RGVision Food Fave: The Gremlin

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Located on the corner of 16th and Dallas in McAllen’s Historic Business District, The Gremlin Beer Garden + Kitchen is a unique international street food eatery that offers a variety of local, craft, and foreign beers and wines to pair with your meal.

The Gremlin Beer Garden + Kitchen is owned by both Antonio Reyna, a mixed media artist, and chef Alyssa Cantú. The business lives within a 100-year-old home that was turned into an art gallery until Reyna and Cantú took ownership and brought their vision for The Gremlin to life in late 2018.

Reyna said the restaurant took about a year to build, and they have now been in business for about a year. The Gremlin had its soft opening in mid-November of 2018. It was then open to the public by January 2019.

Reyna said the beer garden consists of three spaces, including an intimate bar and dining room along with about eight tables for guests to sit and socialize. “It’s dimly lit,” Reyna said. “We have all kinds of music happening throughout the week. We have an outdoor concert venue, we have a patio, as well as a nice little garden area. So there’s just places to chill. You can talk, or if you want loud music, you go to the back. So it’s very diverse.”

Diversity is also reflected in The Gremlin’s menu. It encompasses various countries and styles of food, from Hawaiian-influenced items like the Poke Bowl to Filipino food like Lumpia (spring rolls), southern comfort foods such as the Hot Chicken Sandwich or Pulled Pork Sliders to German-inspired dishes like Beer Brat with mustards. The Gremlin is also known for its fresh pretzels that are served with house-made cheese and mustard.

The Gremlin Beer Garden + Kitchen features a wide array of drink options on their menu, such as Japanese sake, well-loved wines like merlot and chardonnay, ciders, and of course beers of all kinds. “We have local beers, beers from Germany, from Austin, from San Antonio … we just try to get the best beers that we can all the time,” Reyna said.

Regarding their menu, Cantú said she and Reyna were inspired after watching street food vendors’ cooking techniques in food documentaries.

“We noticed that street food vendors across the world will do one dish in one pan and they do it repetitively,” Cantú said. “So if people could turn out these wonderful dishes with one pan, we knew we could turn out the same kinds of dishes in the small kitchen that we have. And that’s kind of where the menu came from. We just kind of kept expanding out.”

Having grown up in Houston, Cantú said southern cuisine is something near and dear to her heart, and she knew she wanted to incorporate that vibe into The Gremlin’s menu. “Our brunches are very southern, down-home,” Cantú said. Guests can find classic brunch menu items such as chicken and waffles, crepes, and mimosas.

Cantú said before the pandemic, The Gremlin would normally have different daily specials on top of their regular menu. “Thursdays we had Stir-Fry Thursdays, Friday we had ramen, and we were getting pretty popular with the ramen crowd,” she said. “Our menu stays open till 2 a.m., so you can get ramen at like 1:45 in the morning.”

With the current pandemic-driven changes, Cantú said The Gremlin is now offering weekly specials. “Like last week, we did a whole fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and coleslaw for $20. We’re trying to keep it very and reasonable.”

Another weekly special offered is two bacon-wrapped all-beef hotdogs, two fresh pretzels, macaroni and cheese, and cheese fries for $18. Cantú said The Gremlin will continue to offer weekly specials for the time being. Customers can also order growler sizes of their preferred beer to-go for $25 and refill the container for $20.

The Gremlin Beer Garden + Kitchen currently offers both curbside pickup for customers as well as food delivery options. Catering is also available for meetings and events.

“If you see our venue, we close off certain sections of it for parties and large events and cater that way,” Cantú said. “We’ll also do offsite catering, where we go to your house and cook it there.”

Reyna and Cantú said in light of the pandemic and its effects, businesses have had to endure a major shift and are not as busy as they once were.

Cantu said she wants customers to remember The Gremlin during this uncertain time.

“Remember you used to come here and drink here and eat here and when this is all over, you’re going to come back and hang out here and until then, we’ll send the food to you, or you can come pick it up,” she said. “We want to stick around as long as we can so that people can remember like, hey, you know, like we’ve always been here.”

“Supporting local is key,” Reyna agreed. “Right now, we’re having people that haven’t heard about us and want to try something new coming in.”

“That’s probably been the biggest relief that’s happened since this whole pandemic,” Cantú reflected. “You know, the wave of people that are saying, l saw you on a website and it said you all are open. We just need to get out of the house. That alone has helped out a lot.”

The Gremlin’s hours of operation have recently changed to being open for lunch to dinner from noon to 8 p.m. Call ahead to verify The Gremlin’s latest operating hours. Contact The Gremlin Beer Garden + Kitchen at (956) 330-8582. Read their menu and stay up-to-date on specials, menu offerings, and events by following their social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram @thegremlinmcallen.

What’s your favorite menu item at The Gremlin? #JoinTheConversation at facebook.com/rgvisionmagazine.