Our first visit to Del Rio in the mid-1990s was something of a disaster. The week before, we bought a year-old Miata and, loving rock art, decided to take the scenic route to Thanksgiving dinner in New Mexico through Del Rio to gawk at Seminole Canyon’s pictographs. This warranted a fateful night in the border town of Del Rio.
I had been warned about locking the doors on soft-top convertibles, but some things you have to learn yourself, and learn I did. The next morning, the top of our car was slashed and the stereo and a comprehensive collection of Richard H. Kirk CDs were gone. We stopped in at the Walmart for duct tape to “fix” the gaping hole, and then down the road we went to make the scheduled tour at Seminole Canyon. Once we reached highway speed, the pressure differential between inside the car and outside resulted in a soft-top blow out. I pulled over for a second repair attempt. On the road again, the top precariously bulged and burst yet again, but now butterfly-sized globs of snow began to fall.
After applying a duct-taped weave that MacGyver would have gaped at in awe, the was finally fixed for the duration of the trip. We made it to Seminole Canyon in time for the tour, but the park canceled it due to the snow. It took two more attempts in the ensuing decade before we finally saw Seminole Canyon.
The trip to Del Rio was also food fateful. After checking into our motel, we asked the young lady at the front where to eat. She mentioned several chain restaurants. “No, no, no,” we no-no-no’d. “Local. Where do the locals go?” And this is how we discovered Don Marcelino’s.
Started in 1975 by Doña Elvia C. Gonzalez, Don Marcelino’s serves Norteño Mexican food based on family recipes passed down through the generations. I’m not sure why the place is named Don Marcelino’s, but I can tell you that it serves the best (and shiniest) refried beans in the state.
Don Marcelino’s ain’t fancy: You order at the counter fast-casual style (they were fast casual before fast casual was fast casual), and servers bring you your food and drinks. It has the standard Mexican decor, although there is a gift/food shop if you are looking for provisions/souvenirs from the borderlands (we’ve stocked up on vanilla here). The food is solid (and perhaps demonstrates the strong influence of Norteño Mexican on TexMex?), but my-oh-my those beans! Shiny with lard and dancing with flavor, they are Jack-and-the stalk magical.
Every time I’ve been to or through Del Rio, Don Marcelino’s is a required stop. On our recent visit to see the White Shaman Panel, the bride hadn’t had those beans in 25 years–she reported that they were as good as she remembered.
web&where: interwebs; 1110 veterans boulevard, del rio, texas; 830-775-6242
what’s the deal? Norteño Mexican–best damn refried beans in the state; fast-casual
overall: *** (food***; drink*; atmosphere*; service**; instagrammability**)
– meh [think twice]
* OK [it’ll get the job done]
** good [solid neighborhood joint]
*** damn good [we’ll definitely be back]
**** yippity-yikes that was amazeballs [fantastic; one of the best]
***** holy sh!t [transcendental; best of the best]