Odette MacDonald

Dear Foodies,

I clearly remember going to the Blue Onion Restaurant 10 years ago when I had just moved from Houston. You can only imagine the variety of restaurants I had to choose from living in such a thriving metropolis. Yet, my first thought when I visited this particular restaurant in Weslaco was, “Are the owners from Austin?”

Not to be rude, but I just wasn’t used to seeing this kind of restaurant from our Rio Grande Valley restaurateurs. Indeed, the whole look and style of this venue was very similar to the places I would frequent in Austin, and the concept was unique in every way. To this day, I continue to recommend the Blue Onion because they’ve always been consistent with their food and because I personally know how much the owner supports our community.

The menu at the Blue Onion reflects chef/owner Eric Arndt’s simple and authentic style and his passion for fresh ingredients. Underneath his quiet presence, he is full of energy and focus. I’m sure many of his patrons have seen him busy tending to his customers in a friendly manner and making sure everyone leaves on a happy note. I’m sure that Chef Eric is pleased to see that both restaurants in Weslaco and McAllen are doing so well. They have become icons of the Valley’s food scene. Blending classic Italian favorites with Middle Eastern and Mexican delights and adding a modern twist, Blue Onion’s unique menu features dishes that play on your palate with the harmonic balance of sweet, sour, salty and bitter flavors.

So, for those foodies who have not yet had the pleasure of going to this wonderful restaurant — here’s the scoop!

The moment you walk into the Blue Onion you can’t help but notice the original work of local artists on their walls. The ambiance inside is urban, relaxed, and perfect for friends, family or a date. There’s defiantly a young, hip feel to this venue — I love artsy restaurants. There are even lamps made out of copper buckets!

I’m sorry if the title to this column — “Our Healthy Alternative” turned some of you off. Healthy here does not mean bland and boring. Healthy alternatives at the Blue Onion means they don’t serve processed and canned foods. They also know about the importance of quality, freshness and attention to detail in food, taste and presentation.

There are dining options for all ages, bringing a one-of a kind experience to the Valley. These are musts! On this particular visit I decided to order my three sampler appetizers to go. I love the chevre goat cheese with generous amounts of roasted garlic cloves that melt in your mouth and then they give you the most delicious warm flat bread you’ll ever have — drizzled with olive oil. Then I ordered the tasty barbecued shrimp and their Hummus, a Middle Eastern dip. For those who do not know, Hummus is a Levantine Arab dip, which is prepared with mashed garbanzos, blended with Tahini, fresh garlic, and lemon sauce. The Tahini gives this spread the beige color and rich flavor.

My daughter Odette and her friend Carlota Lacher really liked the kids’ grilled chicken strips (four to an order), which also came with a marinara sauce and flat bread. No greasy fried nuggets for these little ladies! We relished every bite.

These are some of my other top favorites.

• The Grilled Veggie and Feta Salad that comes with assorted vegetables marinated in their homemade balsamic vinaigrette and grilled to perfection. The salad is colorful as well as flavorful and also comes with French bread. The oven roasting technique for vegetables brings out a sweetness and a depth of flavor that you don’t get otherwise. Just thinking about this salad makes my mouth water.

• The Al Pastor (Fajita) wrap is my husband’s favorite. It’s one of the heartier dishes. It is served with blue onions, fresh cilantro, avocado, and a spicy chipotle salsa. It is one of their signature dishes and it comes with two sides of the day (all entrees do).

• The pizzas (pies) here are a step above average! The pizzas are handmade and fired in a brick open — flame oven. My favorite is the shrimp with roasted garlic pizza, which has a flavorful — bright tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. When I’m in the mood for sausage I order the San Franciscan that also comes with a sensible scant of their house sauce, Italian sausage (flavor is not overpowering), roasted garlic, fresh basil, fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. The crust is slightly thinner and crispy.

The Blue Onion offers fresh gourmet ingredients that assure you a healthy and very tasteful experience. Basically, you can’t go wrong ordering anything off their diverse menu.

So … what are you waiting for?! Go and enjoy!

P.S. Thursday’s special is “Bouillabaisse.” Yummy!

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” — Hippocrates

Enjoy being nourished,

Madame Gourmand

The Blue Onion: 925 Dove Ave. McAllen, 956-682-9884 and 423 S. International Blvd., Weslaco, 956-447-0067.