It did not take me long to realize I was sitting in a unique restaurant the other day as I cruised into Frankie Flav’z Craft Burger House in Harlingen. I walked in, was greeted, and sat down and began looking over the menu. There I found burger choices named “El Guapo,” “Trump’s Burger Wall,” “The Cut Throat Burger,” “The DoNutt” and more. My fondness of this establishment was growing as fast as my appetite.
Frankie Flav’z has burgers that utilize items such as bananas, caramelized granny apples, peanut butter, corn and for the Triple B Burger, bacon, blueberry and brie, among other tantalizing ingredients and magnificent mixtures. Of course, there are plenty of the more common toppings from a variety of cheese to grilled onions, jalapenos, mushrooms, and a list that seemingly never ended.
Most of the burger options can be made into hot dogs as well and the menu has a smattering of chicken sandwiches, salads, and street tacos.
My server Trinity recommended the “Trash Can Burger,” so I went with that. After all, at the time of my visit, the deadline for this story was vastly approaching and the longer I perused the menu, the more I could not decide. The stranger the burger, the more it piqued my interest. Trinity said that burger was her favorite and it did not take long for me to figure out why.
First of all, it’s a large burger, stacked high with the crowning achievement being two deliciously deep-fried onion rings with a dash of sweet barbeque sauce. This did cause me somewhat of a dilemma – do I leave the rings atop the burger or eat them individually. I compromised, leaving one at the top of the burger tower and enjoying the other one.
Topped with a healthy portion of chopped brisket along with bacon, tomatoes, American cheese, a spring mix, and grilled onions (something I add to every burger I eat), the flavors were a fabulous array of fun. This was a meat lover’s dream – bacon, burger, and brisket, how can it go wrong. All that was missing was a nice nap.
A trip to Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers is more than a trip to another burger joint. For me, this was like a trip back home.
The burger patties are thin but bigger than the bun, filled with flavor and some savory crispiness around the edges. The seasonings Freddy’s uses do not get buried inside an inch-thick patty that gives off nothing but meat flavor. This, in itself, was unique and the way my mom would make burgers back home in New York.
I took my burger with cheese, pickles, tomato and onions and the taste of home filled me even more. The pickles were oval sliced, the onion and tomato were fresh.
I ordered my fries with chili and cheese, filled a couple tiny cups with their fries’ sauce, and soon had a large order sitting in front of me, with enough chili to have as a side order.
Again, the flavor of both the creamy and jalapeno (not hot by any means, but tasty) was a delicious addition to an already tasty order of fries. Freddy’s also has a dry seasoning mixture that can be sprinkled over the fries, so there are many options for a person to enjoy.
Of course, you cannot go to Freddy’s without having some of their frozen custard. I almost think it was made just for the Rio Grande Valley. Unlike most ice creams that quickly lose the “ice” part when you take it outside in the South Texas blistering heat, the same cannot be said for the custard.
With all the benefits of ice cream, but with a thicker and smoother flavor, Freddy’s has several options for the customer – from their signature sundaes (my daughter had the signature Turtle Sundae and dug into it like I had never fed her before – she is now a big fan) to their concretes and shakes.
So, the trip to “another burger joint” was anything but that. It was differently delicious, delivered quickly and doled out in good portions.
Most importantly, you could enjoy the custard without it quickly turning into milk.
There is one thing guaranteed to happen when I walk out of the Griffin Grill in Mission.
I am gonna be a happy person with a smile on my face and the thought of doing a joyous cartwheel will pop in my head...for a second.
After a fresh side salad with my favorite, bleu cheese dressing, I decided on the fried mushroom as a side and avocado chicken as my meal.
Read more: Griffin Grill: Consistently Exceptionally Good
It did not take long for me to reach my comfort zone soon after I stepped into El Mirador restaurant located at 105 W. Tyler in Harlingen.
The service both started and ended with a smile and the food just made the smile grow larger, along with my satisfied stomach.
I started with some chips and salsa, but the difference here was that there were five salsas to choose from, all ranges of heat, but none so hot that you could not distinguish the flavors.
After mixing and matching salsas with chips and some queso flameado, melted cheese with crumbled chorizo on top, my wonderful server Marcela brought out my main dish, one she recommended – the molcajete dish with fajita and shrimp. Molcajete is usually a stone bowl used with a tejolote to grind up a variety of food products. My order was delivered to me in the traditional stone bowl, angrily sizzling up a storm and smelling amazingly delicious – and fiery hot, if something can actually smell that way.
When I talk about hot in this case, I mean in terms of temperature. The bowl, which also had a nice amount of grilled onions at the bottom, also had three pieces of cheese that started inside the bowl and stretched out to the top edges. Sitting on top was a beautiful green half avocado.
