Tuesday, June 06, 2023
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VSA ballots are rolling in

20220126 Valley Star Awards HMiller 41Ballots for the Valley Star Awards are rolling in – make sure your voice is heard and vote for your favorite Wintertainer™. This year’s categories include Male Vocalist of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year, Family Vocal Group of the Year, Musical Group of the Year, Duet Musical Group of the Year, Rock n Roll Band of the Year, Country Western Band of the Year, Novelty or Comedy Act of the Year, and Individual/Small Band/Variety Act of the Year. As always, you have a write-in option for your favorite Entertainer or Group of the Year.

Read more: VSA ballots are rolling in

Pier 19: An unforgettable dining experience

20220113 133557I am not keen on seafood, so in seafood restaurants I often have few options. That was not the case at Pier 19 on South Padre Island. While there was plenty of seafood options, there were ample options for me.

My husband and son are seafood lovers, and found it difficult to choose. They started with ceviche and then each had a platter. My son had the Small Grilled Platter while my husband opted for the Large Fried Platter.

20220113 134317My husband said the ceviche was the best he has ever had. The onion, jalapeno tomato and cilantro were fresh and vibrant; shrimp was bursting with flavor; and the creamy avocado provided a perfect finish. Pier 19 makes their own corn chips which were light and crispy yet sturdy and well suited to scooping copious amounts of ceviche.

20220113 134341The boys shared their platters which combined included oysters, scallops, fish, shrimp (3-ways), stuffed crab, fresh steamed veggies, coleslaw and hushpuppies. The coconut shrimp really impressed my husband as he had never had coconut battered shrimp that actually tasted like coconut like at Pier 19. My son said the coleslaw and seafood were the best he has ever had.

I started with some fried mushrooms, then enjoyed the Hawaiian Burger. The mushrooms were well battered and crispy outside while firm, plump and juicy inside.

20220113 134415The Hawaiian Burger was topped with a tangy-sweet barbecue sauce, bacon, cheese, and pineapple. Who would have thought to add pineapple to a burger? It was a nice combination of tart and sweet. I added a side of onion rings. These were hearty slices and, like all the other fried fare, coated in a light batter that complimented and never smothered the food.

It was a dining experience I will not soon forget, and one we plan to repeat regularly when we are on South Padre Island.

Pier 19 is open 7 days from 8 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. and located at 1 Padre Blvd on South Padre Island. You can contact them at (956) 761-PIER (7437) or at www.Pier19.us

It’s not just any omelet

20211217 VictoriaPalmsRest HMiller 01 webThe great ones are known by just one name.

There’s Tiger, Ali, Kobe, Brady and.... Dave?

Well, it’s more like Omelet Dave after making more than 100,000 omelets during his first 13 years at the Victoria Palms restaurant in Donna. So, maybe he doesn’t have the worldwide appeal as Woods or Jordan, but he’s known among Winter Texans, and travelers who stop in for one of his fantastic creations - whether it’s an omelet or a tantalizing waffle masterpiece

Dave’s gift for gab is as great as his cooking. There’s no charge for a good conversation with Dave. In fact, it's highly encouraged.

This morning, I had an omelet with the works - bacon, ham, sausage, green peppers, jalapenos, onions and, of course, mushrooms – but no spinach (don't want anyone to think I'm super healthy). As usual, it was a perfect way to start the morning. It came with hash browns, sourdough toast and salsa (and a cup of coffee). Not sure why, but I can make an omelet with the exact same ingredients, put a chef’s hat on - probably even Dave’s hat, and cook it all in the same spot Dave cooks it and it just won’t be as good. Why is that?20211217 VictoriaPalmsRest HMiller 04 tov

I also had a round two. A waffle that doubled as dessert - that’s how I justify it. This tasty morsel was put in front of me to the chorus of angels. It had to be the fluffiest and tastiest waffle I’ve had in recent memory. The waffle was as smooth as the mound of strawberries and whipped cream on top. Chewing is just an option.

It was a perfect complement to go with the working man’s omelet.

