The COVID-19 pandemic has been the cause of many negative ripple effects on the public’s health, job security for non-essential workers, and even the livelihood of local businesses.
One Valley business that has decided to change the way they operate in order to better serve customers and keep employees working during these trying times is Suerte Bar & Grill in McAllen.
The family-owned and operated establishment has been in business since owner Ben Peña opened it in fall 2013 with his brother, Eric Peña, and wife Jessica Aguilar.
Suerte currently has two McAllen locations, a downtown location at 301 South 17th St. and a newer uptown location at Nolana Tower, 400 Nolana St., Suite N1, that opened in 2019.
Decorative accents throughout Suerte reflect Mexican culture in art, music, and life. Loteria cards and characters reside on canvases on the wall as well as a large Selena mural dedicated to the Tejano star. The space is also adorned with Mexican cultural items, such as a sarape draped over the back wall of the bar, papel picado lining the ceiling along with whimsical gold-framed mirrors, luchador art, and various Catholic art and imagery.
Guests have the chance to step into a real-life Loteria card when they take a photo in front of Suerte’s popular El Borracho wall, modeled after the famous Loteria card.
Much like their mixed interior design, Suerte plays a variety of music for all patrons to enjoy.
Analisa Luna, Suerte’s bar manager and social media and event manager, has been a vital part of the Suerte team since they first opened back in 2013.
Luna said Suerte’s music selection can range from Bad Bunny to Chente (Vicente Fernández) to Drake.
“[There’s] a little something for everyone!” she said. “I think that’s what makes us Suerte.”
At Suerte Bar & Grill, customers can expect to find a wide array of beverages on the drink menu with a Mexican Loteria theme. La Sirena is an ocean blue specialty cocktail made with fruit juices and rum topped with pineapple. El Camaron is Suerte’s Michelada mix made to order with the customer’s choice of beer finished with chamoy, house trechas, dried shrimp, and olives. From simple, classic drink recipes to sugary, sweet, and exotic flavors, Suerte has something on their menu to satisfy tastes across the spectrum.
Throughout this time, Suerte’s to-go cocktails have been a hit with customers. From single beverages to sharable 32-ounce specialty drinks to their gallon margarita, guests can find the “cure” for their antojito, whatever it may be.
One of the newer drink recipes that can be found immaculately documented on Suerte’s Instagram is the El 956 Cuhh, which is a lime green colored tropical drink blend mixed with strawberry rum, topped with fresh pineapple and mango-flavored chamoy and trechas.
Suerte’s top-selling drink is their Mangonada, known as La Maceta on their menu, which is a mango margarita draped with chamoy and mangos with trechas.
Besides their wide array of drinks, Suerte also has a growing kitchen menu. Items range from appetizers and snack options like chips and salsa or edamame to spiro-papas and Mexican corn in a cup. Suerte also offers sandwiches and tortas, burgers, specialty fries, tacos and tostadas, wings, hotdogs, and even vegan and gluten-free options for those with restricted diets.
Karla Tovar, a Valley native, says her favorite thing on the menu is Suerte’s popular Tacos de Bistek. They are served as either five corn or three flour tortillas filled with bistek (thinly sliced beef filets) and served with onion, cilantro, limes, and green salsa on the side.
“I’ve been coming here for years and you just can’t go wrong with these tacos,” she said. “They feel like home to me.”
For those who want to bring the flavor home, Suerte offers Family Packs and Taco and Lonche Platters, available to be ordered in advance and carried out.
Luna expressed that although the pandemic and its health repercussions have greatly affected the way Suerte does business, it hasn’t kept them from connecting with customers and sharing their unique flavor.
“Suerte pretty much converted into a drive-thru overnight,” Luna said. “We did hit some rough patches, never having done carry-out before — but we definitely improvised and adapted. Thankfully, we have a very creative team (family) that never stops, and our revamped to-go cocktails created quite a buzz, so we were able to reach new clientele and continue serving our regulars.”
“All of us in the industry need to do our part to get this virus under control,” Luna said. “We’ve created a new curbside menu and we also plan virtual events so that our customers are able to have that Suerte experience — safely at home.”
When it comes to Suerte’s legacy, Luna said it’s an honor to be a part of it.
“Honestly, the thought of a bar having an impact on the Valley is crazy, but we’re grateful for the platform our following has given us,” she said. “It means the world to us when our customers tell us it’s what they miss about home.
“‘Only in the Valley’ — we love receiving those comments when we drop a new drink,” Luna added. “We’re so proud of the Valley, how it’s evolving and influencing other parts of Texas. The 956 truly has the best of everything!”
Current Suerte fans will be happy to know that there will soon be a third location in the Sharyland area, according to Luna. Stay tuned to Suerte’s social media pages for the latest information.
To view Suerte’s full menu online, visit their official website at www.suertebargrill.com. Here, customers can place orders online and pick up curbside. Social media handles on Instagram and Facebook are also @suertebargrill. Customers can check their social media pages for the latest events, promotions, hours, and availability of items.
Current uptown location curbside hours are from noon to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Downtown location curbside hours are currently 6 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.