WESLACO — A boy in a starched shirt cuts eagerly into his soaked pancake, speaking quickly to his parents eating slowly for the joy of the moment.
It’s Sunday morning at Jose’s Cafecito at the Villa de Cortez and people crowd the tables enjoying the familiar and consistent flavors for which Jose’s is known: plates of migas, eggs and sausage, machacado con huevo, barbacoa with potatoes …
Jose’s Cafecito has earned a fine reputation for many years with its food and service.
Years ago when I lived in Weslaco I visited this iconic restaurant quite often. Quite taken with the food and its dual purpose as a social venue, I wrote about it quite often.
A journal entry from July 2003 says I stepped into Jose’s Cafecito at about 8:30 a.m. and observed former WISD educator Charles Warren.
“Well hello, Travis,” he says 20 years ago, sitting at the first table inside the door in a blue T-shirt with a Big Dogs logo while his Godson Mikey shifts restlessly in a wooden highchair.
“What’s your favorite plate?” I ask.
“The usual thing I get here is two toasted biscuits,” he says. “I have had pancakes here, chorizo and egg plate.”
I order machacado con huevo — eggs with shredded beef — and the waiter asks if I want it a la Mexicana.
“Peppers, onions and tomatoes,” he says.
A few minutes later he brings a plate stacked with warm hash browns, refried beans, scrambled eggs with strips of shredded beef and a confetti of red onions, grilled onions and green bell peppers.
Twenty years later, the food is still so good I have to wait with several others for a table.
A waitress takes my name and I take my place on the comfortable benches inside the door. I absorb the nuances of the dining room, the smooth arches of red stone brick, the gentle light from the chandeliers, the clatter of plates and the rush of conversation through the air. The smell of coffee and fresh eggs cooking and meat roasting teases the hunger and tugs at the yearning of things.
“Alex?” a waitress asks.
“Right over here,” she says.
More tables clear. Elderly groups with the zest and energy of their early years still lingering move toward the door while engaged in quick conversation. One woman taps eagerly on her smart phone, doors move quickly with exits and entries.
Finally a waitress gestures for me to follow her to a table.
I study the menu and order a bacon and cheese omelet.
I take a moment to more fully observe the dining room. The walls are covered with paintings of village streets and inspirational messages.
“Good morning,” reads one. “This is God. I will be handling all your problems today.”
Other messages include “The Police Officer’s Prayer” and “Fireman’s Prayer.”
My meal arrives and it is as good as it was 20 years ago. I leave fully satisfied with a new memory of an old establishment
Two days later I return for lunch and I find a very different setting. Diners have taken up only a few tables and the waitress says, “Anywhere you like, go ahead.”
I choose a small table against one of the brick arches. I already know what I want, tacos a la plancha, and quickly place my order. I see more fully the calming effect of this place, with the country ballads and the carved pillars and vines draping over walls.
I enjoy this experience, this calming, this revitalizing of things. That morphs slowly as I wait … and wait … I end up waiting more than 30 minutes, when there are only a few other customers in the dining room.
Jose’s Cafecito has a fine reputation for its food and service going back decades, something they would never achieve if a long wait was typical.
And once the order arrives, the food is grand as always, chewy flour tortillas filled with grilled onions and bell peppers and generous chunks of meat.