It has been more than 30 years since the opening of Cobbleheads in Brownsville and the local establishment keeps on providing a place to eat, to hold gatherings and to listen to music.
The local bar and grill introduced the Philly steak sandwich to this part of the country thanks to Philadelphian Joe Kenney. It has weathered the storm from other locally- and franchise-owned businesses throughout those years.
Keeping it “new and different”
Perhaps several factors contribute to its longevity. One is that the popular hangout has been a longtime venue for hundreds of local and out-of-town musicians. Latin jazz, blues, folk music, rock ‘n roll, country and even classical music bands are among the genres heard from the many groups that have played and still do today. Live music is a feature about five days a week, or from Wednesday through Sunday.
Kenney said Grammy Award winners, including Poncho Sanchez and the king of timbales, the late Tito Puente, have played at Cobbleheads. The Brew, Del Castillo, the old Connectors, The Bluzanos, The Chris Rivera Band and hundreds of other groups from Harlingen to McAllen have and still do entertain the crowds at the family-owned and -run business.
Kenney said the restaurant has also been a venue for political fundraisings, birthdays, wedding celebrations and many other events.
“We have had hundreds of such events,” he said, “but having live bands has been a Cobbleheads tradition.”
Musicians from as young as third-grader Kane Alavarado of Bryan to retirees have played at the bar and grill for nearly the last three decades.
“We keep trying new and different things,” Kenney said. “This is a safe place for people to hangout.”
The Cobbleheads community
Cobbleheads has gone through a number of changes. This includes adding a large backroom and a patio where blues has been the music du jour the last 10 years. It’s perhaps the first bar and grill to open on the banks of the city’s resaca system. A kayak race is even held every spring there during Brownsville Charro Days.
Kenney and his family have been supporters of many of the town‘s organizations. He is proud to say that their place is pretty much free of criminal mischief.
“The local police officers often tell me they hardly get dispatched to Cobbleheads,” he said. “We run a family type of atmosphere.”
He said the food quality is another factor why the business has survived throughout all these years. Although employee turnovers plague the restaurant industry, some of Cobbleheads workers have been on the payroll for 20 some years. Among them are Ray Cifuentes and Miguel Hernandez. Lucio Gonzalez has been a bartender for the last 10 years.
Longtime patrons Ramon and Marta Fernandez said they got married at Cobbleheads in November 2016.
“We picked this place because we have been coming here for many years,” Marta Fernandez said. “We rented the whole place.”
Georgina Braley said she started coming to Cobbleheads in 2006. She still does because she likes the ambiance, the music and the comradery.