Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Blair's Five Favorite Bites in McAllen, Texas

by Blair Loup

Recently, Jay and I were invited to eat and drink our way through McAllen, Texas. It’s an obscure but magical place with 24-hour taco joints.

The Rio Grande Valley area is teeming with authentic Mexican cuisine, but most of the best bites we had may surprise you. Here’s a look at the five best bites I had in McAllen:

Il Forno a Legna

Shrimp, smoked salmon, mushroom, mozzarella, parsley pizza at Il Forno.

This Italian eatery is brand new, and the people of McAllen are as stoked to have them churning out beautiful pizzas.

I’ve never had smoked salmon on a pizza before, and now I feel like my whole life has been a lie. The seafood married with the earthiness of the mushroom, and parsley intrigued my taste buds the way no pizza has before.

The Lunchbox on 10th

Trout en pappillote with fresh herbs, carrots, squash, and zucchini at Lunchbox.

Chef Marcel has created something truly unique here. His menu is a fantastic dance of Latin American, Asian, Italian, and European cuisines.

“En Papillotte” is a classic French fish dish where that day’s catch is cooked inside a paper pouch with savory herbs, butter, and vegetables. This trout in a pouch was prepared to the point of maximum deliciousness. I’m currently penning a love letter to butter to show my appreciation for the dumbfounding effect it has on proteins.

Bodega Tavern & Kitchen

beet fries
Beet fries at Bodega.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but Bodega spoke to me on so many levels. The first thing I noticed was the meat curing room. Chef Adam Cavazos turned the previous owner’s giant fish tank into a curing room you can see from across the restaurant.

In my opinion, Chef Adam’s great cocktail program and beautiful restaurant why in comparison to his vegetable menu. He treats vegetable sides as composed dishes, and to me that warrants sainthood.

If you know me, you know I love beets. These are beet fries with a smoked aioli sprinkled with funky blue cheese and crunchy pepitas; a dish that would sway any beet doubter.

Ms. G’s Tacos n’ More

Barbacoa taco from Ms. G's.

I am a taco fiend. You may remember my deep mourning over the loss of our beloved Taco n Sabor in Baton Rouge, so I had to get my fix in a town riddled with tacos. There are 24-hour tacos, grab-and-go tacos, drive-thru tacos, and even gas station tacos.

I tried them all, but none were better than Ms. G’s. This barbacoa taco changed my life. Barbacoa is mostly, if not all, beef cheek and tongue. While that may make some cringe, adventurous eaters know that this meat tastes like the best beef roast you’ve ever had, but better.

Salt New American Table

Compart Duroc Pork Chop, Huilacoche Tamale, corn relish at SALT.

Chef Larry Delgado is something special. We had the opportunity to have dinner at his restaurant with him and his wife, Jessica, and we were stuffed to the brim.
When they brought out this pork job, Jay’s jaw fell to the ground. This cut has to be butchered in house and contains the chop, the loin, and the belly and is sous vide, pan seared, and then dropped in the fryer. It’s a beast. If you slice it all the way across, it’s one of the most perfect bites of pork you’ll ever have.

Be on the lookout soon to see what Jay has to say about out eating and drinking adventures in McAllen!

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