Dave said he figured that he would be 84 years old about the time he reaches 200,000 omelets and said he would probably still be doing it if he is still able.

“I like it. It’s not hard and I can talk to people,” he said.

That’s great news for Victoria Palms. It’s also terrific for all those who go by the RV Park, hotel, and restaurant, which is open to the public.

The food is definitely worth the trip. Being part of the great Omelet Dave experience is just an added bonus - at no additional cost.

Lobo del Mar: Tantalizingly good

20211210 LoboDelMar HMiller 02 webThe last time I ventured into Lobo Del Mar on South Padre Island, I ended up remembering an old comment my dad would make to me – don't let your eyes get bigger than your stomach. Of course, with their Caveman Burger, it's hard not to keep your eyes off of it. It's amazing – both in taste and size.

Unfortunately, I remembered that statement after ordering a lunch fit for a king – and his family. But it was so good.

This time I turned down the quantity a bit and started with the small order of ceviche and a bowl of seafood chowder.

On this day, which started kind of cool, but was in the low-60s when I arrived, that chowder hit the spot. Each spoonful was loaded with shrimp or other goodies, the temperature was great, and the consistency was spot on, and that's key – you don't want your chowder thick like pudding, or watery.20211210 LoboDelMar HMiller 06 web

After enjoying the ceviche, which I enjoy here more than just about anywhere because of its freshness, and because of how much they cram into the cup, I kept it in the seafood world and ordered blackened shrimp tacos. One can order shrimp or fish tacos one of three ways – blackened, fried, or grilled – and they come on a grilled corn tortilla stuffed with shredded cabbage, onions and diced tomatoes. Then it's topped with a creamy remoulade and mama's “Wolf Fire” salsa.

As I waited for it, I talked with the waitress, who explained to me about the daily entertainment, including the belly dancers on Wednesday nights during a usually packed house. In my few minutes there I saw a group of tourists, talked to some locals from McAllen and found some Iowa Winter Texans.

When the main course arrived, the first thing I realized is that this was gonna be a messy meal – just how I like it. But it was tantalizingly good. The veggies and the sauce mixed in well with the generous portion of blackened shrimp. The tortillas couldn't hold in all the yumminess (if that's a word).

This was my third visit to Lobo Del Mar, the other two were on the dock overlooking the Laguna Madre. Despite that area not being open while I was there, it was still extremely pleasant inside. And, while my eyes weren't bigger than my stomach, I'm guessing part of that reason is that my stomach has grown eating at delicious places like this.

Stuart Place: Like Cheers, but it’s Golf

Stuart Place 02 webGolf is not just a game to enjoy. It's an entire experience to be a part of, especially at Stuart Place Country Club and Shary Municipal Golf Course.

At least that's what the voters decided in the annual Winter Texans Times Favorite Golf voting.

Stuart Place, a nine-hole course, located at 155 Highland Dr. in Harlingen, won five of the seven categories that people could vote on. Those categories include Favorite Hole (No. 9), Favorite Amenities (the clubhouse), Favorite Putting Green, Favorite 19th Hole (again, the clubhouse) and Favorite Menu Item (hot dog).

Read more: Stuart Place: Like Cheers, but it’s Golf

Golf Favorites: Last week to vote

cottonwood creek webThe weather in South Texas is pretty much always great for a round of golf during this time of year. Therefore, we come to you to ask you what your favorite golf course, amenities, golf hole and more are each year.

This is our third, and final, week of coverage. Please look at the two previous week’s issues online. This week’s coverage starts on page 14.

The Golf Ballot is on page 13. Be sure to fill that out and send it in, or fill out our online version at www.wintertexantimes.com, by December 8. By submitting your favorites, you will be eligible to win free rounds of golf, dining, and more.

Read more: Golf Favorites: Last week to vote

Golf Favorites is underway

20191104 Los Lagos Golf Course HMiller 1283 webThe weather is great for a round of golf. It pretty much is nearly all year in South Texas. Therefore, we come to you to ask you what your favorite golf course, amenities, golf hole and more are each year.

