Brownsville’s Las Ramblas tapped by James Beard Foundation again

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Las Ramblas at Market Square in Brownsville has been named a semifinalist in the James Beard Foundation’s “Outstanding Bar” category for the second year in a row.

In 2023, the upscale cocktail lounge at 1101 E. Washington St. made it all the way to finals in the same category, and hasn’t been shy about advertising the fact. Michael Limas, who owns Las Ramblas with his brother Fabian Limas Jr., said making it into the semifinals again this year feels miraculous.

“We’re the only bar in Texas to make the list, and so we’re over the moon excited and hoping that in April we’ll find out if we make the short list again, and then that allows us to go back to Chicago to do the red carpet, the whole experience, and potentially take home the medal,” he said.

Going to Chicago last year as a finalist was “exciting, overwhelming and humbling,” Limas said.

“It was amazing and really, really great to be able to showcase not only Las Ramblas but the city of Brownsville, so it was awesome all around,” he said.

The brothers launched Las Ramblas in 2019 with beverage director Chris Galicia. The bar is the flagship of Ramblas Hospitality Group, which also owns Boqueron Tapas & Wine next door to Las Ramblas.

As for what keeps getting the foundation’s attention, Limas said “it’s a great question but very hard to answer.”

“There’s not a lot of discussion that goes on with the foundation,” he said. “A lot of the communication you get is via email, so there’s no dialogue that you’re having with the foundation. It’s in a way a mystery. I don’t fully know what goes into it.”

The Beard Foundations each year taps 20 semifinalists in each category from around the United States, winnowing results down to five finalists per category and announcing the results in April.

It’s safe to say the foundation sees something it likes about Las Ramblas’ business model, which involves “us really trying to elevate the cocktail culture in our community” while also supporting the community — opening up the bar’s space for charitable fundraisers for instance, Limas said.

Las Ramblas, Brownsville wine and tapas bar, gets national nod

They’ve done it since the beginning. Up next is the United Way of Southern Cameron County’s “All You Need is Love” fundraiser at Las Ramblas on Feb. 13.

“We really want to be a community-driven organization, and I feel we as a team embody that,” Limas said. “At the same time we’re trying to couple that with top-in-class cocktails and top-in-class hospitality. I think you if you marry those things together you can produce something really special.”

With summer a tough time of the year for downtown businesses, this fresh news from the Beard Foundation couldn’t have come at a better time, he said.

“Any positive traction downtown can get, we’re embracing it and we’re sharing it, so for us, God willing, we’ll hit the finals,” Limas said. “There’s so much juice in this thing. We’ve got to squeeze the hell out of it.”

At some point the foundation will send a scout to Las Ramblas, so the message to the entire team is “every day counts,” he said.

Imagining what it would be like to actually win is actually kind of scary, he admitted, and just making it into the Beard Foundation semifinals is already a reason to celebrate, Limas said.

“We’re going to be talking about it,” he said. “I need people to think ‘Ramblas’ and ‘Beard’ in the same sentence at all times. … Being able to promote Brownsville and downtown specifically, that’s something that literally no one in the Valley has. We have that arrow in our quiver. That’s the part where the gift keeps on giving, which is super cool.”