Friday, August 19, 2022
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Ranch House Burgers

tov ranch house burgers pic 08 webI arrived at Ranch House Burgers in Mission recently extremely hungry.

This was the right place at the right time.

The host and my server both highly recommended the fajita fries so that easily became a no-brainer. Ordering a burger wasn’t so easy. The choices are plentiful, and the creative options and descriptions not only can make your mouth water but can make you forget you already ordered a large appetizer.

I chose the 420 burger – chorizo, bacon, fried egg, Swiss cheese, refried beans and avocado – sounded like a perfect combination to remove the extremeness from my hunger. The specialty burgers are fun just to read from the menu – the John Wayne, the Pancho Villa, the Fire in the Hole – are just some of the names for these mega-size burgers.

I dug into a deep bowl of fries smothered with tiny, tender pieces of fajita mixed in with pico de gallo, melted cheese, guacamole and sour cream. It was a flavor-filled journey. The fries were fresh, seasoned to perfection and it wasn’t served with all the toppings just sitting on top. They were all spread throughout the dish, so every bite had a smorgasbord of tantalizing tongue and taste appeal.

The burger was everything I expected. The creamy flavors of the avocado, melted cheese and egg combined with the crispy bacon, and beef patty complemented one another and it wasn’t long before I knew I had a challenge as my extreme hunger dissipated and the fear of not finishing displaced it.

I continued to look over the quite large menu and realized that while this establishment is known for its amazing burgers, it also has a tantalizing mix of other foods from BBQ to Tex-Mex, sandwiches, chicken fried steak and seafood. There’s also a kid’s menu, and a separate list of sides. (It has salads as well, but for some reason my vision goes bad whenever I get to salads on a menu).

Also, don’t let the lunch crowd scare you away. The kitchen operation must run as smooth as melted butter. I arrived at noon, placed my order, ate and then ordered to go for my daughter, and I was still out before the typical one-hour work lunch was over.

I walked in extremely hungry, left extremely happy and then took an extreme nap when I got home, thinking about what burger I would get when I visit the Weslaco location.

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.

Rich ‘n Friends Forever Together Band

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:
Bookings/Contact:, (573) 220-8782, Rich; (618) 691-8348, Joanie

rich and friendsrich ‘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

The Castaway

Genres: Rock/Island Music, 50’s, 60’s and Country
Tour Dates:
Booking: (218) 841-4863 or

Castaway Dennis IMG 0849The 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.

Jason Whorlow: The Piano Man

Genres: All
Specialty: Taking requests and crowd interaction
Tour Dates: Check website
Videos: View website
Booking Information: (515) 460-5862

Jason WhorlowJason 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 or finding one of his printed flyers around the island and the Valley.

You can also experience Jason on his website: and explore more videos and pictures on his social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and WeddingWire.

Bobbi and Punch

Genre: 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, gospel and music of today
Specialty: Vocals, comedy, live instrumentation
Tour Dates:
Booking: Bruce at (573) 944-0032

Bobbi and PunchBobbi & 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!

Midnight Mustang Band

Genres: Country, Classic Rock & Roll, Blues
Facebook Page: The Midnight Mustang Band
Booking Info: Don McClain (956) 533-2257

MidnightThe Midnight Mustang Band is a very unique and talented group of musicians from The Rio Grande Valley of Texas, and is considered by many to be one of the finest new bands in South Texas.

Band members: Lars (Bass guitar; Vocals), Don (Rhythm guitar; Lead Vocals), Kim (Drums) and Rob (Lead Guitar). All have had years of experience playing and performing, mostly for Winter Texan events.

"We love to entertain our Winter Texan friends", said Don McClain, and we are here to do our very best for them".

For booking information, please call McClain at (956) 533-2257.

Denny's: I could eat it again

IMG 2349 600pxI 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.IMG 2341

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.

La Playa: Best Charros Beans in the Valley

La Playa 3The 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.La Playa 2

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.

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