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Photo courtesy of Roll-Em-Up Taquitos

A new restaurant concept from California has landed in Texas, staking a bold claim: Called Roll-Em-Up Taquitos, it calls itself the first place dedicated to taquitos, and who are we to disagree?

In mid-September, they opened their first Texas location in Garland, at 5949 Broadway Blvd. There's a location coming to Hurst, at 1842 Precinct Line Rd., opening in fall 2022. Locations in Pearland and Amarillo are in the works, as well.

Roll-Em-Up serves taquitos with a variety of fillings, along with key sides including corn on the cob, queso, and guacamole. There are five taquito options, including shredded beef, shredded chicken, potato, cheese, and avocado. Taquitos can be topped with cheese, spicy house sauce, guac sauce, queso sauce, and their "lit" sauce.

Other menu items include bacon beans, rice, bomb AF chips, churro doughnuts drizzled with caramel, and street corn with butter, mayo, and cotija cheese, with an optional dusting of Hot Cheetos and Tajin or coated in queso. You can get the corn on the cob or cut into a cup.

Roll-Em-Up Taquitos was founded by father-and-son Ron and Ryan Usrey, who debuted the concept in Chino Hills in 2019. The taquitos are hand-rolled and pan-fried to order in cast iron skillets, and the restaurants also boast a colorful interior with a bright and cheerful mural that runs the length of the back wall.

taquitos Taquitos, guacamole, and churro doughnuts make for a complete meal.Roll Em Up

There are tables for inhouse dining, but takeout is also a huge deal, with party packs of 25 or 50 taquitos, for $50 to $100, accompanied by shredded cheese, guac sauce, sour cream, mild sauce, and LIT sauce.

Restaurant operators David Weaver and Blake Terry, who have worked with many brands including Wingstop, The Catch, Burger House, Subway, Smashburger, and Rusty Taco, are bringing the concept to Texas.

They'll build and operate a percentage of stores, and also recruit and train future franchise partners in the region.

"Having great food is no longer enough in today's fast casual space and this is what made us thrilled about Roll-Em-Up," Weaver says in a statement. "The food, ambiance, and operations of Roll-Em-Up are outstanding, not to mention the reggae music playing in the background. It's a vibrant, fun, and delicious place to be and we had to be a part."

2 Texas fast-food chains cruise onto list of country’s best drive-thrus

Texans’ bread and butter

The rest of the U.S. is quickly catching on to some fast-food addictions most Texans have been noshing for years, with one automotive-focused media site driving some national praise for two favorites.

Online publication Jalopnik recently released its reader-compiled list of the Best Drive-Thru Restaurants in America and — likely unsurprising to devourers of burgers and Tex-Mex in the Lone Star State — Whataburger and Taco Cabana (both based in San Antonio) are featured among the top 10 favorites.

Jalopnik notes that perhaps Whataburger’s popularity among drive-thru consumers has something to do with the chain’s many burger options (“Maybe its popularity is thanks to the rumored 36,864 different burger combinations that customers can create with the firm’s range of toppings.”)

In further applauding the burger chain, which has maintained an almost cult-like following since the brand first launched in Texas in the 1950s, one Jalopnik reader even shared a story about a Whataburger newbie’s first experience.

“Whataburger, hands down,” the poster told Jalopnik of their favorite drive-thru in the country. “If it’s on the menu, it can be put on your burger. I once had the joy of watching a kid from New Jersey eat Whataburger for the first time. It was like that scene from The Road when the son has a Coke for the first time in his life.”

In addition to that transformative experience (true Texans know a perfect Whataburger meal can be an epiphany), Jalopnik readers also hailed Taco Cabana as one of the best drive-thrus in the country.

Though Jalopnik, which is clearly not based in Texas, downplays the Tex-Mex chain’s formidability, calling it “another taco joint” that serves up a host of “Mexican treats,” readers (and likely Texas-based devotees) set the publication straight, calling out Taco Cabana’s fresh-made flour tortillas, array of salsas, and boozy offerings, and making mention of the brand’s way-better-than-Taco-Bell quality.

“Multiple orders of magnitude better than Taco Hell,” one Jalopnik poster says.

