James Beard taps Las Ramblas: Brownsville bar makes 'Outstanding Bar' semifinals

Jan. 25—Downtown Brownsville cocktail lounge Las Ramblas at Market Square has been selected as a semifinalist for a 2023 James Beard Foundation award in the Outstanding Bar category.

Las Ramblas opened in May 2019. Co-owner Michael Limas said the business has been enjoying some momentum with a recent article in Texas Highways, and that the recognition helps showcase Brownsville talent.

"Everything just lined up in a way," he said. "It's very, very surreal. Chris (Galicia), our head bartender, he's in shock. He's like, how is this even happening? It's just a pretty cool feeling. No matter what happens in the future, this is one thing they can't take away from us."

Limas said he's not aware of any other Brownsville bar making the JBF semifinals, though Vera's Backyard Bar-B-Que was selected for a JBF America's Classics Award in 2020. The Outstanding Bar category isn't limited to cocktail lounges but also includes beer and wine bars — even coffee bars — as long as beverages are the primary offering.

The nominees are judged on "consistent excellence in curating selection or in the preparation of drinks" along with atmosphere and other factors, including contributions to the broader community. Limas wondered weather Las Ramblas' community involvement, such as hosting cocktail competitions for instance, could have helped it in the eyes of the judges.

Five finalists will be announced in March and the final winners revealed at the JBF Awards ceremony in Chicago in June. Limas said he's happy just to have gotten this far and that anything else would just be "the cherry on top."

"We already won in our eyes, being in the semifinals," he said.