As I headed down for a weekend jaunt to the lower Rio Grande Valley I expected to encounter nice family time, fun in the sun on South Padre Island, fresh gulf shrimp and maybe some good Tex Mex. I experienced all of the above sans the Tex Mex but also found myself discovering some food I had never eaten on a trip to South Texas- barbeque.
While I have never really thought of barbeque as being a mainstay of Rio Grande Valley cuisine, one website I found listed a whopping 40 barbeque restaurants in the lower valley. My dinner happened to be by chance however at a family birthday party where most of the food was catered by a restaurant in Los Fresnos called Wild Blue. They brought brisket, chicken, sausage, green beans and a coconut banana pudding.
I intended to eat the chicken. Brisket is usually too dry and chewy for my taste, but one bite of Wild Blue’s smoked brisket and I was hooked. It was one of the most tender and moist version I’ve ever encountered. Who knew? The restaurant uses only pecan and smokes the meat for 16 hrs. The chicken, which I did try the next day, was smoked for 5-6 hours and is so flavorful that sauce would have been wasted on it. While I did not try the sausage, it quickly disappeared from the food table at the party.
Wild Blue also offers baby back ribs on their menu. Most of the produce for the restaurant comes from a nearby farm so is seasonal and can vary, but regular side dishes include the very tasty green beans and a popular corn pudding. Peach or sweet potato cobbler with homemade vanilla ice cream can finish off your meal.
Abraham Avila, the owner of Wild Blue, is more than a grill master. He is a classically trained chef having studied at the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts, now part of the Le Cordon Bleu schools. After working in restaurants in the Midwest he moved back to Texas to open Wild Blue. How many barbeque joint owners have cooked at the Ritz Carlton? He recently served an eight course wine paired dinner for regular customers to celebrate the 6 year anniversary of the restaurant.
While he would like to eventually open a bistro or fine dining establishment in the Valley, for now we’ll have to settle for his delicious barbeque.
Wild Blue is a perfect place to stop on the road to South Padre this summer.Wild Blue Barbeque 31230 State Highway 100, Los Fresnos 956-233-8185
Cindy Freeling has been in the health and nutrition business for over 20 years and is host of the Cindy Freeling Show. She is also an actress and friend of craveDFW.