers some 22,745 acres, but its maximum depth is just 40 feet. Normal water clarity is murky, even turbid. Yet Lake Ray Hubbard is regarded as a swell recreational depot with lots of good fishing (bass, catfish, crappie) and sailing, though there are no camping areas, beaches or swimming. Breathtaking views feature a lakeside power plant.
Not everyone gushes over Ray, though. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department remarks that "stands of emergent vegetation" in several areas of the lake have been infested with hydrilla, a troublesome aquatic weed. "Let me tell you something about Lake Ray Hubbard," says fishing guide Tracy Nix on his Web site. "It is an extremely dangerous lake and full of snakes. How many lakes have you been to that have old concrete bridge pylons 1 foot below the water that are not marked? How many lakes have you been to where you can run up on a pile of concrete rocks or a long point, or a stump out in the middle of what looks like a 'safe' boat run?"
Yet the primary purpose of the lake is not recreation. Situated on the east fork of the Trinity River, the lake was constructed to supply drinking water and maybe snake skin for stylishly vicious pumps. Construction was started in 1964 and concluded in 1969, and Ray Hubbard was birthed from an earth fill dam some 12,500 feet long. The crest of the spillway rises 409.5 feet above mean sea level--not a minor achievement when you consider the highest point in the Dallas area (Cedar Hill) rises just 800 feet above the sea.
Bahama Beach Club is poised to exploit this entire swell of Ray trivia. Located in the Captain's Cove Marina, which is home to some 700 boats, Bahama features a cavalcade of amusements including live music, nightly karaoke, a game room, a swimming pool and an unobstructed view of that power plant. Unexpected interior appointments include a bar stool positioned in front of the urinal in the men's room.
"It's a pretty multi-functional club," says Roger Lewis, a construction contractor who started Bahama with a pair of business partners.
Does multi-functionality include wine?
"Yes, we have margaritas," our server explained.
"No, wine. Do you have white wine?" we repeated.
"Oh, yeah, we have white wine. White, white zig..."
"Yeah, that's it," she said with a snap.
"Do you have chardonnay?"
"Sure. Yeah. Maybe. I'll have to ask."
OK, so maybe it's dumb ordering wine this close to a turbid snake pit. Perhaps that's why it took nearly a half-hour for our wine to arrive. "Sorry it took so long," our server said as she deposited three plastic cups on our table. "We had to go down and find it." Where "down" was we didn't have the heart to ask, but we were relieved to discover the stuff was drinkable.
Bahama Beach Club is a terrific hole-in-the-wall beach-comber watering hole, or would be if there were some beach to comb. The colonial-style structure was originally built as a clubhouse for the marina in the mid-1960s before it became bars known as Doc Mama's and Dry Dock. Lewis says he spruced the place up, adding rooms and installing a bar on the upper level where karaoke is committed.
The dining room on the lower level looks like a Fisherman's Wharf shellfish shack. Each table is draped with an oil cloth sporting a different pattern. A portable salad bar is tucked in one corner (decommissioned on our visits). A stone fireplace and hardwood floors lend it diligent handsomeness.
But seating is a challenge. We selected a booth by the window to greedily gulp in the views; when one of my companions dropped his bum on the banquette bench (the one without the stuffing spilling from the slits in the vinyl), the other end catapulted upward. A server rushed us in a quasi panic. "Didn't you see the 'reserved' sign?" she asked.
"You mean this table is reserved?" I returned.
"We put it there so no one will sit here," she explained. So we opted to enjoy the lake more fully on the club's expansive concrete patio with newly constructed picnic tables.
The water was choppy, and the bass boat bows were levitating like the banquette benches in the dining room. "We've got the best view of the lake," Lewis boasts. "We've got a view almost of the whole big main body of the lake. You can see the dam and the whole nine yards."
You can see the parking lot, too. We watched a souped-up Chevy Caprice slowly rumble into the lot like an inchworm with a supercharged throat frog. Flames were painted on the front quarter panels. Now a Caprice Classic is an odd choice for flashy customization. The model mostly entered into service as a police cruiser, a taxicab or a Medicare sled. Even odder, this Caprice, with dazzling chrome wheels catching the flick from those spitting flame tips, was a station wagon.
These are the kinds of views that spark internal conflicts: They spur appetites while simultaneously stoking the jitters of caution. To razz this conflict, Bahama Beach Club has an extensive menu, especially for a place equipped with karaoke and margaritas on the wine list.
Strangely, though, the menu features a suspicious number of selections with "Baja" in the coinage. There's a Baja club, Baja dog, Baja corn dogs, Baja nachos and Baja wings. Wings are big and messy. Instead of a little clump of drummettes, Bahama brings whole wings--six of them. The flesh is plump and moist, but the "spicy" sauce is a little tepid and pasty.
Baja nachos arrive over a large oval platter strewn with thin crisp chips that are neither stale nor greasy. They were generously blanketed with tasty chicken shreds that were distressingly dry. Instead of gooey with long strings stretching from chip to plate, the melted yellow cheese was rubbery, snapping and recoiling like tired silicone at the slightest hint of tension. Still, the tomato dices were fresh, and the shredded lettuce was serviceable and void of brown edges. Plus the scoop of guacamole was smooth and brisk, and the sour cream was cool and tangy.
Potato skins were little more than stretches of desert paste; huge pontoons filled with dry potato, dry cheddar cheese, bacon bits and shriveled chives. Stuffed jalapeños, dark brown billets undoubtedly cooked in a fryer in dire need of an oil change, were greasy, gooey and bland (even the peppers offered little in the way of tongue prickle). The top crunched, but the yellow substance squirting like runny caulk at the slightest hint of pressure had little flavor.
Departing from bar food appetizers reveals a slate of entrées that are mostly in open-face sandwich form--except for steaks. I took a tenacious stab at those, but our server returned to inform us that the rib eye supply was depleted. Ditto the sirloin. So I settled for the only steak left on the menu: the chicken-fried kind. The fact that this flat, thin and golden crisp piece of meat was shaped like Lake Ray Hubbard was no doubt just a coincidence. It was topped with a dribble of smooth cream gravy that was fiercely middle-of-the-road, revealing not even a hint of pepper.
Though it was a little dry, the Bahama burger was good, but the peculiarly named Bahama bird sandwich was a kind of study in cold-cut salt curing. The turkey and ham sandwich was so heavily salted it was hard to keep those plastic wine glasses filled. So we switched to iced glasses of Ray Hubbard and kept our eyes peeled for baby snakes.
5961 Marina Drive, Garland, 972-203-1133. Open 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Saturday, 12 p.m.-2 a.m. Sunday. $-$$
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Dallas dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.