Another reader notes the chain is a middle-of-the-night go-to, something many Texans can also relate to.

“Taco Cabana,” the poster says of their favorite drive-thru, “especially the 24-hour ones. Nothing, I mean nothing, beats a couple of barbacoa tacos at 3 am.”

Other drive-thru chains scoring a spot in Jalopnik’s reader-based top 10 include Wyoming-based Taco John’s, ubiquitous California burger joint In-N-Out, California-based Baker’s Burgers, Jack in the Box, Chicago-born hot dog spot Portillo’s, universally loved Chik-Fil-A, quality burger joint Culver’s, and sandwich eatery Runza.

Photo courtesy of Quince

No. 1 rooftop restaurant in the world headed to WestBend Fort Worth

#1 Rooftop News

A global award-winning restaurant is coming to Fort Worth's WestBend in early 2022: It's the first U.S. location of Quince, a restaurant founded in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, which has been proclaimed the "No. 1 Rooftop Restaurant in the World."

Created by former Fort Worth hedge fund manager Brian Sneed, Quince is an open-air concept known for fun food concepts and great city views.

According to a release, the WestBend location will be situated along the Trinity River, overlooking the Fort Worth Zoo and nearby wooded areas.

The first location opened in 2016 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and was crowned by Robb Report Magazine as not only the "No. 1 Rooftop Restaurant in the World" for the past two years but also the "No. 1 Rooftop Destination in the World." Robb Report really likes that rooftop.

According to a release from Trademark Property Company, the mixed-use investor, developer, and operator of WestBend, the restaurant will bring a chic but casual atmosphere, flavors, and flair to WestBend's riverfront mixed-use landscape, joining neighbors such as Johnnie-O, Market by Macy’s, Warby Parker, Drybar, Hg Sply Co., and Tyler's.

"We are thrilled with our leasing momentum at WestBend," said Trademark CEO Terry Montesi. "With our best in Fort Worth location and the most relevant merchandising, WestBend has become Fort Worth’s go-to project for the latest and greatest retailers and restaurants, such as Quince, with more coming soon."

Quince was created for all ages in search of an upbeat experience with their meal. The menu at the original location is sophisticated, with lots of seafood including sushi and ceviches, but also steaks, salads, and bowls.

There's steak au jus, tuna, tempura shrimp, chicken with ginger rice, filet with chateau potatoes, short ribs with truffle sauce on hummus with crunchy chickpeas, pasta fusilli with lamb ragout, New York strip, and a cowboy ribeye.

They also serve brunch with dishes such as huevos rancheros, eggs benedict, French toast with berries and cream, chilaquiles verdes, and eggs shakshouka.

In a statement, Sneed says that Fort Worth has evolved in so many ways in the past few years and is now ready for this type of dining experience.

"This has been a long time coming, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to bring my concept home and to one of the best views on the Trinity River," he says. "It's a must that Quince has exceptional views and quality neighboring businesses, and WestBend perfectly fits this requirement. Our global collective menu was formulated to include dishes people will crave and come back for tomorrow, and we’re excited for Fort Worth to experience this."

Photo courtesy of Suck It

New pickle and jerky shop opening in Old Town Keller says Suck It!

Pickle News

UPDATE 9-20-2021: The shop opened on September 16.

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Pickles are definitely a trend and now they're coming to Keller, with the imminent opening of Suck it! Jerky and Pickles, a new shop opening at 121 Olive St., a space that was previously home to a bakery called BakeologyDFW.

The shop will serve as a commissary kitchen and retail store featuring the pickles and beef jerky that owner Scott Spielman has been making since he founded his cottage business in 2019.

He hopes to be open in two weeks.

His pickled cucumbers with jalapeno pepper are his longtime bestseller, and in addition to pickled vegetables, he makes jerky in three varieties: original, hot, and peppered.

As a one-time marathon runner, he's particularly proud of the fact that his products have minimal processing. "I don't add any sugar or preservatives," he says. "The idea of being able to read the ingredients in your food is an important philosophy of mine."

A Fort Worth native who worked for the Chili's restaurant chain and in medical sales, Spielman began Suck It! in the prototypical cottage industry manner: He started doing pickles as a hobby and would share the results with friends.

