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A war of words has raged for years over where people can get the best tacos, especially breakfast tacos — Austin or San Antonio. Each city has its defenders who are quick to post their preferences on various social media sites.

People who live in the Rio Grande Valley and have visited this are know the real answer: it’s right here along the Rio Grande. It makes sense — if you want real Mexican food, you’re most likely to find it closest to Mexico itself.

Heck — the tacos sold in Valley gas stations are often better than the fare served at most fancy restaurants in those larger cities farther north — and good luck finding tripitas, mollejas or other common Valley offerings anywhere north of Raymondville.

Fortunately, local gastronomic offerings are starting to get noticed, and by some of the most prestigious culinary experts in the country.

Two Valley establishments have been nominated for recognition by the James Beard Foundation, which recognizes excellence in America’s food culture.

Ana Liz Pulido, who runs Ana Liz Taqueria in Mission, is a finalist in the Best Chef: Texas category. In Brownsville, Las Ramblas at Market Square is a finalist in the Outstanding Bar category.

Both establishments were finalists in their respective categories last year as well.

It’s major recognition for any restaurant or bar anywhere in the country — and perhaps even more so in an area like the Valley, which often gets overlooked by major media, foundations and other entities that tend to focus their attention on large cities and major markets.

We join all those who offer congratulations and support to both finalists for their deserved recognition, and note that in catching the eye of such a prestigious organization as the James Beard Foundation, it also helps draw attention to the entire Valley and the varied high-quality offerings that Ana Liz, Las Ramblas and other local businesses have to offer.

From left, Fabian Limas Jr., Chris Galicia and Michael Limas, are shown at Las Ramblas at Market Square, which they opened in 2019 and which is a James Beard Foundation “Outstanding Bar” finalist for the second consecutive year. (Courtesy: Daniel Loera)

It’s a big deal. After all, Mexican-style food is now the most popular cuisine choice in the United States — bigger than pizza and Chinese food. That popularity has created an explosion of restaurants and bars nationwide; in many cases diverting the menus toward recipes and ingredients that are more of a synthesis of styles found both north and south of the border. It has led to complaints from some traditionalists who contend many of the dishes aren’t authentic.

Here in the Valley, however, much of the culinary fare is still more Mex than Tex.

The overriding issue, however, is always quality — are the food and drinks these places offer good? Are they worth the time and expense that patrons invest when going there?

In many Valley businesses, the answer is a resounding yes. And at two of them, they’re good enough to earn recognition from one of the top groups that evaluate such places.

We encourage Valley residents to check out Ana Liz, Ramblas and other local establishments, and get a taste of the many delectable options that enrich our region.

Taste for yourself why the fare that is so common in this area has tickled the refined palates of the James Beard judges and other culinary experts.

This leaves one question unanswered: Do the Michelin people know we’re here yet?