The lower Rio Grande Valley spans roughly 75 miles between Brownsville and Mission, Texas. For visitors and locals who prefer “mom and pop” restaurants, the variety of options can be overwhelming. For starters, and because of its central location, we focus on the town that was named after the W. E. Stewart Land Company; Weslaco.
Weslaco has an important collection of successful locally owned restaurants, so vast that would be impossible to list in one article. The list I have compiled includes four of my favorite restaurants in Weslaco that share standards inspired by Mexican hospitality. What standards could these be? someone might ask, and the first thing to name would be the professionalism of the wait staff. We are talking folks, mostly male, who make the service industry their lifetime career of choice. These men are proud and skilled, for it takes but a glance their way to capture their attention. Never getting handed the receipt prior to requesting it and feeling like every meal is a special occasion are details everybody appreciates. These places are destinations within themselves. It is not only about the food, but the ambiance, the experience of being in the Rio Grande Valley.
Arturo’s Restaurant: Anyone who grew up in this border region remembers Arturo’s of Nuevo Progreso, Mexico. It can surely be considered a local institution founded by Mr. Enrique Garza in 1950, and now since 2008 managed by his son Gilberto Garza on the US side of the border. In the interior of Mexico, most restaurants are not decorated with piñatas and strands of papel picado but have refined settings like the décor bestowed by Arturo’s of Weslaco. Headwaiters in black and white uniform, white table linens and ceramic china complete the scene. No disposable anything in here and the prices will not break your bank account. Arturo’s is ranked as the #2 restaurant in Weslaco and surrounding area by TripAdvisor. “Unlike franchise owners, we don’t depend on the success of other locations or ride on the reputation of a nationally recognized brand. We must strive for the very best and make it work. From food quality to service Mr. Garza demands the best,” said Manager Daniela Gatica. Arturo’s offers a full bar and is open for lunch and dinner and features live music at a small stage on some nights.
Chef’s Corner Café: Chef Roberto Torres is well- known around Weslaco for his top-notch food and catering services. The café boasts a contemporary casual setting and an international menu. A bit hard to find, in a location adjacent to Knapp Medical Center, it is well worth the trip. For catering, Chef Roberto serves the entire Valley. My favorites at the café are the salad and soup bar and the grilled chicken avocado pepper. Lunch specials vary each day and people can read about them on the café’s Facebook page. A native of San Luis Potosi Mexico, Chef Roberto has lived in Weslaco for 30 years. He worked at the Tower Club in McAllen, Knapp Medical Center and SODEXO, a quality of life service company, before opening the Chef’s Corner Café in 2016. “I try to offer something different and I am always looking for better ways to serve and satisfy our customers,” said Chef Roberto. Chef’s Corner Café is open for breakfast and lunch and might just be Weslaco’s best kept secret, not yet reviewed by TripAdvisor, but not for long, for I plan to post my review today.
Ciro’s Restaurant: Ciro’s introduces Texas-sized portions to the mix of Mexican food and hospitality. The seafood soup (caldo de mariscos) is huge! Chef Ciro Aldape started his cooking career in 1970 when he created the Botana Platter which became all over the Valley, the state and beyond. Chef Ciro owned his first restaurant in 1980 and relocated to Weslaco in 1985. Ciro’s patrons need at least 10 minutes to go through the extensive and varied menu that is also available online but without prices. Some consider Ciro’s high end while others feel they get their money’s worth. Why not visit soon and decide for yourself? Their specialty continues to be the famous meat or seafood parrilladas, fajitas served over sizzling skillets and surf and turf combination plates. Ciro’s offers a full bar and it is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Mariachis and musical groups make spontaneous appearances during the weekend.
Nana’s Taqueria: Weslaco’s success story. When down on his luck and with barely enough money to feed his family of six, Alfredo Trevino, a native of Rio Bravo Mexico, went outside one day to barbecue some chicken. From the factory across the street came a man asking if Trevino could sell him a grilled chicken plate. That event triggered the idea of starting a small restaurant, but without resources, the idea met many challenges but he believed this new venture bestowed a great opportunity. After many struggles, on January of 2010, Trevino opened the doors to a simple non-airconditioned place he named Nana’s after his youngest daughter Mariana Nayeli. Fast forward to 2017 and the place is now a beautiful destination thanks to Trevino’s older daughter Roxanna Itzel who studied architecture and is currently a graduate student at Texas A&M. The design was inspired by the family’s favorite vacation spot; San Miguel de Allende. It combines Spanish architecture with indigenous accents representing Mexico’s cultural heritage. “I am grateful to God for my family and this business I consider an incredible gift,” Trevino stated. Nana’s is ranked #4 by TripAdvisor and was recently featured in the Austin American Statesman and Austin.eater.com.
To think these are only four family-owned dining options in the Lower Rio Grande Valley is simply amazing. The region’s culinary and hospitality traditions are unparalleled. San Antonio may take the credit for promoting Mexican and southern hospitality, but Weslaco and the Rio Grande Valley are the real things!