Grand flavor, personality at Brownsville’s El Mesquite

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The mustard chicken breast fajita plate at El Mesquite restaurant in Brownsville. (Travis M. Whitehead | Valley Morning Star)

BROWNSVILLE — I know the meal will serve my appetite very well because I can’t find any place to park until I drive to the back.

An immediate intrigue occurs to me as I observe that El Mesquite Restaurant has a fresh look and has only been open since 2013, yet it has already built up quite a clientele.

I spend quite a bit of time in Brownsville but I am not a complete authority on the kind of traffic in different parts of this fine city, but the restaurant’s location at 3302 Coffee Road doesn’t appear to be a highly trafficked place.

And yet the place is packed, and inside I find a lively place with good food and good aromas and conversation.

Even with the large lunch crowd, a waitress immediately attends to me and directs me to a table near a wall which suits me perfectly. It is a clean table and perfectly situated for me to observe the movements and the faces and the gestures of the people.

As many of my readers know, I prefer a crowded restaurant to one that is empty. Certainly not so crowded that I must wait in line, but this is a perfect measure of a restaurant’s quality.

There is a snapping and popping of sharp Spanish syllables that jump into the air with a sort of flare and spice that I appreciate. The festive Spanish rises above the mundane and the commonplace of the clinking of glasses and the scraping of chairs.

A woman with heavy, perfect blonde hair and strong makeup leans toward a man more casual in his appearance and his demeanor. She seems a little too formal in her appearance.

The menu before me now presents many of my familiar favorites.

Country enchiladas. I don’t know what they mean by “country” but enchiladas are always good.

The menu at El Mesquite restaurant in Brownsville. (Travis M. Whitehead | Valley Morning Star)

Homemade mole? Every time I see the word “mole,” I remember stepping into a little café in the historical center of Morelia and tasting my first mole more than 20 years ago. It was a little hot, but it was good and I enjoyed it very much and have eaten it many times since then.

Certainly mole is good, and so are fajitas and beef soup and milanesa and hamburgers with French fries.

But what catches my attention now is mustard chicken breast fajita. Now I recall hearing many times the debate about the chicken fajita. Many people have insisted and they still insist that there is no such thing as a chicken fajita. Fajita is beef skirt and chickens don’t have beef nor do they have skirts.

But I’m not concerned about such debates. What I’m concerned about is chcken breast fajita made with mustard. I’ve never heard of such a dish and I think a chef has created something unique and marvelous and I think I would like to explore this new wonder.

I place my order.

At once my whole perception of this table changes when the heavy older man sitting across from her in his gray hat leaves for a moment. His leaving reveals a woman sharply dressed in a fine Charro Days dress with ornate white designs and stitched leather boots.

She is excited about Charro Days and she is in the spirit of Charro Days and it is good to see. Charro Days is everywhere in the air, because I then notice another woman in an embroidered Charro Days top with colorful flowers speaking with an older man in festive costume and she asks him, “Do they have a lot of fruit in Spain?”

It is a serious question and she is speaking with this man from Spain and wants to know more about Spain and its wonders. Of course it all ties in to Charro Days which is in its 87th year and everyone is joyous and happy.

My plate arrives.

The chicken breast spreads across my plate with a yellow hue on it that is unmistakably mustard. The mustard wasn’t just a cute and intriguing word someone pinned on it, but instead is a strong ingredient in the preparation of this plate. I dive into this new experience with my usual gusto and I am not disappointed. There’s a tartness and a kick to the taste which I enjoy so much that I request a box to take the rest with me.

The restaurant has emptied and I now taking my leave, heading downtown to cover the Charro Days’ children’s parade on Elizabeth Street.

El Mesquite Restaurant is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily at 3302 Coffee Road in Brownsville. For information, call (956) 574-9477