- Date indicates the most recent update of the restaurants listed
- Bold indicates my recommendations; others come from what I consider to be good sources
Jalisco Mexico Taqueria–707 N. Alamo Rd. (Mexican) Open daily 7am to 11pm. Great place for street tacos, tortas, etc. Map (Dining room is open 8-11-21)
3 Marias–3231 Pablo Kisel Blvd. (Mexican) Open daily except Sun evening. Known for its quesadillas, but reviewers say all the food is fresh and authentic. Has mole. Map (Dining room is open 8-25-21)
Mr. Taco–1034 McDavitt Blvd. (Mexican) Open daily 11 am to 11 pm. Authentic street tacos. Cheese is Mexican white cheese (not American style). Very good reviews for the tacos. Map (Dining room is open 8-25-21)
Pho and Chinese–2155 Ruben Torres Blvd. (Vietnamese and Chinese) Open Daily. Reviewers say this is the best Asian restaurant in the valley, and that both Vietnamese and Chinese food are good. Map (Dining room is open 8-25-21)
Ultimo Taco–938 North Expwy. (Mexican) Open daily 11 am to 1 am. Featured on Pati Jinich’s program La Frontera for its Matamoros tacos (bistec with red or green sauce). She said this is the place preferred by people from Matamoros because its tacos are the most like the ones served in Matamoros. Reviewers on Google Maps say one of its strengths is that it has a large menu of good items, but most say the tacos are the item that is best. Map (Dining room is open 12-1-21)
Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Que–2404 Southmost Blvd. (BBQ) Breakfast & lunch Fri-Sun only. Meat is buried in foil in a pit in the earth and cooked “barbacoa” style as in Mexico. This is the only restaurant allowed to cook food this way (it is grandfathered and nobody has gotten sick in spite of the fact that it does not meet Health Dept. standards). On the Texas Monthly list of top 50 BBQ restaurants, mainly because of the barbacoa (they say the Texas style BBQ would probably not be on this list). Map (Dining room is open 7-23-22)
Outside of Brownsville: The best fish dinner I ever had was in Matamoros, so consider crossing the border if the security situation permits. For seafood restaurants in the U.S., it seems to be best to go to Port Isabel or South Padre Island.
Cordon’s Taste of Chicago–4304 W. Freddy Gonzalez Dr. (Pizza) Open Daily. The most popular item here is pizza (deep dish, thin crust, personal, or calzones) but it tries to give the full Chicago experience with hot dogs, Polish sausage, Italian beef sandwich, hamburgers, breaded pickle spears, etc. It expands the menu beyond a typical pizza and sandwich shop, though, with pasta, wings, and salads. However, the best reviews seem to be for the pizza and sandwiches. Map (Dining room is open 12-1-21)
Moriko’s Teppanyaki Grill–2708 S. Closner Blvd. (Japanese) Usually open for dinner Wed-Sat but schedule changes weekly. This is a food truck that serves teppanyaki which has very good reviews. Commenters like the shrimp, salmon, steak, and tofu. Facebook page shows tables, some of them outdoors, but I’m not sure about their seating arrangement. Map (Dining room is open 10-30-21)
Las Vegas Cafe–1101 W. Harrison Ave. (Mexican) Open 11 am to 9 pm (closed Sun). The food is said to be good in general, but best items are the daily specials (chile relleno on Mon, enchiladas suizas on Tue, etc.). Serves breakfast starting 6 am. Enchiladas appear to be Tex-Mex style. Map (Dining room is open 10-30-21)
Pacific Island Kitchen–2224 S. 77 Sunshine Strip (Filipino) Open 8 am to 6 pm (open daily). Filipino market that also serves meals. Filipino plate is recommended (pancit, lumpia, and adobo). Map (Tables are available 9-3-21)
Delia’s–4800 S. 23rd St. (Mexican) Open daily except Sun evening. Only serves tamales, but reviewers say these are the best you will find outside of Mexico. Map (Dining room is open 8-23-21)
Hop Tung–4200 N. 10th St. (Vietnamese) Closed Mon. Serves both Vietnamese & Chinese food, but Chinese food is American style. Most people like the food–the issues people have is usually with the service, though. Map (Dining room is open 8-23-21)
Kusina–6700 N. 23rd St. (Filipino) Open 10 am to 8 pm (10-5 on Sun). Filipino restaurant and market. Reviewers say the food is always fresh and good. Dinuguan stew, pancit, and lumpia are recommended. Map (Dining room is open 2-5-22)
