I visited Lobo Del Mar on South Padre Island for a meal.
I ended up with two. Call it Christmas in March. It was a joyful eating experience.
As I perused the restaurant’s menu while sitting out on its bayside patio, I was first pleasantly surprised by a large and impressively varied menu. After deciding that it would be in my best interest to let someone else decide for me what to eat, I asked owner Ben Little what he recommended and we decided on the Loboviche as an appetizer and the Caveman (“It’s stacked,” Ben warned me. Yeah, I’ve heard that before, I thought to myself.).
My server brought the Loboviche quickly to my table and I could hear those she passed by saying “look at that,” or “wow” as a 32-ounce chalice-like scone was placed before me on a plate surrounded by tortilla chips. Just the look of this mega-appetizer of house made ceviche mixed with shrimp cocktail was a sight to behold.
Still, I thought, it is just an appetizer.
I was wrong – it was more than a meal. The menu described the heavenly mixture as a “generous portion.” They failed to mention “generous portion” meant a small country. To top it off, it was so delicious and fresh that I decided to finish it before I began my monstrosity of a main order.
That just did not happen – not even close.
Two hours later upon my arrival at home, my daughter, who claims she does not like shrimp, and her friend, who almost did a cartwheel when I asked if they would like the Loboviche from Lobo Del Mar, dug in and completed what I couldn’t.
While many who visit the island are defeated by the blazing sun or “one too many,” I was taken down by an appetizer – but what a way to go.
Later in the evening, I attacked The Caveman, a towering sandwich described as having “huge layers of juicy ½ pound beef brisket patty, grilled sausage patty, grilled ham, crisp bacon, pepper jack, cheddar and Swiss cheese with lettuce, tomato, onion, on a bun w/ skewered hand-battered onion rings.” The description could have said it all like this – A caveman would be proud (and with veggies).
This was not just only mouth-watering with a powerful pack of smoky, cheesy love, but it too was a lot to handle. This time, however, I would not let it defeat me. So much food – and I chose a side of cole slaw. This may have been the best slaw I have had in years. I am glad I ate it first. I would not have been able to eat it until my food coma subsided.
Most people go to South Padre Island for the beach, the sand and surf. Then a restaurant decision comes to play. There is nothing wrong, however with going just for Lobo Del Mar. In fact, I recommend it…and then, maybe, go to the beach. You will have earned a good nap after a great meal.
Genres: Original Christian songs (country/southern gospel) written by Rich and/or Joanie, Classic old hymns, traditional Christian songs, and plantation songs from an era gone by.
Specialty: Sharing God’s Love through Word and Song Website: JesusCrossMyHeart.org
Bookings/Contact: Jesuscrossmyheart@yahoo.com, (573) 220-8782, Rich; (618) 691-8348, Joanie
rich ‘n friends … wealthy in friendships
FOREVER TOGETHER …. we are all believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, and we will spend eternity forever together in heaven.
Band …. not like a band with instruments, rather like a band of brothers standing for the same purpose … to bring others into His family.
Mission Statement: Luke 14:23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
Joanie and Richard are from Tok, Alaska and Shane is a Missouri man. We started ‘making a joyful noise’ together in 2007 and go wherever the Lord opens a door. We love to sing for our Veterans to give a little something back to the proud men and women who have given so much for our freedom. We have crisscrossed America singing and sharing the Gospel at Veterans homes and hospitals. We also love to sing and present God’s Holy Word at Nursing homes… sharing the Love of God with our Senior Citizens puts a smile on our hearts. We’ve also been blessed to preach through our music at churches from Alaska to Florida! We look forward to sharing God’s Love this winter with established churches and the RV Park Chaplains here in the Rio Grande Valley. We will be here until March 2021 unless God calls us home before then!
Shane, our oldest son isn’t always with us as he is still in the ‘working class’ …. not retired like Joanie and Rich. When Shane isn’t with us, we just go by…. Rich and Joanie Ware.
What a joy …. this will be our second year as ‘Wintertainers’ in the Rio Grande Valley and we look forward to a busy year sharing the Good News with everyone.
Home Church: Chapel of the North, Tok, Alaska 99780 Pastor Terry Brigner
Genres: Rock/Island Music, 50’s, 60’s and Country
Tour Dates: http://www.the-castaway.com/event_calendar/
Booking: (218) 841-4863 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Castaway is Dennis Craswell, an Original Castaway, known for being a million-dollar seller of the famous song “Liar, Liar.” He currently plays solo with occasional guests. He plays in Minnesota during the summer and most of his winter is spent playing on South Padre Island and all around the Rio Grande Valley. He and Rich are currently regulars on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons at Laguna Bob.
