What's good in Rio Grande Valley?
Just back from our first trip to McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley and ate at several places. The best was Costa Mesa in McAllen. Just great food, service, and room at a reasonable price. Not haute cuisine, but definitely a step up from a Mom and Pop operation. Arthuro's in Progresso, Mexico was also very nice with a menu that ranged from traditional Mexican dishes to upscale steaks, seafood, pasta - a nice room, too, with good, adult service. The Santa Fe Steakhouse in McAllen has a great wine list and (surprise) great beef but is fairly upscale in price. Uneven service.
We ate ourselves silly at Costa Mesa (two adults) for $40 plus tax and tip. We also each had an alcoholic drink. I don't know if that is "big bucks" but it was definitely the best value we found. (Also ate at the really expensive Espana and really, really, really disliked the experience.)
I often have to travel to the valley for work and take people out to dinner. And after several disappointing expensive meals, I often will stop at Taco Palenque for a couple of taco's to-go on the way back to the hotel. Always thought they had good flavor and were pretty big. I am not sure how widespread they are, but I know there were a couple of them in McAllen.
There was also a place called The Blue Onion which I thought had some decent food that wasn't too expensive.
I can give you some ideas for the Upper Valley (Pharr, McAllen, Edinburg and Mission area) and SPI.
Doggie's (McAllen near crossing of Bus. 83 and Bicentennial) - Hot dogs and sausages, pizza, various other. The Chicago style dog and the Italian beef sandwich are very good.
Wallbanger’s (McAllen on Expressway 83 frontage south side between McColl and Jackson) – Hamburgers with large condiment selection and extensive salad bar. I usually order the ½ pound mozzarella and mushroom. Buns are made in-house (and very tasty).
Furr’s (McAllen S. 10th near Expressway 83 frontage road (south side) in front of K-Mart) – This place burned a few years ago when it was a traditional cafeteria. The food was so bland then that I wouldn’t go near it. It was rebuilt and opened with buffet service and the food quality is much improved. Comfort food with some TexMex. This is a Winter Texan favorite (and usually very busy).
Taqueria El Zarape (Various locations in the Mid and Upper Valley…new one opened a few months ago in Mission near Expressway 83 (north side) and Shary Road) – Tacos, tortas, etc. Not as greasy as some I have had. I have found the baked potato with meat topping to be especially good.
Riverside Club (south of Mission on the river between La Lomita Park and Chimney Park) I go here only for the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich (delicious and HUGE). The atmosphere here is very nice and laid back. Plenty of seating inside and out. They have live music most afternoons (in the winter).
Dirty Al’s and Daddy’s (SPI…Al’s next door to Isla Blanca Park and Daddy’s is on Padre Blvd perhaps about half the distance between the bridge and the north side of town on the west side of the street ) – Seafood. Not fancy (food or establishments…especially Al’s). These places are operated by the same family. Food is very good. Probably the best value in seafood I have ever found. Be warned…Daddy’s encourages karaoke.
I had a web address for Dirty Al’s but the address no longer points to anything having to do with the restaurant.
Whenever I go back to visit home we stop at La Playa Mexican Cafe in Harlingen on 77. They offer fajitas done in several different ways (if you like really spicy try to survive the Fajitas Diablas), but they are best known for their Fried stuffed Avocado. Restaurant looks nice, and the menu is inexpensive.
I highly recommend Pancho Mexico Nuevo at 808 N. Cage in Pharr which is right next to McAllen. I vist the valley at least once a year and always have at least one dinner at Pancho. Their chile relleno is one of the best and you can order with different sauces. Their enchiladas are also excellent. Try the entomatadas in a great ranchero sauce or the Chicken enchiladas verdes which are also worthy of praise.