Recently made another run to the Valley. A detailed report (with photos) is at the link below. The highlights were:
1) Tupinamba (Reynosa, Mexico). I had some more great cabrito here (shoulder, pictured below), as well as excellent frijoles charros and "queso divorciado" (a melted ball of asadero with two salsas--a green tomatillo salsa and a red one with chorizo). Excellent meal. This place is now a must, whenever I'm in the lower RGV.
2) La Fogata (Nuevo Progreso, Mexico). Crossed the border near Weslaco to check this place out. Large pits with coals line the windows in front of the restaurant. Typical border menu, heavy on grilled and spit-roasted meats. I started out with "cabeza de cabrito." I wasn't sure whether they'd present me with meat from the goat's head or the actual goat's head. Turned out to be the latter. There wasn't much meat on the head; and, apart from the tongue, what little there was didn't taste very good. Not something I'd recommend (especially to the squeamish). The entree was much better. I got grilled lamb ribs, served with grilled onions and serranos, a baked potato, and frijoles charros. The ribs were tough, but had pretty good flavor. Beans were well above average. Not a bad meal, in the balance.
3) Vera's Backyard Bar-B-Que (Brownsville, Texas). So far as I know, this is the last place in Texas where one can get pit-style barbacoa. So I had to go back. Talked with the owner and took some pictures of the pit (and stripped skulls) out back. Got a half pound of cachete (i.e., cheek) and some tortillas, making me a very happy man. It's a crying shame that barbacoa like this is on the ropes.
4) Emilia's (Brownsville, Texas). Portland Chowhound ExtraMSG dug up a recommendations for this place and called it in to me, while I was in Brownsville. The place was packed on a Sunday afternoon. After about a ten minute wait, I was seated. That morning's barbacoa was still holding me, so I ordered light, getting chilaquiles and frijoles charros. The red salsa over the chilaquiles was bright and fresh-tasting, but on the soupy side. Moist chicken was sprinkled over the top. The table salsas were pretty good; so I used them to kick up the chilaquiles. The frijoles charros were outstanding. They had a thick, meaty broth (ham hocks and chorizo), nice balance of onion and cilantro, and beer to round out the flavor. Perhaps the best charro beans I had on the trip.
5) Hoover's (Austin, Texas). On the way back to Dallas, I dropped into Hoover's in Austin. Ordered chicken-fried steak, with sides of black-eyed peas and mashed potatoes. Crisp breading on the steak and very little gristle in the meat. A very enjoyable entree. The peach cobbler seemed underbaked, leaving the abundant crust a bit doughy in places. Even so, it wasn't a bad cobbler. (I've had that problem before there. I wonder if they'd do any better if I took the trouble to request the crust crisp.)
I wish we had some more Chowhounds down in the Valley to explore the options. Every time I go down there, I seem to find a few really remarkable dishes.
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