Dennis is a former member of the bands The Castaways and Crow. He has six Rock ‘N Roll and Country Hall of Fame awards. The Castaway was named Best Novelty of Comedy Act of the Year in the 2020 Valley Star Awards (voted on by Winter Texans). Dennis plays keyboards, drums, stee drum, harmonica, and vocals. He has recorded two top billboard hits. He has played at venues that included Sonny & Cher and the Beach boys, among others.
Specialty: Taking requests and crowd interaction
Tour Dates: Check website
Videos: View website
Booking Information: (515) 460-5862
Jason Whorlow is entering his fifth year entertaining Winter Texans. He has been nominated and won several awards during this time. As well as becoming in high demand for his extremely versatile, unique and interactive show. Jason has had crowds of 400+ singing along to Sweet Caroline with their hands raised high in the air and couples dancing emotionally to "I can't help falling in love" and "Unchained Melody."
Winter Texans have enjoyed his energetic performances of Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Joel and Elton John as well. He enjoys just as much playing to a laid-back island crowd with songs from Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, Otis Redding, Jimmy Buffet and so many more. Jason prides himself on his ability to effortlessly enjoy each and every performance on account of the passion and drive he has to be living out his dream as an entertainer.
Once again, this year, Jason will be featuring his young daughters at certain shows with songs from "The Greatest Showman," Alison Krauss, Linda Ronstadt, Anne Murray, Dolly Parton and more.
Jason will be performing at over 40 venues this season and you can experience this one-of-a-kind show by emailing Jason at email@example.com or finding one of his printed flyers around the island and the Valley.
You can also experience Jason on his website: WHORLOWENTERTAINMENT.com and explore more videos and pictures on his social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and WeddingWire.
Genre: 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, gospel and music of today
Specialty: Vocals, comedy, live instrumentation
Tour Dates: https://thepunches.org/tour
Booking: Bruce at (573) 944-0032
Bobbi & Punch are an energetic duo that perform a variety of hits from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s as well as gospel and current music of the day. Everything from CCR and Martina McBride to Bob Seger and Alabama is included in their show and features dynamic vocals, live instrumentation, and comedy in a terrific show with a down-home feel.
Bobette grew up singing and playing bass and guitar in a family band, while Bruce has performed all over the country playing fiddle, guitar, and mandolin in many bands over the years. They have been married since 1995 and make their home in the Missouri Ozarks where music abounds. Come check’em out!
I have to admit, it's hard for me to stray away from the breakfast choices at Denny's.
I've been a fan of “Moons Over My Hammy” since I walked into my first Denny's in the early 1990s in Florence, S.C. I also love the omelets, skillets and slams (grand slam, lumberjack slam.... you get the picture.)
However, recently I stopped in determined to grab some lunch and pry myself away from my breakfast comfort zone. My daughter was in the mood for a burger and I decided on something different.
Camilla ordered the bourbon bacon burger without mushrooms or cheese, and fries. I went for the fried fish, also with fries and some broccoli.
This was almost a challenge-the-restaurant meal. I'm usually disappointed with battered fish. It usually ends up battered minnow – all batter and little fish. I’m also all or nothing with fish - you get one chance only because I’m either gonna love it or loathe it. However, when I broke my first of three decent-sized pieces in half, I was pleased to see the fish-to-batter ratio was much more pleasing. The batter was tasty and crispy, but not overwhelmingly thick, and the fish was cooked perfectly. I was extremely pleased that it met all my criteria, something that I rarely find. Am I too picky? Nah.
My daughter's reaction to the bourbon bacon burger was simply – it was ‘really good. I could eat it again.’ Trust me, that's a roaring endorsement.
Speaking of her reaction, I could eat that fish again. I was impressed.
As I pulled into the Denny's, one of the first things that caught my eye was a drive-thru lane. I rubbed my eyes and looked again – it was still there.
In this COVID-19 age, restaurants are being creative to not only stay afloat, but to also be able to serve their customers in as many ways as possible. The Edinburg Denny's is the second Denny's in the Valley – and the nation – to implement the drive-thru. The first came in Penitas.
“Corporate wondered how we were going to be able to do that,” said David Brambles, franchisee of the Edinburg and Penitas restaurants. “Denny’s are not known for carry out or drive thru so during the lockdown there was an immediate learning curve.
“We realized that drive thrus were very successful and that’s what we had to do. We called corporate for permission and we came up with how to do it. Now they are flying down here to see how we do it and are going to try to get up to 50 of their restaurants across the country to do it.”
Denny’s has always been trendsetters in the food business - especially in the breakfast business. Now they continue to do the same, here in the Valley, with business operations.
For me that just means more ways to get my “Moons Over My Hammy” cravings taken care of.
The charro beans were amazing.
I do not say this lightly. In fact, the charro beans served to me at La Playa on Sunset Strip in Harlingen were just a precursor of things to come, a great and pleasantly surprising way to start my meal.
