History Bites: The Vermillion Restaurant and Watering Hole celebrating 88 years

by Gretchen Losi

It was 1934, John Dillinger was public enemy number one, Donald Duck was introduced to the world, and the Great Depression was at its worst. This is also the year the now-famous Vermillion opened its doors–and they have been open and expanding ever since. 

Named after its founders, The Vermillion began feeding hungry locals after the couple built a small, flip-front hamburger stand on the corner of Boca Chica Boulevard and Paredes Line Road in Brownsville.  

The eatery quickly earned the loyalty of locals for its good food and cold beer. The couple enjoyed much success for some 20 years until, in the late ‘40s, the owner had to sell due to health issues. Thankfully, the Davidson family was there to take the business to the next level. 

G.L. “Gib” Davidson bought the restaurant and kept everything that made it special, from the authentic flavors to the icy-cold beer. Locals continued to flock there, and the business grew.

In 1971, Gib took a back seat and handed the now-iconic hot spot over to his son, Daniel, who continued its success and earned a reputation in the community as an all-around good guy.

One person who can attest to this is the eatery’s current owner, George Perez. Perez was a dishwasher, working for Davidson in the ‘80s, until he was fired–not because he wasn’t a great worker but because Davidson heard the young man’s grades were slipping. So Davidson, being the good guy he was, told Perez to “get those grades up and come back.” Perez returned a few months later and has never worked anywhere else.

Knowing the restaurant like the palm of his hand and dedicating his life to turning the Vermillion into the famous historical Rio Grande Valley icon it is today paid off for Perez. Before Davidson’s death, he turned ownership over to Perez, who proudly runs it today with his wife, Rachel, and mother, Esther, who has been working there since 1968.

Their tagline continues to be “Not fancy- Just good” for a reason. Their quality is as solid as their history. The old, classic, wood bar stands ready to serve something cold to the thirsty guest, surrounded by comfortable seating and friendly folks.

Open daily from 11 a.m.-11 p.m., this local treasure is still well known for its authentic flavors in dishes like enchiladas and chalupas, as well as for its burgers, seafood, and appetizers, like wings and ceviche. 

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