Marcela brought me some flour and corn tortillas and I never got to the flour, the homemade corn ones just hypnotizing me as I scooped out the mixture inside the molcajete and, for the first taco at least, decided to not add any of the wonderful salsas.
The first bite sent me back to my married days to a woman from Monterrey, Mexico. We would go visit my in-laws and much of the time was celebrating, playing golf, and tantalizing my taste buds with so many different flavors. This was me back during those wonderful days in Monterrey.
After I was full – like full full – Marcela bagged up the remaining food, added some chips and salsas and sent me on my way. I stopped to pay and tell the owner, Jose Elias Alvarez Mata, how much I enjoyed this visit and I thought for sure I would be able to finish all my food.
He looked, chuckled, and said matter of factly “Yeah, you couldn't.”
It was not a question, but a statement that said, “you're not the only one.” We then talked about the amazing variety of flavors and, while the molcajete was bubbling like the top of a volcano, it's spicy heat was more than manageable, leaving your taste buds working to be tantalized with the mega-flavors.
He responded that they try to make everything as authentic as possible while not making their food too spicy for customers. However, he said, “If they want something spicy or hotter, we'll certainly accommodate them.”
Living in McAllen, rarely would I go to Harlingen just for a meal. El Mirador changed my perspective, however, and I will definitely return to try different items from a menu loaded with a wide spectrum of choices, from breakfast to lunch and dinner.
In fact, I see myself going back there before the end of the year. It was that good.
Golf is an experience
Sure, there are nine or 18 holes to play, a challenge in itself. But there is so much more than just the fairways, greens and actual game – even though that’s what draws people to the course.
Read more: It’s not just the golf
The phenomenon of Chef Arevalo
I have noticed this strange phenomenon.
Whenever Victoria Palms’ Chef Marcus Arevalo cooks up something for you to eat, it is going to be absolutely terrific.
Such was the case once again as I visited the restaurant with no idea of what I wanted. The chef came out to say hello and I asked him for his opinion to help cure my clueless dilemma. His first recommendation was the blackened tilapia, followed by the fried whitefish.
Being hungry, as always, I chose both.
My server, Elizabeth Andrade chimed in after she asked what I ordered and said she especially loved the blackened tilapia, an encouraging preview of what was to come.
The tilapia arrived and before even a bite was taken, it looked and smelled absolutely mouth-watering. The fish, with the mixed spices, came out blackened as advertised and the spices on top glistened, giving amazing contrast to the snow-like whiteness of the fish.
I have been playing a little in recent weeks with blackening food and found how easy it is – for me at least – to end up with a product that is over blackened, the power of the pepper dominating the flavor. This was not the case with this tilapia as Chef Marcus created an amazing piece of fish, the blackened flavor deliciously combining with a fish that was cooked perfectly, flaky yet firm and not rubbery. A stunning combination of flavors. Elizabeth was spot on when she promoted this dish.
The fried whitefish was another dish that tickled the taste buds. The first bite brought about two distinct flavors and an interesting mixture of the crunchy outer layer of breadcrumbs and other seasonings, and the delicate inner fish. There were also two distinct flavors – from the batter and the fish -- and, my favorite part, is that it was probably 85% fish and 15% batter, unlike so many places that seem to flip-flop those percentages, making you search for a glimpse of the fish.
Now, I am a sauce guy. I enjoy salsas and tartar sauce, ketchup, and soy. The list goes on. I was really into the hot pepper challenges and fell in love when chipotle became a trend. So, I asked for some tartar to go with the fried fish plate, thinking I would need something to offset the dryness of the batter.
I think I used a third what I was given, a shock to me. The fish did not need it, so I just used it in little dabs to accentuate the dish. Then it dawned on me – a revelation – when the fried fish is not all batter and is mainly fish, there is no super dryness to contend with.
It was yet another five-star victory for Chef Marcus. I cannot wait to go back to Victoria Palms Restaurant, hungry and without a clue… as usual. I know I will be in good hands.
Relaxing dining by the sea
While it may be a little farther than most restaurants, the Baffin Bay Seafood Company, located in Riviera, is certainly worth the effort to get there. The restaurant sits right on the coast of Baffin Bay, a well-known fishing spot for black drum, redfish and speckled trout.
One of the most popular items on the restaurant’s menu is black drum ribs, usually served with hand-breaded onion rings. The Baffin Bay Seafood Company may just be the only restaurant to serve these tasty ribs fried with cornmeal. They are delicious! Especially with their homemade tartar sauce made with special secret ingredients.
In addition to the black drum ribs, we tried the grilled and fried drum, which were both delicious. We just had to sample the fried shrimp and grilled shrimp. Both are very good, and my personal favorite was the big, plump grilled shrimp with a delicious fresh-catch taste.