Like the ninth batter at the end of a baseball lineup, charro beans are usually overlooked and just something that must happen, usually not given a second glance. This tiny cup of charros was flavor packed beyond any beans I have ever had. I asked a fellow diner what their thoughts were, and they quickly said they are the best beans in the Valley, as he packed pieces of fajita and rice into his and transformed his simple cup into a miniature meal in a bowl.
La Playa’s menu is chock full of goodness. I was especially attracted to the specialty fajitas. I was torn between the Devil’s Backbone fajitas, with a special Diabla sauce and roasted arbol peppers and the Fajitas Las Brasas and after much debate settled on the Las Brasas.
As I waited for my plate, I noticed that the restaurant was at its pandemic-forced capacity, but the way the tables were set up there was plenty of room for servers to maneuver and you did not feel like others were breathing down your neck. (take this out first)
When my sizzling order arrived, smoke billowing from the skillet and sending out a mesmerizing aroma, I already surmised that this was going to be a tantalizing adventure - even then I underestimated it.
The beef and chicken fajitas — long slices, not little chunks — were tender and flavor packed, scrumptiously enhanced by a creamy Pico de Gallo white wine sauce that I imagine would enhance any meat you want to combine it with. Large pieces of perfectly cooked onions and mushrooms mixed in completed the dish. If you order extra tortillas, the dish is large enough to feed two. Luckily, I did not bring anyone - this was all mine.
My server said the plate is very popular and it truly made me want to try other delicious options, but I’m one of those people when I find a menu item that overwhelms me with taste, it’s hard for me to try something else. There were so many great options on the menu and dishes with unique recipes I am going to be hard pressed to make a choice next time I go. I feel that whatever I order it will be a delectable decision.
My daughter asked me to bring an order of street tacos home for her. My server packed my to-go order with an extra cup of charro beans. I was thoroughly excited, especially since my daughter does not like charro beans.
After arriving home on this cold, rainy day, I gave my daughter her food and just told her to leave whatever she didn’t want in the fridge, knowing full well that meant two wonderful and warm cups of those amazing charros for late night or breakfast (yes, breakfast).
Next morning, I went to the fridge - I was horrified - there were no leftovers. I panicked and went to her room, figuring she just did the teen thing and left the food there before passing out for the night.
Nothing there either. (take this out if needed) I was left pondering, so I asked her how dinner was, planning to dig around to find where my beans had been devilishly hidden.
“Amazing,” she replied, wiping the sleep out of her eyes. “And they put two cups of beans in there.
“They were amazing too and I never eat beans.”
Ugh. Told you they were amazing.
Where I grew up in Upstate, New York (in the foothills of the Adirondack mountains), there was a saying – “You're either Italian, or you want to be Italian.”
I was in the “want to be" category.
I lived among friends who were mainly German, Polish or Italian. My mom was French and Italian. I was adopted.
My favorite food is Italian – I spent six weeks in Italy one summer that was absolutely phenomenal. Along the way, I have grown to be a lasagna snob. One time, my then-wife made lasagna for me and asked a couple days later how it was.
“It was ok,” I replied.
“OK?” she asked. My “then” wife, now “ex” wife – I do not think lasagna was the breaking point though.
Rarely will I order lasagna at a restaurant for fear that it will not come close to what I've learned to expect or want. Even more rare is going back to the same restaurant to order it a second time. Only three or four places max have reached that level of greatness in my eyes.
Still, the welcoming ambiance of Stefano's in Harlingen had me thinking about reaching out of my comfort zone and ordering the lasagna, especially after the amazingly delicious crab-meat stuffed mushrooms in a creamy and not overpowering chipotle sauce.
The establishment is situated on land that is comfortable, enticing, and peaceful. It reminds me of a northern lodge in the summer – and by northern, I mean back home in the mountains or somewhere in the northern Minnesota region.
The waiter had no doubt on what he liked and did not really care for on the menu, immediately pointing me to the mushrooms. For the entree, however, I decided to attack the lasagna.
When it arrived, I was happily impressed by the size. Lasagna needs to be thick – and this was. But what makes it thick is the focal point for me. I want mozzarella, ricotta, sausage, beef – I want it loaded. I want the cheese and the meat to battle for supremacy when it comes to taste. That, to me, makes a good lasagna great. This one had all the essentials spot on.
Third is the sauce. This sauce was very good. You could taste the tomato freshness in it. For me, you do not want a sauce to be watery, or weighed down with every spice in your pantry. This one was neither. The sauce was thick, and the freshness was not marred by spices.
It was a meal unto itself to say the least. Between the comfortable interior, the beautiful and calm surroundings, and a menu with a myriad of choices, this is a place you need to put on your “have to go there” lists. It also has a bar, dozens of draught beers, a wide wine selection and a separate building for to-go orders.
I definitely plan on going back. And even though it was a large and varied menu, you may see me there once again with a big ole' square of lasagna and a Cheshire cat-like grin on my face.