"One week, my wife signed me up to do a table at the Keller Farmers Market," he says. "I was in pure panic mode, but all of my friends showed up in support and we sold out."

Suck It! became a staple at farmers markets in Keller, Saginaw, and Watauga, and he started selling online and at boutique food shops. He's now in talks with regional grocery chains. Sensing that business was about to outgrow the kitchen he was renting, he decided it was time to take the plunge.

"The Keller location has the kitchen space I need, and will also house a retail shop for my products," he says.

He's currently doing 11 pickled items and three jerky products, but intends to expand his lineup.

"This is the most I could do with my current circumstances but I plan to do more," he says. "I like to pickle weird things — broccoli and cauliflower and green beans and red onions. I do Hatch chiles when they're in season. I pickle okra, garlic, and sugar-snap peas."

Pickles and fermented foods of all kinds have enjoyed a resurgence, and also have a cherished place in Fort Worth, home to venerable pickle maker Best Maid as well as Martin House Brewing, which has earned fame for the massively popular series of pickle-flavored beers it has brewed.

"Pickles have had an interesting journey," Spielman says. "They started out as a survival method that you had to do, if you wanted a supply of beef and vegetables. But they've morphed into a luxury item. I make mine the way our grandparents made them, very simply, with vinegar, spices, and water. My stuff won't last two and a half years like what you see at supermarkets, because I don't put a bunch of sugar and preservatives in them. If pickles are made right, they are a very healthy snack."

He's also going to provide a platform for other vendors like himself to sell their goods at his store.

"I'm going to feature the little guy who makes a great product but doesn’t have the capital or venue to display and sell their stuff," he says. "This will be a one-stop shop, with items that people could previously only get on Saturday mornings, if they had the time to stop at the farmers market. Now they can visit on a Wednesday afternoon. Some of these things that people make are fantastic."

As for the saucy name, it's a reference to a tradition he had with his two sons, who are both now adults.

"When they were 8 and 9, they were on a little league team and I was assistant coach," he says. "I'd watch when kids went to bat and the parents would be yelling at them. I always just said, 'Don't suck.' Later in life, that morphed into 'Be smart, be safe, and don't suck.'"

Photo by benedek/Getty Images

Tech workers' salaries top this week's 5 most-read Fort Worth stories

This Week's Hot Headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines.

1. New report shows how much it pays to work in tech in Dallas-Fort Worth. It truly pays to work in the tech sector in DFW. A report published January 11 by Austin-based tech company Spanning Cloud Apps LLC shows workers in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area can more than double their pay when they hold down a tech job. In fact, DFW ranks fourth among the country's largest metro areas for the pay advantage in tech occupations versus all occupations.

2. San Antonio Tex-Mex fave lugs its macho burritos to Dallas-Fort Worth. There's a fun new Tex-Mex concept coming to the Dallas-Fort Worth market, specifically the city of Keller. Called Las Palapas, it's a fast-casual chain based in San Antonio. If you were looking for a comparison, maybe something along the lines of a Taco Cabana.

3. 2 exciting new restaurants debut at Fort Worth's Crockett Row. In cheery news for 2021, Crockett Row at West 7th — the mixed-use destination with restaurants and retail — is set to see openings of two exciting new restaurants, one doing ramen, the other doing chicken. Kintaro Ramen will take over the former Oni Ramen space, and Dirty Bones will open in the former Stirr spot.

4. Amon Carter Museum celebrates 60th anniversary with landmark exhibitions. The Amon Carter Museum of American Art is throwing itself a 60th birthday party that lasts all year long. Fort Worth's most storied museum first welcomed visitors on January 21, 1961, and to mark the decades, the Carter will present exhibitions and events that both honor the past and explore the future of American art.

5. These are the 6 best things to do in Fort Worth this weekend. Best ways to spend your free time in Fort Worth this weekend include a concert by a popular American Idol winner, a thrilling film at the Modern, and a couple of thought-provoking art exhibitions.

The median tech salary in DFW is 127 percent greater than the median salary for the metro.

