1This issue’s “Food Fav” from RGVision is a compilation of dining experiences that allow us to relish the outdoors. It’s summertime and many families will be enjoying vacation or exploring their evening in nature. With COVID still not entirely behind us, families want to eat at restaurants knowing they won’t have to be in close proximity to others. As a parent, you always want to know your kid will have space to cover “messy eating” and walk around if they have to. Here are RGVision’s favorite locally owned and operated restaurants to eat outdoors. All of them are family-friendly with lots of elbow room in the fresh air.
Edinburg City Hall, 415 W. University Drive, Edinburg, TX 78539
Food Trucks: Check out their Facebook @edinburgarts
Operation Hours: Every first and third Friday of the month
Distinguishing Characteristic: Picnic tables spaced to accommodate social distancing — and fairytale-like string lights illuminating a starry night. A variety of food to be tried. They serve both food and beer.
“People should eat here because it’s safe and socially distanced, all the tables are very well spaced out, and the area is very large. It’s outdoors, pet-friendly, and there’s always delicious food.”
Magdiel Castle, assistant director of cultural arts, City of Edinburg
Lobo Del Mar
Live Music: Seven nights a week from 6 to 9 p.m. Bagpipes played every day at sunset.
Signature Dish: Seafood Sampler or Shrimp Sampler Plate are both a little taste of our Gulf Coast.
Distinguishing Characteristic: One word: bagpipes. What a wonderful experience that grounds the listener with a sense of hope and courage. This restaurant also remains family-friendly throughout the night, so it makes a great hangout for mom, dad, and even grandma, grandpa, and the kiddos.
“Our outside deck is dog-friendly — for behaved dogs or behaved owners only. Enjoy our open-air dining, views of Laguna Madre, casual dress, live local entertainment, and family-friendly. It’s all in one.”
Brandy Buntin, owner of Lobo Del Mar
The Eatery-Downtown Weslaco
Live Music: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening
Food Trucks: Check their Facebook @TheEateryWeslaco
Operation Hours: Tuesday to Sunday afternoon to 11 p.m.
Vintage Hot & Cold Brew open seven days a week
Sunday 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Monday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Tuesday through Friday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Monday: Food Park closed
Distinguishing Characteristic: Plenty of wonderful photo opportunities that highlight the food park for social media spotlights, including a notable backdrop proclaiming, “You Are Beautiful.” A diverse selection of food to delight the taste buds of every palate.
“Once you enter, and drop the real world off, it’s just so chill and relaxed — something that Weslaco has never seen before. Come and eat, don’t eat, get on your phone, get some work done, sit under an umbrella, drink coffee, drink a beer, listen to music, whatever you want to do. Bring your family, friends, and come as you are.”
Mario Mendiola, owner and developer of The Eatery
Big Dog BBQ & Catering
1000 N. Texas Ave., Mercedes, TX 78570
May 22 to May 23, Smokin on the Rio, Mercedes, TX
June and beyond, Big Dog BBQ Central Location
340 W. 10th St., Mercedes, TX 78570
Live Music: Saturday evenings starting June
Signature Dish: BBQ Sunday — 16 oz bowl with beans, rice, and then topped with brisket, potato salad, pico de gallo and homemade tostadas.
Distinguishing Characteristic: One of the very few barbecue joints in the Valley that only smokes with wood from the Valley: mesquite, pecan, or live oak. They try to keep their barbecue as “Valley” as possible, with all the backyard staples like fajita, mollejas, tripas, brisket, chicken leg quarters, and other recognizable South Texas barbecue items.
“I take the same time on every plate no matter how busy we are. Everything has to be picture perfect, and top quality, before it gets served to the customers. That’s one thing we do take a lot of pride in.”
Rudy de la Torre, owner and pitmaster of Big Dog BBQ
Cobbleheads Bar & Grill
3154 Central Blvd., Brownsville, TX 78520
Signature Dish: Tortilla Soup and Chicken Cigars for appetizers, and Philly Cheesesteaks or Shrimp Plates — only served with fresh shrimp from our Gulf.
Distinguishing Characteristic: The staff definitely makes Cobbleheads special. There is a lot of pride to work here. Some of the staff has been with the restaurant for years, and they make their customers feel like family. This Fourth of July, they will be celebrating 25 years of business. The owner hand-crafts and designs tables to fit a very homey, welcoming, and colorful atmosphere. This restaurant’s outdoor dining is waterside, which makes a beautiful and relaxing view.
“We are in the process of giving our outside dock a new look , as it is very popular with our clientele. We keep trying to change with the times, but it all comes down to the basics. Try our best to make everyone feel special.”
Joe Kenney, owner or, as he calls himself, “head dishwasher” at Cobbleheads
University Draft House
2405 W. University Drive, F, Edinburg, TX 78539
Signature Dish: Burgers — they have a variety of burgers with specialty concocted combinations and the best fried pickles found in the Valley.
