Tenth Street, McAllen

Trek beyond the outlet mall and you’ll find indie shops, hip bars, and a burgeoning arts district.
Tenth Street, McAllen
ManicHaus, Modern Art Space.
Photograph by Sarah Sudhoff

1. Barn White

It’s white and it looks like a barn, so points for being clever. This gift store really scores, though, with the selection of glittery Christopher Radko seasonal ornaments, sigh-inducing Niven Morgan scented candles and soaps, mix-and-match Zutano baby clothes, and country-chic horn-handled Vagabond steak knives. And that’s just the first floor. One flight up you’ll find what any bride-to-be would be delighted to have on her registry: Vera Wang and Haviland china, monogrammed photo albums, Lenox utensils, and Spode holiday dishes. 4317 N. Tenth, 956-687-7637, barnwhite.com

2. Sylvia’s/Uniques

They may share a pass-through door and the same owner, but these clothing boutiques couldn’t be more different. Sophisticates head to Sylvia’s for pageant-worthy gowns by Badgley Mischka, matchy separates by Michael Kors, and a shoe salon with finds from Juicy Couture and Stuart Weitzman. Uniques, with its zebra rug and flocked-damask dressing room curtains, has a younger vibe and stocks its shelves with trendy denim from People’s Liberation and weathered tees from Junk Food. 4300 N. Tenth, 956-682-6036/956-971-0200, sylviasmcallen.com and uniquesmcallen.com

3. Melissa Guerra

The festive papel picado decorations strung from the ceiling, brightly painted walls, and high-energy tejano music playing in cookbook author Melissa Guerra’s culinary shop capture the spirit of a Mexican marketplace. Enthusiasts of Latin cuisine will be pleased to find molcajetes and Mexican drinking chocolates alongside kitchen basics like prep knives and baking pans. A cookbook section includes titles such as Sharon Tyler Herbst’s Food Lover’s Companion and Guerra’s own Dishes From the Wild Horse Desert: Norteño Cooking of South Texas . 4100 N. Second, Ste. 200; 956-688-5831; melissaguerra.com

4. Costa Messa

Traditional Tex-Mex fare rules here, and the locals milling around the entrance prove that the wait is worth it. A simple desert mural is the backdrop at this no-frills family favorite. Three types of salsa are served with thick corn chips as soon as you’re seated, and the lemony sweetened iced tea is a refreshing antidote to their heat. Order the tacos de trompo , three corn tortillas filled with marinated pork, or go light and get the caldo de pollo , a chicken broth chock-full of veggies. 1621 N. Eleventh, 956-618-5449

5. ManicHaus, Modern Art Space

This artist-run gallery is one of many must-stops along North Main Street, the central corridor of McAllen’s new arts district. A small, raw box of a space, ManicHaus exhibits local and national artists, but it also has a concentrated, inspiring blend of poetry books, handmade jewelry, and retro lucha libre masks. The best time to stop in is during the city’s ArtWalk, on the first Friday of every month from September through May, when up to four thousand designer-jean-clad urbanites wander from gallery to gallery. 1301B N. Main, 956-207-0940

6. Roosevelt’s at 7

Smack in the middle of the burgeoning arts district, this alehouse and restaurant anchors the hipster area of town. Come here for the 44 beers on tap and enhance your experience with a sampling of five house-made peanut butters served on toast points. Shuffleboard and boxes of Jenga at every booth keep guests occupied for hours, so arrive by nine o’clock to beat the benchwarmers and snag a seat. 821 N. Main, 956-928-1994

7. L.A. Imports

“Cheap and charming” sums up this emporium filled with decorative bulk buys. Mothers squeeze through pleasingly chaotic aisles spilling over with plastic flowers and spools of ribbon to buy recuerdos for anniversary, quince, and Communion celebrations. Those events not on your calendar? Buy a twelve-pack of tiny plastic debutantes to kitsch-ify cupcakes ($2.95), diminutive dolls in pink or blue diapers for a baby shower (from 25 cents), or synthetic blooms to trim presents (from 99 cents). 2 S. Main, 956-682-0933

8. Quinta Mazatlan

Avoid the Valley’s supremely hot temperatures by taking a stroll through the lush grounds of this fifteen-acre birding sanctuary. Native trees envelop walking trails, while shade-covered benches make easy pit stops. The comprehensive children’s programs invite kids to embrace nature, but word to the wise: Birds don’t like screaming, and neither do the adults trying to spy on them. Be sure to snoop through the center’s headquarters, a stunning thirties adobe mansion. 600 Sunset Dr., 956-681-3370, quintamazatlan.com

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