Palm Street Bar & Grill on South Padre Island used to be just a place to grab a sandwich, enjoy a spirit or listen to good music. Not anymore. The bar and grill, now operating under the name Lobo Del Mar Café, has transformed into a potpourri of entertainment, art, food and people under the direction of a large family group of entrepreneurs.
Sitting at the end of West Palm Street on the shoreline of the Laguna Madre, Lobo Del Mar Café even offers parasailing adventures as part of the new venture. One side of the building now houses a sort of mini-museum featuring handmade wooden string instruments representing many corners of the world. There is also an art gallery and a handmade jewelry area, where each item is for sale.
Some of the family members play music a couple of nights a week on the stage, while other nights Island musicians perform. Out on the deck, family members assist people to hop on a parasail to take a sky hike above the Island.
So, Lobo Del Mar, or the sea wolf, is truly family affair, and a quite large family at that. “We have about 60 members all together,” said Rachael Panzer, who makes jewelry. “Everybody is in charge of something.” The family members that bought the business came together from around the continental United States, Hawaii and Mexico. In addition, the extended family consists of Jewish Israelis, and Hawaiian-Japanese and German descendants.
The new name is a nod to the many years some of the new owners spent on the sea, whether sailing, fishing or traveling to foreign countries to experience dozens of different cultures. The heads of the clan are Rupert and Carrol Buntin. Their 11 sons and daughters are still together with them, and as time went by the family grew to what it is today.
The musicians in the family originally got together as a Celtic band, but now perform with bagpipes as well as play bluegrass, western swing, rock and Mexican music. A dance troupe steps out with flamenco, belly and Polynesian dances.
“We are now a mixed plate,” Carrol said, referring to an old Hawaiian saying about many different things being in one place. “We have a bar and grill, a café, take people on parasailing, dolphin watch and fishing trips.”
But it’s their music that is seemingly attracting scores of people to Lobo Del Mar. On a recent Tuesday, some family members played rock ‘n’ roll, country, Mexican and Cajun tunes. About a dozen girls, many of them wearing western boots, danced in unison as people watched and snapped pictures.
And just about sundown, three musicians grabbed bagpipes on the deck next to the bay. One of them stood alone playing Taps with a bagpipe as the sun set. Minutes later, he played the national anthem as people stood up, many of them singing while others could be seen with tears streaming down their cheeks.
“We do this every day at sundown,” Carrol said. “We do it for respect and to honor those who serve their country.”
Lobo Del Mar is still an evolving business and Panzer said they are planning to hold public events perhaps as early as this summer.
For visitors like Pat Aderman and Greg Judd, the Lobo Del Mar family is providing a new venue for the Island, and they are glad to have the opportunity to enjoy it. “They are a very interesting family,” Judd said. “They are all polite and friendly, even the little ones.” Aderman agreed. “They are turning this place around. I understand they are all related and come from different countries. I really enjoy their music.”