Distinguishing Characteristic: From the same owners as Santa Fe Steakhouse and Republic of the Rio Grande, you can trust the food is top-notch quality. Literally everything on the menu is delicious, but the atmosphere is comfy and casual — and the price is at an affordable price point. They have a huge variety of tap beer from all over Texas and the U.S.
“We take a lot of care in creating our menu. We’re constantly trying new products to see if we can improve anything. Our beef patties are blended specifically by us and we try to put our best product forward at all times.”
Bo Ragusin, general manager, University Draft House, Edinburg
Mission Food Park @ The CEED
801 Bryan Road, Mission, TX 78572
Food Trucks: Check their Facebook @MissionFoodPark
Operation Hours: Thursday and Sunday 4 to 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 4 p.m. to midnight
Distinguishing Characteristic: There’s both a brewery, 5×5 Brewing Co., and a coffee shop, Jitterz Coffee Bar, which appeals to a wide demographic. The park is also one of the biggest in the Valley, with plenty of space to let the kiddos run around safely. The variety of trucks are meticulously chosen to cater to all taste buds. The music is kid-friendly, and there is space to dance. They have special events like “Market Days,” among others.
“It’s a safe outdoor space. If you want to sit in an isolated, little picnic table with your family, only take your mask off to eat then put it back on, you can. You have those options — you’re not going to get encroached on by people because there’s so much space. It doesn’t matter if you’re bringing the family, hanging out with the kids, hanging out with your parents, or if you’re on a date night. You can find your crowd and your day here at the food park.”
Daniel Rivera, director of programs and marketing for Mission EDC
Salomé on Main
1409 N. Main St., McAllen, TX 78501
Signature Dish: Estofado — signature beef short rib, mole negro, poblano golden potatoes, heirloom carrots, and nixtamal tortillas. Nixtamal tortillas consist of steeping corn in food-grade lye then grinding it to make corn tortillas from scratch and by hand. All of their corn vessels are made using this process.
Distinguishing Character: Everything is made from scratch with local produce, and an eclectic array of handcrafted agave spirits — tequila, mezcal, and sotol — with freshly squeezed citrus juice from the Valley’s citrus industry. Enjoy sitting in the arts and entertainment district in downtown McAllen in a stunning historical building.
“We pride ourselves in cultivating a world-class experience with world-class atmospheres and ambiance. The building is beautiful, the food is beautifully and meticulously made, and of course everything is from scratch — including the cocktails. We feel everything is necessary for an excellent dining experience.”
Jessica Delgado, co-owner of Delgado Collective Restaurants
Stefano’s Brooklyn Pizza
Live Music: 7 to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Magician comes on Friday for indoor entertainment.
Signature Dish: Lasagna, chicken alfredo, or Discovery of Italy, which comes with lasagna, chicken parmesan, and fettuccine alfredo
Distinguishing Characteristic: Large covered patio. When it’s hot, they turn on the ceiling fans, and when it rains, they still allow patrons to sit under the patio. Budget-wise, it’s very economical and possible to feed a family of 10 under $100.
“You need to come on the weekend. The atmosphere is different at night, the lights come on, the music is on, just sitting outside is awesome. I do that when I’m off, and I really don’t like to come out. It’s a nice environment.”
Christie Castillo, manager at Stefano’s Brooklyn Pizza
1802 S. International Blvd., Weslaco, TX 78596
Signature Dish: Their house specialty is lonches. They are small, freshly baked bolillo bread rolls that are lightly fried on the outside while the inside remains soft and warm. They are filled with picadillo (ground beef with special seasoning) and topped with thin cabbage, tomato, cilantro, avocado, and Mexican cheese. They originate from Nana’s owner’s hometown of Nuevo Progreso, Mexico.
Distinguishing Characteristic: A little culturally rooted Mexican shop called Para Mi, with all of the trinkets, clothes, and accessories associated with our abuelitas. You can eat and shop for gifts all made by hand. Take a selfie in front of their many colorful Mexican murals that make the spirit of our past come alive. Authentic Mexican food options made from fresh local ingredients that have gained the approval of customers on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border.
“We are a place of celebration. We are one of the few restaurants that can seat a table of two or 50 people at a moment’s notice on our patio. Whether it’s someone’s wedding rehearsal or a 90-year-old’s birthday party, we’ve celebrated it all! We offer weekly music concerts in the courtyard highlighting regional mariachi music with local talent. We also curate cultural events such as our Día de Los Muertos Celebration, Que Viva la Salsa Night, wine tastings, art workshops, and more. Every day is a fiesta at Nana’s!”
Roxanna Trevino, owner of Nana’s Taqueria