Steaks and chicken are also available for those who aren’t in the mood for a great seafood dinner.
Save room for their delicious desserts! You’ll enjoy rounding out your meal with molten lava cake, brownies with ice cream or New York cheesecake.
A trip to the Baffin Bay Seafood Company, combined with a sightseeing trip to the King Ranch, might just be unbeatable. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. They are located at 1294 CR 2360 E on the coastline in Riviera.
Mouth-watering Flavor and Freshness
The explosion of flavor, tasting almost every single topping, on my Bobby Burger at Build A Burger in Edinburg pleasantly took me by surprise.
This is a burger, I thought to myself. It should not be so packed with not just mouth-watering flavor, but a freshness that I have rarely come across.
The burger, loaded with ham, bacon, grilled onions, cheddar cheese and two tasty patties, easily shot its way up toward the top of my favorite all-time burgers just after the first bite - the vegetables providing a freshness, the bacon a crispness, and the ham and grilled onions a yumminess (is that even a word? Well it should be in this case).
Tightly wrapped when I was called to pick up my order, I was surprised at how well the burger held up and did not collapse despite its size or by me cutting it into half. Congratulations to the kitchen architect who figured how to build such a successful tower of meat. Even after I was finished eating it, I looked down at my tray and very little of the burger spilled out. That is impressive.
The aioli fries were supercharged with taste, the way aioli fries should be, and seemed to have a bit of lemon juice mixed with its garlic, salt and oil mixture that makes up the aioli sauce. It had a bite, like you would expect from a sauce with those ingredients. This just added more joy to my first Build A Burger experience, where I chose to partake of one of the specialty burgers instead of building my own.
The menu has more than burgers for those who want to adventure away from their signature items. They also offer keto burgers, hot dogs, a variety of fries and chicken tenders and have a children’s menu.
My daughter had the super popular Seattle Diggity Dog, a massive hot dog wrapped in bacon and smothered in grilled onions with cream cheese and mayo. Camilla decided she did not want the cream cheese and she absolutely loved the hot dog, as evidenced by a tray that was clean when she was finished devouring her order.
Most burgers, and I have probably eaten more burgers than any other food (my parents swear my first word as a baby was “cheeseburger”), are roughly the same in my opinion. But this Bobby Burger was immense and carried multiple flavors. That, along with its size and presentation/holding together of my first burger here was a great experience. With the variety of menu items, I am sure I will be back to see what other powerful and satisfying flavors I can find.
A must when visiting Mercedes
As I perused the jam-packed menu from Los Comales Restaurant at 151 ½ N. Texas Ave. in Mercedes, one item in particular seemed to capture my attention – Poquito de Todo, or A Little of Everything.
I usually avoid these types of plates because, while I like a whole lot of different food, there's usually something that doesn't quite meet my liking, or when it says A Little, it usually means “A Little Less.”
That certainly wasn't the case in this situation.
The plate consisted of two enchiladas, Panchos with fajita (every chip was loaded with fajita, cheese and a jalapeno slice), one chalupa, one beef quesadilla, rice and beans.
And it covered the plate – completely. What may have been most impressive was how the architects in the kitchen were able to pile so much food on a plate and not turn it into a mismatch of everything where you just dug your fork in and played guess what's in my next mouthful?
Each item had its own section on the plate, it didn't mix with any other item (well, a couple pieces of rice and a runaway strand of lettuce may have found their way into something else) but it was structured and organized and full, similar to how my mom would pack a suitcase, as opposed to me or my dad.
The overall amount of food was great, the variety greater and the comfort I felt from digging into each item may have been the best of all. I was ready to nap even before I reached for my heavily filled beef quesadilla inside a homemade flour tortilla.
I asked for some salsa other than the mild pico de gallo they brought with my chips and what they delivered was a highly flavorful red sauce, with just a touch of heat.
You could also tell that this town heavily supports the Mercedes Tigers football program and other athletics. I arrived about 10:50 a.m. (the restaurant is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily) and there were several customers – ranging from around five years old to somewhere in the 70s age range) wearing their Tigers orange, from lanyards to facemasks to T-shirts and more. It truly gave it a hometown feeling.
I ordered the milanesa de pollo to take home to my daughter, a junior at McHi who was “in class.” When she opened her take home box, her eyes lit up at a large piece of deliciously battered milanesa. “Quick dad, get the ketchup please!”
Usually I can go back to her room, knowing that there was going to be some leftovers for me. When I opened her door to peer in, the box lay on the floor next to her bed. When I opened it, ready to try even the smallest leftover piece I was saddened – all I saw was the bottom of the box. She ate it all.
We both had large plates of delicious food at Los Comales and we both ended up finishing not a little, but all, of everything. Next time I'm in Mercedes for a sporting event, I'll definitely stop here.