Blanquita’s in Harlingen offers both simplicity and extravagance

South Texas Flavor

A menu and one of the more popular dishes from Blanquita’s Mexican Restaurant in Harlingen on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. (Travis Whitehead | Valley Morning Star)

HARLINGEN — I step out of the November cold into the warm restaurant and wait for instructions.

“Anywhere you want,” says the waiter at Blanquita’s Mexican Restaurant at 2728 E. Harrison Ave.

I sit at a simple brown table next to a wall, and the waiter immediately brings me a menu.

“Coffee?” he asks. “Regular coffee?”

I nod in agreement, and my hot coffee arrives, a fine antidote to the wet cold outside.

The room is alive with an older crowd, retirees with stiff knees and piercing insights into the lives they’ve known, who punctuate their conversations with strong hand gestures and bold expressions of the eyes.

“Incognito,” someone says.

“If I turn it off it screws everything up,” says another.

I’m there for breakfast; the menu in front of me creates an annoying distraction from the pleasantness of the dining room.

But I look down and am delighted to see line after line of breakfast items from which to choose.

The simple menu lists breakfast plates of potato and egg, bacon and egg or chorizo and egg.

The pork chop with two eggs is especially inviting, as are the waffles, the Blanquita’s breakfast with eggs, bacon and sausage, and the atole on a cold more like this would really be nice.

But this morning I choose the western omelet with sausage.

I’ve eaten here a couple of times in the past, the last time during COVID when dining rooms were closed and local establishments struggled to stay open any way they could by simply offering carryout. It was a dark time when the world had ground to halt and being able to step in to Blanquita’s to at least purchase a familiar meal with the much sought after omelet and hash browns offered a momentary relief.

So this morning in honor of the resurrection from that time I order again the omelet and then sip my coffee for awhile.

This is a simple place without any of the pretense or cramped ostentation of more upscale places, and that perhaps explains why so many customers this morning greet each other and the staff with familiar smiles and handshakes and back slaps.

A man walks up and picks up his carryout while conversing with the cashier with obvious camaraderie. Waiters cajole with customers in quick Spanish while older men in faded jeans converse in a distinct Southern drawl.

Plates with calla lilies and sunflowers hang on pale green walls, while boisterous ceramic roosters survey the scene from shelves. Paintings of Mexican villages and the Virgin de Guadalupe add charming accents to the experience.

“Excuse me.”

I turn to my left and a waitress has my plate, and I enjoy the same taste as I have before. Two warm corn tortillas make for a fine blanket to wrap around chunks of egg, sausage, potatoes and refried beans, and I quickly down the meal.

Potatoes, beans and an omelet from Blanquita’s Mexican Restaurant in Harlingen serves up traditional Mexican dishes Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. (Travis Whitehead | Valley Morning Star)

This is a family-owned business, and as such, they have their procedures practiced to a science that translates into consistency.

And that’s undoubtedly another reason why Blanquita’s is so popular.

A few hours later and I find a very different crowd enjoying lunch. This is a younger clientele, the 20-somethings and 30-somethings on their lunch break from work. There’s still the same intimacy between customers and staff, and I look over a menu that I don’t believe I’ve seen. I realize now I’ve never had lunch at Blanquita’s, so my eyes roam around the listings and land on the beef fajitas.

The dining room is packed and there’s the steady movement of tables emptying and the refilling and then emptying again. My meal takes quite awhile to arrive, a little too long in my opinion, but then the place is packed as it always is, because this is Blanquita’s, where everybody knows your name.

And the beef fajitas, once they arrive, are well worth the wait.