Photo by benedek/Getty Images
The median tech salary in DFW is 127 percent greater than the median salary for the metro.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

'Lightscape' shines bright in this week's 5 most popular Fort Worth stories

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. What to expect at 'Lightscape,' Fort Worth's new walk-thru winter wonderland. Fort Worth’s most Instagrammable new holiday lights display is best enjoyed without clinging to a phone. “Lightscape,” which made its North Texas debut at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden on Friday, November 18, walks visitors through a winter wonderland experience unlike any other in DFW.

2. Hoffbrau Steak fires up the grill for new location in Grapevine. A longtime steakhouse is coming to Grapevine: Hoffbrau Steak & Grill House, a small family-owned and -operated chain that's been in Dallas-Fort Worth for more than 40 years, will open a location November 28 at 700 W. State Hwy 114, previously home to a Brick House Tavern & Tap, which closed during the pandemic.

3. Yellowstone and 1883 stars cowboy up at Fort Worth gala honoring Taylor Sheridan. Fort Worth has always been "where the West begins," and now it's where TV's hottest Western drama begins, too. The 2022 Lone Star Film Festival Gala - held November 11 at Hotel Drover in the Stockyards - leaned hard into the city's connections to Yellowstone and its prequel, 1883, with signs and programs that boasted "The Road to Yellowstone Began in Fort Worth."

4. Divine doughnuts and tempting tamales top this Fort Worth restaurant news. This roundup of restaurant news around Fort Worth has tidbits about doughnuts, Cajun food, vegan tamales, and gourmet ice cream, culled from press releases, social media, and the occasional hot tip. Here's what's happening in Fort Worth restaurant news.

5. Here comes Santa House, back to Grapevine for a very charitable 2022 Christmas season. After taking a much-needed break last year, Louie Murillo and his family are once again decking their halls, yard, and rooftop to bring back the Grapevine Santa House — a smash hit during the 2020 holiday season. The half-acre property is a "Where's Waldo?" maze of more than 1,000 Santa statues, which visitors can walk among, snap photos with, and then, they hope, make a donation to Grace Grapevine's Christmas Cottage program.

Texas parks beckon throughout 2022 holidays with festive events and peaceful escapes

If roasting ‘smores and hiking in the great outdoors sounds fun, pack up your family and visit one of Texas’ state parks this holiday season.

Texas state parks and historic sites are ringing in the holidays with a number of festive events. There are drive-thru light tours, special holiday hikes, arts and crafts for the kiddos, and more.

Reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to visit an individual park's website before you head out. And check the Holidays in the Parks page for many more fun options, pricing information, and more information.

Dallas-Fort Worth-area parks

Tyler State Park
Avoid the Black Friday madness with the 15th annual “Walk-off the Bird” Bird Walk, a 2.1-mile walk by the lakeshore at 9 am November 25. Bring your binoculars to relax and enjoy the bird life of the East Texas Pineywoods. At 2 pm the same day, enjoy a Fall in the Savannah fall foliage hike. Enjoy Reading Ranger Campfire Stories around a cozy campfire at 3 pm December 3. Head back December 9-10 for A Pineywoods Christmas, when you can stroll or drive through the Lakeview and Big Pine campgrounds to take in campers' elaborately decorated sites and take a Winter Wonderland Hike.

Lake Tawakoni State Park
Drive through or stay at the park and decorate your campsite with your favorite Christmas decorations to receive your second night of camping free during your stay. There will be a decorating contest, complete with awards, as well as a reading of The Night before Christmas — all part of Twinkle Tour 2022, 5-8 pm December 3.

Daingerfield State Park
Drive through the park lit up like Santa Land during the 10th annual Christmas in the Park drive thru lights tour December 14-17 (times vary). Marvel at the decorated campsites and lights, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies while waiting for a chance to visit with Santa.

Eisenhower State Park
Help those in need and spread holiday cheer — and as a bonus, get free entry to the park — by bringing one unwrapped donation item to the park’s Holiday Donation Drive from November 25 to December 19. Come back December 9-10 to visit the Light Up the Park drive-thru lights event, featuring milk and cookies with Santa. This year, the park is taking unwrapped toys to donate instead of collecting entrance fees for the event.

Cleburne State Park
Enjoy Pancakes With Santa and make pinecone bird feeders 9-11 a.m. December 10.

