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A cool intro to the cuisine of McAllen, TX: Patio on Guerra

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McAllen, Texas is a city right on the southern tip of the state, approximately 8 miles from the Rio Grande and the Mexican border. It's referred to as "The Tropics of Texas"; you can only imagine the delectable produce they have when other parts of the country -- including mine -- are covered in ice and snow.

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The local flavors and cultural leanings add real interest to the menu at Patio on Guerra, a casual but well conceived restaurant in McAllen's "old" part of town. I was very happy to be hosted to experience it!

The place has a vintage cantina look, because it's in a vintage building lightly remodeled.

Everything seems to have local flair and flavor. I started with their own Sangria, described as "A real South Texas Cooler. Our very own recipe with brandy, Malibu rum, orange-pineapple juice and red wine mixed with a smattering of fresh fruit." The coconut and other tropical flavors make this drink refreshing and unique -- not too sweet, but easy to drink.

Their Margaritas are rimmed with Trechas spice, a Mexican sweet-hot seasoning.

Here's their take on nachos, created into "tapas" -- taking them to a whole different level than standard nachos -- Guerra Tapas: delicate bite size puffy nachos topped with guacamole, pico de gallo, and diced fajita. The meat was tender and juicy. This is definitely a good, shareable appetizer.

Their ceviche also has a unique style and flavor nuances: fresh tilapia marinated in citrus, pepper, oregano, tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños and served with chips and crackers. It's finely chopped -- making it a dipping appetizer, rather than something to eat by fork. It's served in a huge portion! Definitely share it or consider it a light meal in itself.

Entrees range from Continental classics like pasta dishes to Texas favorites like quail. I was intrigued by the comfort food with a twist aspect of Palm City Stuffed Chicken Breast: baked bacon-wrapped Airline Chicken breast (boneless chicken breast with the drumstick attached) with jalapeno and cilantro cream cheese stuffing, topped with tarragon cream sauce. It's kind of Southern, kind of Western, very American. The execution's very good, with crispy, crunchy crust and creamy sauce.

There's live music at the restaurant, including guitarists, singer-songwriters, salsa bands.

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