In the heart of downtown McAllen, house. wine. & bistro.’s charming merlot-painted brick building sits on Business 83 just north of the Chase Tower. Monday through Saturday, you can find it bustling with business from brunch to late dinner time. In its first 10 years of business, it has easily become a beloved staple in the Downtown Entertainment District for locals and visitors alike.
The business opened its doors for the first time in October 2008 as a part wine lounge, part home furnishing store. Former Austinite and owner Larry Delgado said he and his wife, Jessica, who is co-owner, first opened their company to “nurture the wine culture in the Valley and bring it to the forefront of the Entertainment District.”
The Delgados had spent the better part of 14 years in the restaurant industry before opening house. wine. They met while working at Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Larry starting off as a dishwasher, and Jessica as a server. Both worked their way up to managing proprietors within a few years, later selling their shares to start their new business venture.
Offering over 100 wines by the glass, the main idea behind the wine lounge was to educate customers on unfamiliar wines as well as encourage them to broaden their mindset when choosing a wine. For the non-wine drinkers, the menu also included beer, mainly from Texas breweries and small craft and micro-breweries.
Delgado said for both their wine and beer offerings, they wanted to emphasize supporting smaller, lesser known businesses and try to steer clear of “the big guys.”
“We want to make sure that we’re offering something different and we’re giving our customers opportunities to get out of their comfort zone and try something new,” Delgado said.
To discover new wines and beers meant traveling to find them.
Delgado said both he and Jessica enjoy traveling, as it is an excellent tool to help them stay ahead of trends when it comes to their menu. “Our wine distributors are from all over the world, but a number of them are based here in Texas,” Delgado said. “[When we travel] we get to understand the winemaker and the philosophy of the winery and we love to tell that story.”
The business was well received by the public, but Delgado quickly realized that they needed to add a kitchen.
House. wine. debuted its kitchen, nixed the furniture, and became house. wine. & bistro. in November 2009. “At that time, it was hard to find restaurants that were serving foods like risotto, escargot and pork belly—things we loved to eat,” Delgado said. “They weren’t mainstream [in the Rio Grande Valley], so we wanted to make these foods more accessible to the public.”
Seeking the freshest, most ethically grown ingredients, house. wine. & bistro. began sourcing their foods for their menu from local farmers, such as Yahweh’s All Natural Farm & Garden in Harlingen. “Our menu is really driven by ingredients,” Delgado said, “so we work very closely with local farmers that grow different organic vegetables and herbs depending on the season and we build our menu around that.” The restaurant also sources its meats from local farmers who raise the animals organically and responsibly. A popular menu item, the McAllen Burger, hails from beef sourced from the legendary McAllen Ranch.
Delgado stated that although the bistro was offering unique and delicious menu items and wines that no one else had, it was still a challenge building up trust among customers. “There are so many customers that know what they want and don’t want to try something new or unfamiliar. I think we’ve all been that customer.” Delgado added that although it wasn’t easy trying to redefine perspectives (and taste buds), he is grateful to have gained the loyalty of his customers.
In its first 10 years of business, house. wine. & bistro., the Delgados’ first restaurant, has undoubtedly become a vital thread in the tapestry of the Rio Grande Valley.
“People have learned to put their faith in us and trust in our brand. And without that trust, we never would have been able to open our second or third restaurant, much less keep our doors open,” Delgado said. “And I think it’s a testament to our tenacity that we’re here 10 years later, still growing our business.”
For more information on house. wine. & bistro., contact the restaurant at (956)994-8331 or visit the website at housewineandbistro.com.