The latest issue of Texas Monthly features The Greatest Burgers in Texas. First, I want to congratulate Larry and Jessica Delgado of House Wine in McAllen for being the only hamburger from the Rio Grande Valley chosen as a top 50 for this article. House Wine & Bistro is a great place and a local favorite. It is on my "to-do" list to plan on going back and ordering the "McAllen Ranch Burger."
It would take a long time, considering the size of our state for us to delight on all of the top 50 burgers, but I feel we are entitled to our opinion on the subject. We can certainly provide guidance for people to find original places to eat in the Rio Grande Valley. Let's keep in mind that what can be a great burger to some, does not necessarily mean everyone will agree, but with careful scrutiny we can certainly come up with the top burgers in Valley.
Last July my husband and I visited Edinburg for a piano recital at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Wonderful performance and incredible venue at the new Performing Arts Complex. Afterwards, our friends Virginia and George Gause suggested dinner at the University Draft House in Edinburg. Without hesitation we agreed, for our friends have a knack for good food. Virginia recommended the lamb burger called "The Greek," and I have to say it was fantastic! The menu's selection of hamburgers is varied, so the choice is not easy. I made the right choice and recommend this burger for all lamb lovers out there. The Greek burger consists of ground lamb, cinnamon, mint, basil, roasted tomato, arugula, red onions, feta cheese, cucumber and Tzatziki sauce served on a whole grain bun. My husband ordered the "Bucking Bronco" burger which he also raves about. Made in-house french fries and sweet potato fries are also favorites. For the menu, prices and restaurant location, please click on the link above.
After dinner, we had the pleasure of meeting Chef Jesus (Chuy) Trevino, and complimented him on a job well done. Not only does he prepare hearty burgers, but Chuy is a friendly and amenable guy who did not mind us taking dozens of photos - it took that many to get a somewhat good one - before heading back to the kitchen.
The University Draft House's ambiance is ideal for pleasant indoor and outdoor dining. It is a sports-bar like setting with plenty of TV screens, and outside is the place to enjoy the night sky and live music. More and more i see outdoor dining venues and it is great. For many years people said the Valley was too hot to eat outside in the Summer, but because of our southern breeze Valley evenings are much cooler than evenings further up state. In the Fall and Winter are evenings are fantastic!
One more thing to love about the Valley. What is your favorite hamburger in the Rio Grande Valley?
Virginia Haynie Gause is the creator of ArtsRGV.com where all the Valley's art and cultural events are featured. For a happy and healthy retirement plan your Winter staycation!
Author: Nydia Tapia - Gonzales for South Texas Tourism
Culinary Traditions of the Rio Grande Valley
For some complicated reason, we find ourselves attempting to describe the difference between authentic Mexican food and what is served here in the Rio Grande Valley at local establishments labeled as Mexican food.
We know the Rio Grande Valley well, and we know it is the best place to spend time during the winter months for many reasons. But on the top of the list is our food culture. But because we are not food critics, or culinary gurus, we like to read what experts write on the subject to shed light on the characteristics that mark the difference between these two gastronomic traditions.
To fully comprehend the different traditions and variations of Mexican food – recognized by UNESCO as a patrimony to humanity – we look for information to shed some light on the subject. The “Mexican” food we savor in the Valley was somewhat inspired by authentic versions, but is far from being the real thing. So what should we call the food served in the Valley? We cannot dismiss it as a “bastardized northern Mexico food with too much of everything” as some say, but define it as Robb Walsh does.
According to this interview we found online, Robb Walsh, author of The Hot Sauce Cookbook, explains why Tex-Mex is a legitimate American cuisine. He said it has been in Texas for a long time, dating all the way back to the Spanish missions, but we always called it Mexican food. He refers to Diana Kennedy’s book Cuisines of Mexico where she writes about what most of us deduce; that so-called Mexican food north of the border is not really Mexican food.
Tex-Mex is a Texas version of Mexican food and it is a commercial cuisine for the most part. It mostly exists in restaurants, but it was adapted from Tejano home cooking. The Spanish pulled out of Texas in the late 1700s and left behind Spanish-speaking mission Indians who became known as the Tejanos. They came from Native American stock and they were really not Mexicans; they had never lived in Mexico. They had been acculturated by the Spanish missionaries here in Texas.
Tex-Mex cuisine is descended from their tradition, and also from a lot of Canary Islanders who were brought to San Antonio by the Spanish to try to expand the colonization of Texas. The Canary Islanders brought with them a Berber flavor signature — Moroccan food. There was a lot of cumin, garlic and chili, and those flavors, which are really dominant in chili con carne, became the flavor signature of Tex-Mex. It is very different from Mexican food people enjoy in Mexico. Diana Kennedy is prone to say that Tex-Mex includes way too much cumin. But if you compare it to Arab food, you suddenly understand where that flavor signature comes from. The Splendid Table interview by Francis Lam.
So that explains the cumin! And the hard shells, and the ground beef, sour cream, chili sauce, and American cheese. It’s Tex-Mex! But it is also important to note that the Valley boasts a good number of authentic Mexican food restaurants that have opened since the influx of Mexican Nationals investing in the Valley began. But even those have somewhat adapted dishes to cater to the local culture. Mi Puebito and Gazpacho’s in Brownsville. Arturo’s in Weslaco and in Nuevo Progreso, Mexico, El Pastor in McAllen, and La Fogata in Mission are among the restaurants where people delight on authentic Mexican dishes.
Even better are the prices! In some of these Mexican food establishments, lunch specials range from $4 to $7 dollars! These are large portions too. Another reason to spend time with us in the Rio Grande Valley.
Article Featured on CBS Money Website
Number 1: Harlingen, Texas. As the tough economic times continue in the U.S., many people are looking to cut down on their expenses by moving to more affordable cities and towns. But where to go? The Council for Community and Economic Research, a nonprofit group that provides information on local economic trends, recently compared the cost of living in 306 urban areas in the U.S. Based on the price of housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services, here is a look at the least expensive cities around the country to live in.
The town with the nation's lowest cost of living is Harlingen, Texas, located in the state's southernmost tip and with a population of 74,950. The after-tax cost to maintain a standard of living enjoyed by the average company manager or other professional is roughly 17 percent lower than the national average. A pound of ground beef in Harlingen costs $2.35, compared with $3.30 nationally as of January, while a night out at the movies will run you $9. The average price of a home is $229,558.
Number 3: McAllen, Texas. The average cost of a home in McAllen, Texas, the third-least expensive community in the country, is $178,000, while a two-bedroom/two-bath apartment rents for $708. The cost of living in McAllen, population of 130,831, is 16.2 percent cheaper than the national average.
Because of our affordability, the friendliness of our people and the numerous outdoor activities, the Rio Grande Valley is a top destination for retirees. There is no better place than the Valley!