The Mid-Valley’s Doña Paz is a fine restaurant with personality

The fajita quesadilla plate is seen at Mexican Restaurant Doña Paz on Business 83 in Weslaco. (Travis Whitehead/Valley Morning Star)

WESLACO — There’s nothing better than a Sunday breakfast of chorizo and eggs and fine coffee — except breakfast in the company of others.

That’s why I’m glad I’ve stepped into Mexican Restaurant Doña Paz this morning on Business 83, where a fine diversity of diners enjoy coffee, breakfast tacos and conversation.

“Adelante,” says a waitress to man with a firm step and a denim jacket. He takes the booth in front of me and the waitress quickly takes his order.

There’s a collage of people and experiences appearing and dissipating moment by moment, the pieces changing and rearranging themselves like the colored shards of a kaleidoscope.

An older woman soaks her pancakes with syrup, and her gentleman friend dips his hash browns into sauce. Four men and a woman engage in warm discourse over empty plates and crumpled napkins; two teenage girls work their cell phones; and old men in straw hats reflect on the old times, or perhaps the new times, or perhaps something else.

This is my second visit to Doña Paz and certainly not the last.

Service is quick and friendly; the menu offers barbacoa, machacado con huevo, migas, chilaquiles and oatmeal.

It’s a fine variety, in a dining room charmed with glistening papel picado, soft-lit village paintings on the walls and the russet colored tiles spreading across the floor.

Patrons reflect a familiarity that reveals this is a popular restaurant with its share of regulars.

New arrivals nod to friends already seated; there is a continuous rhythm of hugs, embraces and smiles.

I had made my first visit early the previous week, taking a late lunch on a weekday.

“Anywhere you like, sir,” said the waitress.

That was an easy choice because the dining room had just emptied of its lunch crowd.

I could see the restaurant had done a brisk business; restaurant staff cleared tables and moved carts full of dishes, plates and silverware – a good indication I was about to have a fine meal.

I took a booth against the wall and a waitress quickly brought me chips and a menu.

I was pleased at the offerings. There were caldos of chicken and beef; guacamole and choriqueso appetizers; shrimp quesadillas and fish tacos; and several intriguing renditions of the ever-present burger.

My eyes landed on the fajita quesadilla, and I promptly placed my order.

Now, I had took a little time to observe my surroundings.

The room I found had a sort of festive flare with the green and red papel picado casting a soft rhythm as a slow fan blew it back and forth.

I appreciated the painting above my table of a sunny seaside town with flowering trees and a still blue bay. On a far wall hung a Diego painting of a girl with her arms around a bundle of calla lilies.

The waitresses all engaged in playful Spanish dialogue as they cleared tables and wiped them down.

My fajita quesadilla arrived, and it was so delicious that when I’d had my fill I asked for a box.

It was a grand meal, but something was missing from the experience. I couldn’t figure out what at first, but I realized finally that there was an emptiness about it all because I was the only one there. I needed people around me to fully perceive the value of Doña Paz Mexican Restaurant.

This revelation gave me cause to consider the matter more fully. The personality of this restaurant, while lovely and unique, was static, unmoving. Why? Because the personality of a dining room can’t be fully realized until people appear.

With that appearance, the different parts of its whole – the papel picado, the colors, the villages scenes, the music, the big screen TV – begin to move and change in their relationship with the continuous shifting of customers in and out of the establishment.

The black hoodies, the straw hats, the girls with their cell phones, the layered conversations and clattering of forks all create a kaleidoscopic rearrangement of things, each moment a new pattern to an otherwise static view.

This is what truly makes Doña Paz a fine and unique experience. The food is delicious, the service excellent, but it’s the customers entering the doors and finding their places that create a more complete and human experience for everyone.

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