Mayan Chef–7600 N. 10th St. (Mexican) Open Daily. Small restaurant with a limited menu that I think is served fast food style. Food seems to be consistent with Mayan style (black beans, chipotle sauce, and a marinated Mayan pork). Map (Dining room is open 10-29-21)
Mikhuna–905 N. Main St. (Peruvian) Dinner only (closed Sun). This is a Japanese-Peruvian restaurant that has dishes from both countries (also has “chaufa” food that is a Peruvian-Chinese fusion). The menu says it is “A Modern Culinary Movement.” Map (Dining room is open 10-29-21)
Republic of the Rio Grande–1411 S. 10th St (Fine Dining) Closed Sun. This seems to be the best place in town to find elevated Mexican food, although it is mostly an American menu. The photos of the avocado chicken or salmon make me want to try one of them, and items like ceviche also sound good. Fine dining in the RGV is not like it is in other parts of the country, so I think this would be a worthwhile experience. Map (Dining room is open 12-1-21)
Schneider’s–5507 N. Ware Rd. (German) Dinner only (closed Sun). Large menu & good food. Many say it compares with New Braunfels or Fredericksburg. Map (Dining room is open 10-30-21)
Thai Red Chili’s–3507 N. Ware Rd. (Thai) Closed Sun (and closed from 2:30 to 5 pm). Good reviews for the food, but some say the portions are small. People recommend the pad thai and pad se lew including the tofu pad thai (I think not because other dishes are not good but because portion sizes are so small the noodle dishes are the ones they feel they are getting their money’s worth). Map (Dining room is open 12-1-21)
Xin Xin–6401 N. 10th St. (Vietnamese) Open 11 am to 9 pm (closed Mon). Advertised as a Chinese restaurant (and has orange chicken) but the really authentic food is the Vietnamese (and some from SE Asia confirm that this is so). Pork chop on broken rice or chicken on broken rice have the best reviews, but people also say the pho is the best in the valley. Map (Dining room is open 12-1-21)
Pho Le Lai–2307 E. Griffin Pkwy. (Vietnamese) Closed Sun. Said to have very good pho. Has other Vietnamese items on the menu–they are southern Cal. quality, but probably the selection here is much more limited. Map (Dining room is open 2-15-22)
Smokin’ Moon BBQ–1617 W. Polk Ave. (BBQ) Open Daily. Several factors make this possibly the best choice for BBQ in the RGV including moist brisket, and an “incredible” sweet BBQ sauce, but they say the issue is the price (although some also say it’s worth paying for good quality). Map (Dining room is open 2-15-22)
Snowbite–500 N. Jackson Rd. (Vietnamese) Closed Sun evening & closed Mon-Wed. In addition to a regular Vietnamese menu, it also has Vietnamese-Mexican fusion food (such as Mexican meats in a banh mi sandwich). Formerly in Edinburg. Map (Dining room is open 7-23-22)
Joe’s Oyster Bar–207 E. Maxan St. (Seafood) Open daily 11 am to 7 pm. Good and cheap fried shrimp if you’re not looking for an upscale setting (just good food). Map (Dining room is open 8-25-21)
La Vaquita–751 E. Stenger St. (Mexican) Open daily 7 am to 10 pm. Known for its “trompo” (spit) used to cook tacos al pastor (some say these are not as good as the ones in Mexico because they are not cooked with pineapple). Several other types of tacos are available (and are popular) if you don’t want al pastor. One distinction of Brownsville tacos (such as here) is that the tortilla is thicker and they don’t fall apart while you are eating them. Also in Brownsville. Map (Dining room is open 7-23-22)
South Padre Island
Cap’n Roy’s–1313 Padre Blvd. (Seafood) Open 11 am to 9 pm (closed Sun). Shrimp, fish tacos (serves a variety of Mexican food). Fish tacos seem to be the specialty. Map (Dining room is open 10-30-21)
F&B–3109 Padre Blvd. (Seafood) Dinner only Tue-Sat; Lunch on Sun (closed Mon). Upscale food that specializes in seafood, but this is not all they have (another specialty is Italian, but this seems to be mostly for side dishes). Costs about $40 per person on the 2020 menu. If someone has made a special trip to SPI and they want the best seafood possible, this seems to be a good bet. Map (Dining room is open 2-5-22)
Gabriella’s–700 Padre Blvd. (Italian) Open daily (dinner only). I think this has a connection with Gabriella’s in Oklahoma City and Isle of Capri in Krebs, OK. The reason I’m including it, though, is because it has good reviews. However, reviews are very skewed between 5 stars and 1 or 2 stars. Map (Dining room is open 2-5-22)