Cedar Hill State Park
Walk off your Thanksgiving Day meal and explore nature in the cool fall air during the three-mile Thanksgiving Nature Walk 7:30-9 a.m. November 26. Search for birds taking their winter break at the park during their Winter Birding Walk, which takes place 7:30-8:30 am December 13. Explore Christmas on Penn Farm on December 17: Learn about the history and pioneers of the Penn Family and the farm they built 150 years ago.

Lake Mineral Wells State Park
Experience Christmas, cowboy style, at Cross Timbers Cowboy Christmas, December 3. Park ranger and cowboy poet David Owens will gather guests around a campfire at the Lone Star Amphitheater for an evening of cowboy culture through songs, stories and poems.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
In partnership with Toys for Tots, the park is hosting Christmas in the Valley, a full day of ranger-led events, programs, family friendly activities, arts and crafts, food and more. Bring a new and unwrapped toy for free admission for the whole family. The event takes place 1-4 pm. December 17.

Austin/San Antonio-area parks

Bastrop State Park
The park’s annual Gobble Till You Wobble hike November 25 has been canceled due to predicted rains. However, you can still follow ornaments with clues through the park every day in December during the annual Fa La La Through The Forest Scavenger Hunt. Enjoy the Lost Pines Christmas Parade, a collaborative event with Bastrop and Buescher Parks, at 6 pm December 10. Tour the inside of the historic Refectory and see how the Civilian Conservation Corps celebrated Christmas away from home during A Lost Pines CCC Christmas 9 a.m. to noon December 17.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site
Attend Deck the Halls, 10 am. to 3 pm November 26 to explore how early Texans at the Sauer-Beckmann Farm got ready for the holidays by stringing popcorn and decorating cookies to hang on their Christmas tree; learn how to make wreaths out of local cedar and dip candles as the farm staff get ready for das Weihnachten (Christmas). Return to the park at 5:30 pm December 18 for the 53rd Annual Tree Lighting, a holiday tradition started by President and Mrs. Johnson.

Garner State Park
Join the Buffalo Soldiers program and friends as they stop into Garner State Park before leaving for Christmas break during the Marching Towards Christmas event 10 am to 2 pm December 10. Christmas activities will include hand-dipped candles, frontier Christmas painting, Christmas-themed hard tack in Dutch ovens, and stories of the Buffalo Soldiers.

Buescher State Park
Take a Giving Thanks Guided Hike and learn how the Civilian Conservation Corps built the park from 3-4 pm November 26. On the Fa La La in the Forest Scavenger Hunt, you can follow ornaments with clues through the park to secure a prize at the end, December 1 to January 1. Enjoy the Smithville Festival of Lights and Lighted Parade, a collaborative effort between Buescher and Bastrop parks, on December 3.

Hill Country State Natural Area
See how art, history and state parks are connected; learn some basic watercolor techniques and paint a card or two to take home during the Watercolor Christmas Cards event 2:30-4 p.m. December 3. Come back for Horses in History & Ornament Craft from 2:30-4 pm. December 22 and learn how horses played important roles in the lives of vaqueros, native people, ranchers and more. Then, play a round of horseshoes and paint a horse ornament to take with you.

South Llano River State Park
At Christmas at the Ranch, 2 to 5 pm December 3, guests can warm up with hot chocolate and cider, listen to live entertainment, enjoy crafts and cookie decorating, and anticipate Santa's visit while taking in the twinkling lights and Christmas decorations at the historic Ranch House that now serves as Park Headquarters.

Houston and Gulf Coast-area parks

Brazos Bend State Park
Holiday in the Park is an all-day affair on December 10. Events include a self-guided "Elf Hike," Christmas crafts, "Pup Parade," s'mores, and more.

Goose Island State Park
See the park in lights, enjoy holiday activities, and camp for free when you decorate your campsite during Christmas in the Park on December 17. Guests are invited to "Santa's Village" at the CCC Recreation Hall for holiday crafts, games, hot chocolate around the campfire, and to drop off letters to Santa in the North Pole Mailbox.