This is our second week of coverage, please look at last week’s issue, and again next issue. This week’s coverage starts on page 14.

The Golf Ballot is on page 13. Be sure to fill that out and send it in, or fill out our online version at www.wintertexantimes.com, by December 8. By submitting your favorites, you will be eligible to win free rounds of golf, dining, and more.

Read more: Golf Favorites is underway

Golf Course Favorites voting has begun

20140902 SPI Golf Course 3 Green from Harbor Units webThe weather is great for a round of golf. It pretty much is nearly all year in South Texas. Therefore, we come to you to ask you what your favorite golf course, amenities, golf hole and more are each year. Many golf courses have made updates this past year and are ready for you to hit the range.
This week, and the next two, you will find the description of a selection of courses starting on page 10. These listings will serve as a directory of sorts for you to plan your visits.
The Golf Ballot is on the back page. Be sure to fill that out and send it in, or fill out our online version at www.wintertexantimes.com, by December 8. By submitting your favorites, you will be eligible to win free rounds of golf, dining, and more.

Read more: Golf Course Favorites voting has begun

New chef brings food to a new level

20211020 Victoria Palms HMiller 04 webWas this a dream?

“Victoria Palms has a new chef, and he would like to prepare different dishes for you to try.”

It was as if the sun peered through the dark clouds, the rain stopped, and the Hallelujah Chorus was emanating from the skies above.

I arrived at the Victoria Palms restaurant and new chef Erick Gonzalez came to my table a few minutes later, already having been bestowed with the brightest and freshest looking Cobb salad that I’ve seen in a long time. Its freshness was spectacular, like its presentation, and it was a great way to start off.

That was just the beginning.

One after another, Chef Erick sent the dishes out. For appetizers there were fried pickles with a chipotle sauce and smidge of pickled red onion, buffalo cauliflower with blue cheese crumbles and a deep-fried pork.

Throughout my delicacy of dining, I also partook in some pan seared salmon with baby marble potatoes and mango salsa, a delicate and amazing seared hanger steak with a demi glaze, mashed cauliflower and heirloom carrots, smothered pork chops, and local vegetable kabobs.

I made my way through most of these delicious creations and noticed one thing immediately, Chef Erick knows how to cook and knows how to pair or couple his dishes. For example, there were just a few pieces of the pickled red onion that accompanied the lightly battered fried pickles, but they accentuated the dish. They weren’t too strong where they overwhelmed the taste, something that can be difficult to do when using pickled foods of any sort.20211020 Victoria Palms HMiller 06 web

Each dish was not only presented beautifully, but the combination of tastes couldn’t be any sharper. While there have been many tastes formulated on a plate, not once did they dissolve into one another. I could taste each individual item, as if each unto itself, and they always complemented the dish as a whole.

The hangar steak combined with the creamy mashed cauliflower won my heart. The tenderness of the perfectly sized slices of meat mixed with a fork full of the best tasting and textured mashed cauliflower I’ve ever eaten had the Hallelujah’s crescendoing through every delectable bite.

“I want to elevate the level of what we serve,” he told me. “I want to see what the customers want and give that to them in the best way.”

He certainly won me over. Even the Cobb salad with its mix of greens, chopped bacon, tomato, avocado and more created a delectable explosion of flavor that only intensified my insatiable hunger, wanting to know what else was on its way. The salad, like everything else, tantalized the taste buds, with mouthful mixtures of crunchy (bacon, lettuce) with smooth (avocado, blue cheese crumbles). The colors were so distinct in the presentation that it almost seemed a shame to mess with it… but just almost.

Then, just before the food coma started creeping in and I started fading out, I was presented with dessert – a warm bread pudding with vanilla ice cream. I have a firm belief about bread pudding – it’s either great or just not. This, like everything else, was beyond scrumptious and the bread mixed with the scoop of fresh ice cream as if they should never part one another or be seen in any other dish.

The trip was more than just a meal. It was a delightful culinary experience.


Lobo Del Mar: Fresh, Mouth-Watering Food

Ceviche lobo del marI 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.

Taste of the Valley
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Valley Star Awards
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