Mum’s not the word for McAllen’s Secret Garden Bistro

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The cucumber lemonade, below center, tasted homemade and finished cool with the mixed-in cucumber. (Francisco E. Jimenez | The Monitor)

McALLEN — It is no secret that the Rio Grande Valley has produced some of the most talented and creative culinary minds not only in Texas, but throughout the country.

One does not need to travel very far to try some of the finest food and most unique dining experiences, and my girlfriend and I were reminded of that when we stepped foot inside Secret Garden Bistro & Boutique, located at 1320 N. 10th St., Suite 30.

Unbeknownst to us, we happened to walk into the establishment just minutes before they were set to close. We realized this when the front door was locked and the “open” sign was turned off after we were seated inside the empty restaurant. (This wasn’t our fault. The hours of operation on Google were a bit off.)

Nevertheless, we were greeted with the utmost kindness. Chef Alicia Reyes was friendly and patient with us as she shared details about the menu options.

My girlfriend decided to try the cucumber lemonade, and I decided to try the lechero. The drinks alone were good enough to raise our already high expectations.

The lemonade tasted homemade and finished cool with the mixed-in cucumber. The lechero was foamy and warm. It was served in a large mug with cinnamon dusted on top. My girlfriend, who isn’t a coffee drinker, loved the lechero and described it as the perfect winter drink.

Secret Garden serves up breakfast and lunch options throughout its hours of operations. This being our first meal of the day, and our first time trying Secret Garden, we were open to recommendations.

Reyes said that the chilaquiles are one of the more popular menu items. That was all my girlfriend needed to hear.

The chilaquiles poblanos, above right, came with fried corn tortilla chips covered in a creamy poblano pepper sauce and topped with sliced avocado, queso fresco, a drizzle of crema, and the red onions. The meal also comes with a side of seasoned potatoes, black refried beans, and your choice of shredded chicken or eggs. (Francisco E. Jimenez | The Monitor)

She ordered the chilaquiles poblanos. The meal came with fried corn tortilla chips covered in a creamy poblano pepper sauce and topped with sliced avocado, queso fresco, a drizzle of crema, and the red onions. The meal also comes with a side of seasoned potatoes, black refried beans, and your choice of shredded chicken or eggs. My girlfriend chose the eggs cooked over medium.

I decided to order the saffron noodles. The meal came with spaghetti noodles tossed in a creamy saffron sauce with roasted pistachios and zucchini noodles. I decided to add grilled chicken to my order. The dish is served in a bowl with a chili oil drizzled along the edge.

The meal also came with the option of a soup or salad. I chose the soup, which was a fideo-like soup with tiny pieces of carrots, celery, onion and squash. Reyes also brought some buttered, sliced bread with the meal.

As a whole, from the sitting arrangements to the wall decorations, from the French jazz music to the delicious meals, this was one of the most aesthetically and flavorful meals we’ve had. Reyes and her staff were kind and so very helpful. It was a wonderful experience, and we will definitely be back.

Secret Garden Bistro & Boutique is open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.