Mystery Diner: Vega's Fiesta
Nov 1, 2013 at 6:17 PM
It is a real treat for me to try new and different restaurants while traveling. What is always an adventure can (hopefully) be a pleasant surprise. My latest stopover was on a Saturday trip to Knoxville. The dine-around bunch had been down to watch Tennessee host Georgia, and the Carnivore was beginning to growl. His lunchtime pound-of-flesh-on-a-bun was beginning to wear off. Fortunately, my dining partner spotted Vega’s Fiesta just as we were entering Jonesborough. After a quick quorum the five of us found our knees under the Vega’s table in the (somewhat crowded) main dining room, menus in hand. The selection is quite varied, with a number of entrees and combo diners to choose from, along with a remarkable number of side dishes and a la carte offerings. The menu’s slant is decidedly Tex-Mex, and several tasty dishes that are “muy Mexicano.” Our friend the Retiree decided to test the a la carte listings and chose the Gordita ($2.90) and a Spinach Quesadilla ($3). The Dieter picked the Chicken Fajitas platter ($7) and my dining partner the lunch-sized Fiesta Nachos ($5.25). I ordered the Sampler Platter ($10) to share round the table and a Burger Mexicano ($8) for myself. The Carnivore picked the Chicken Chimichangas entrée ($7.90). While waiting, the five of us held a tableside inquest on the quality of the Vega’s salsa (smoky, with just enough bite and lingering heat) and the tortilla chips (crisp and warm from the oven). Just as the inquest was wrapping up, our entrees arrived. I was pleased with my Burger Mexicano, a one third pound of very lean ground beef mixed with a number of Mexican spices that I am still trying to get my taste buds around, served with lettuce, tomato, sliced jalapenos and a dollop of mayonnaise on a warm burger bun. The Sampler Platter (or platters, plural; there were two of them) held a beef burrito, beef enchilada, chicken tamale, beef taco, chile relleno, rice and refried beans. If you order one of these for yourself, be sure you bring along your appetite. Of the samples, I only had issue with the Tex-Mex style chile relleno, an open- faced grilled green pepper stuffed with beef filling and little else. Fortunately, a spoonful of the salsa I mentioned earlier came to the rescue and saved the dish. The chicken tamale was very good, as was the burrito, enchilada and the beans. The only disappointment was the rice which could have used a bit more cayenne for my taste. The Retiree’s Gordita was a delight; a thicker flour tortilla made into a little meat pie and stuffed with slow-roasted carnitas (pork) then topped with lettuce, sour cream and queso resca crumbles. Two of these would provide an outstanding lunch for around six bucks. The spinach quesadilla had fresh leaf spinach mixed with grilled onions and mushrooms then grilled with melted cheese inside a flour tortilla. The Retiree suggested I add a spoonful or two of the refried beans as a taste treat, and it certainly was. My partner’s Fiesta Nachos were good if a bit too cheesy for my taste. It masked the subtle flavoring of the marinated chicken used in the dish. The Carnivore’s Chicken Chimichangas (try saying that three times fast) were complemented with a very nice salsa verde that matched the savory chicken very well. The Dieter’s Chicken Fajitas stole the show, the aforementioned marinated chicken mixed with grilled vegetables and served with lettuce, tomato, guacamole and sour cream. Tortillas were declined in this instance, but I recommend them to get the full fajitas effect. We finished the meal with a slice of the Vega’s renowned Five Milk Cake, ($3.80) a cake made from Mexican chocolate, drenched in a sweet milk mixture and frosted with whipped cream. What you get is the consistency of trifle but much lighter and tastier, the perfect extinguisher for all that Tex-Mex and Muy Mexicano spicy food we’d just had. Vega’s Fiesta does lunch as well as a “Kids & Seniors” menu that is worth a look. Speaking of which, don’t be shy about asking your friendly server (ours was David) for clarification of the menu. There is plenty to choose and enjoy at Vega’s Fiesta.