I’m sure you have heard of the expression “Mi Casa es tu Casa” (my house is your house) before, but when Mexican people say it, they mean it. Especially when Shelly and Juan Villarreal owners of “Las Palmas” restaurant in McAllen welcome you to their place. Shelly, better known as “Grandma” to her loyal patrons has been in this line of business for 28 years and our Valley locals can’t seem to resist her family-style restaurant.
This unpretentious restaurant nestled on a corner lot on McColl and Violet Street may not look like much on the outside, but do not let that fool you. The minute you walk into this humble venue you feel like you’re part of the family. Don’t be surprised if they call you “Mi Hijo or “Mi Hija” there (son or daughter) — that’s a Valley thing. Ha!
Las Palmas carries on the tradition of recipes that made Tex-Mex food popular in the Rio Grande Valley. This place may be better than most Tex-Mex restaurants due to the fact that Omar (Shelly’s son) prepares the food from scratch and the recipes are part of their family tradition — only Omar and Grandma know what goes on in the kitchen!
For those of you who don’t know, Mexican food authority Dianna Kennedy was the first person back in 1972 who began referring Americanized Mexican food as “Tex-Mex”- basically calling them mixed plates from the interior of Mexico and Texas.
I remember when my husband Dan took me to “Las Palmas” about six years ago. This is a very cozy place with a few booths and tables. I could see Shelly (the owner) in the middle of the dining room ringing up customers with a big smile while chit chatting. My husband was friends with the family and swore I would fall in love with their “just like home” cooking — simple comfort food. The menu was short and sweet and had all those Tex-Mex dishes people crave when they are not thinking about a diet. Sometimes we need to treat ourselves to some good ol’ grandma’s kitchen-style, lick your fingers kind of foods. A few years went by and I took my mother (who eats like a bird and who always takes her leftover’s home. I told her she had to order the most flavorful Tejas Burger ever. She was prepared to share it with my father—but that did not happen. This juicy cheeseburger has that buttery bun, a thick beef patty (seasoned to perfection) and all those fresh fixin's. It’s the drive-in burger we fantasize about ($6.00 & includes drink and fries). My mother for the first time in her life ate a good size burger all by herself and managed to finish her homemade fries. Shelly was so kind with my parents who had just arrived from Mexico, and she also took the time to listen to my Father—who loves to reminisce about the good ole days. Shelly knows the importance of making people feel welcome and makes sure no one leaves on an empty stomach.
Now let’s talk food! The plate of yellow cheese enchiladas (the meat sauce and cheese oozes on your plate) served with those creamy whipped up refried beans and Mexican rice is a favorite ($6.50). These are no ordinary enchiladas, and I swear, they will be the best red sauce enchiladas you’ll have in the Rio Grande! Another awe-inspiring house specialty if the chicken fried chicken ($8.00 includes Ice Tea). When was the last time your Mama cooked you some? During Lent, they serve some of the crispiest fried catfish cloaked in cornmeal batter, fried shrimp and salmon patties — AMEN! No wonder Tex-Mex is the fastest growing cuisine in the world! The menu for sure isn’t hoity-toity and the prices are modest. Shelly (better yet your adoptive new Grandma) will cater to all your needs plus Olivia her daughter and Shelly’s 3 grandchildren are also there to pitch in. They are also more than pleased to help out with any school or club fundraisers in order to support our community. She said many people tell her — you must be so tired catering people’s events and working at the restaurant. She responds by saying , “How could I be tired if I’m doing what I love and all I want to do is make people happy?”
Grandma’s ultimate goal is to fulfill your appetite, and have you telling all your friends “Las Palmas” is the best!
P.S. To one of my online readers: Ronnie, thank you for making a comment about “Las Palmas” having the best hamburgers (I had written an article about my top 5 hamburgers) — you are right! I like to save the best for last.
“Las Palmas Restaurant” — 956-624-9414
4701 N. McColl Rd. McAllen, Texas
*They cater events — limit 100 people
* You can host your own private party at their café limit 35-40 people
*Menus consist of: Homemade — roast turkey, roast beef,
carne asada, meat loaf, spaghetti and a variety of soups.
There’s also delicious desserts like cobblers, cookies and cakes.