Pier 19–1 Padre Blvd. (Seafood) Open daily 8 am to 8:30 pm. Tourist place with a view, but not a tourist trap (many say the food is some of the best). Fried shrimp, coconut shrimp, blackened fish, ceviche, oysters Rockefeller are recommended. Map (Dining room is open 10-31-21)
Nana’s Taqueria–1802 S. International Blvd. (Mexican) Open daily except Sun evening. “Lonches” are a regional specialty (“fried bread” with ground beef, cabbage, tomato, and cilanatro). Put green salsa or the “really spicy one” for the final touch of the lonches. Photos show enchiladas with dark red chile, and all the food looks really good. Note: this restaurant moved from Nuevo Progreso so “you don’t have to go there” according to the owner (because of the violence in Mexico). Map (Dining room is open 7-23-22)
Teddy’s Barbecue–2807 Texas Blvd. N. (BBQ) Open Thu & Fri 11 am to 4 pm; Sat & Sun 8 am to 4 pm (closed Mon-Wed). Central Texas style BBQ with Mexican sides. Texas Monthly and reviewers on Google Maps particularly like the brisket (has a piquant bark made with pepper and Season-All rub). Map (Dining room is open 2-6-22)
- For additional explanation of this list see Index
- Please feel free to leave your own comments or suggestions.
Texas Monthly published a list of the top 100 barbecue restaurants in Texas for 2021. The following are the ones in the Rio Grande Valley area:
(None in this area)
The Rest of the Best (No. 11-50)
- Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Que–2404 Southmost Blvd. (Brownsville). Barbacoa de cabeza is the specialty–cachete (cheek) is the more “safe” choice, while others might want lengua (tongue) or ojos (eyes). Brisket is not “top-notch” but it is worthwhile when topped with salsa verde, and carnitas are “tender and satiating.” Map Fri 6-2, Sat & Sun 5-2:30
- Teddy’s Barbecue–2807 N. Texas Blvd. (Weslaco). Has central Texas style BBQ with a pepper, salt, and Season-All rub on the brisket or pulled pork. Sausage with red pepper is also a must-have. Map Thu & Fri 11-4, Sat 9-4, Sun 8-4 or sold out
Our 50 BBQ Honorable Mentions
- Pharr: Smokin’ Moon BBQ & Beer Garden Map
Note: Texas Monthly is now putting more weight on “modern” barbecue that they think tastes good. For traditional BBQ they do not like brisket to be too salty or ribs to be too sweet.
Choices Across the Border:
Matamoros: The original Ultimo Taco that Pati Jinich recommended is in Matamoros (here you can get the real deal, but she says the one in Brownsville is good as well). I think the real star attraction here is the seafood. I had a great (and cheap) meal at a small restaurant somewhere south and east of the Port of Entry from downtown Brownsville (but definitely within walking distance). I don’t know its name and it is probably no longer there anyway, but I think for the best food look for places that are not as touristy (they will probably only speak Spanish, though). My recommendation would be to order a whole fish (mine was grilled and not breaded).
Some possibilities I have seen on the Internet are:
- Don Goyo–specializes in shrimp cocktails but has fish fillets (breaded or garlic “al mojo de ajo”). Map
- El Sirenito–reviews indicate that it is touristy and not everything is to notch, but has some good items. Map
- Mariscos Lauro Villar–Seems to be the best seafood place in Matamoros (upscale enough to have consistently good food and non-touristy enough to be inexpensive and authentic). The main problem seems to be a too small parking lot. Map
Nuevo Progreso: Reviewers on Chowhound recommended Arturo’s (well known, more upscale restaurant with varied menu including chicken & mole–house made tortillas are mentioned on the Google Maps reviews) Map. You can park in a pay parking lot on the Texas side of the river–it is about a quarter mile walk to Arturo’s.
James Beard Foundation America’s Classics
The following are locally owned restaurants that are distinguished by their timeless appeal, and which serve quality food that represents the character of their communities:
- Brownsville: Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Que–2404 Southmost Blvd.
Chowhound (former web site)
Texas Monthly “The Top 50 Texas BBQ Joints 2021″ (TexasMonthly.com). Note: This is a subscription site.
Urbanspoon.com (former web site which I used for preliminary research)