Lake Livingston State Park
Learn about your favorite Thanksgiving food (the turkey) during Campfire Turkey Talk on November 26. Rangers will cover the history of Thanksgiving, the habits and behaviors of wild turkeys, and share interesting facts about turkeys, including how it nearly became our national bird.

Lake Corpus Christi State Park
Get in the holiday spirit with the second annual Holiday Light Drive Thru 6-9 pm December 10. Visitors can enter the park for a drive through the lighted areas of Javelina and Opossum Bend camping loops, plus the Old Pavilion.

West Texas and the Panhandle-area parks

Franklin Mountains State Park
Pack your Thanksgiving leftovers and hike 1.5 miles up to Aztec Caves during the park’s Turkey Trot at 11 am November 25. On December 3, make ornaments and holiday cards with recycled materials as part of the Art in the Parks series. During Cookies and Cocoa, you can decorate and take home your own Christmas treat while sipping on a cup of hot chocolate 2-4 pm December 23. Come back on Christmas Eve for a guided, two-mile Santa Hike at 11 am.

Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site
Bring your family out for Home for the Holidays guided family hike on December 10 and moderate hike on 17.

San Angelo State Park
Enjoy a drive-thru tour of lights and optional pictures with Santa and Smokey Bear during Holly-Days in the Park 6-8 pm December 10.

Affluent Fort Worth neighbor leads list of lavish holiday spending budgets in U.S.

Santa Baby

As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, holiday shopping budgets are in the spotlight, and a study from WalletHub lists Flower Mound as one of the top cities where Santa doesn't need a whole lot of help.

According to the personal finance website, the average holiday budget in Flower Mound is $3,531 per person, the third highest in the nation.

The town's 2021 population of 77,243 (per the U.S. Census) boasts a median income $139,703 and earlier this year was named by Ventured.com as the richest city in Texas.

In spite of an increase over last year's gift list totals, Flower Mound dropped to the third spot after being ranked No. 1 last year with a budget of $3,427. Newton, Massachusetts (budget $4,233) and Palo Alto, California (budget $3,920) edged out the Texas city this year.

Flower Mound was the only Texas city in the top 10, but there's plenty of holiday cheer to be found in the report, and not just for Flower Mound Santa fans.

Each year, WalletHub calculates the maximum holiday budget for over 550 U.S. cities "to help consumers avoid post-holiday regret," the website says. The study factors in income, age of the population, and other financial indicators such as debt-to-income ratio, monthly-income-to monthly-expenses ratio and savings-to-monthly-expenses ratio.

Despite nationwide focus on inflation strains, holiday spending is expected to be healthy, and higher than last year.

"The seeming social upheaval in recent times may lead households to spend more in an attempt to take some control of the environment which they can control," says Robert Wright, University of Illinois, Springfield professor emeritus who was among five experts consulted for advice about holiday shopping.

This could be good news if your Christmas wishes are on local shopping lists. Eight other North Texas cities landed in this year's top 100 heftiest holiday budgets:

  • Allen, No. 17 , $2,670
  • Frisco, No. 37, $2,150
  • McKinney, No. 45, $2,070
  • Plano, No. 50, $1,999
  • Carrollton, No. 55, $1,837
  • Richardson, No. 58, $1,823
  • North Richland Hills, No. 81, $1,658
  • Lewisville, No. 90, $1,630

Fort Worth landed at No. 366 with a budget of $890, while Dallas landed at No. 401 out of 558 cities with an average holiday budget of $845.

Elsewhere in Texas, spending in the Austin area won't be ho-hum with the Capitol City's budget of $1,705 ranked at No. 78. Two Austin suburbs, Cedar Park (budget $2,855) and League City (budget $2,541) ranked 14 and 20, respectively.

Santa's bag could be a mixed bag in the Houston area with three suburbs in the top 100, but the urban center falling behind:

  • Sugar Land, No. 15, $2,793
  • Pearland, No. 36, $2,172
  • The Woodlands, No. 71, $1,733
  • Houston, No. 366, $890

Things don't look too jolly for San Antonio, ranked at No. 431 with an average budget of $803 or Pharr, which was the lowest ranked city in Texas.

At No. 553 with a budget of $487, the Rio Grande Valley city came in just a few spots ahead of last place Hartford, Connecticut, with a budget of only $211.