With our daily lives slowly returning to “the New Normal,” my dining partner and I have been patiently waiting and hoping for the return of dining-in at the “Vega’s Fiesta” Mexican restaurant in Jonesborough.

When my dining partner found the notice on the Vega’s Restaurant’s Facebook page, she made a quick phone call to all of the dine-around bunch members inviting them for an evening of al fresco dining enjoyment.

As we entered Vega’s Fiesta parking lot, the signage on the restaurant’s façade directed those dining dine-in around to the back of the building, where the patio and pavilion are located. Vega’s Fiesta’s patio has “social distanced” seating under the umbrellas for thirty or so, and there’s room for an additional forty or so in the pavilion. The wait staff efficiently covers the increased distance between tables and the kitchen, and still has a smile for their customers.

Primavera Quesadilla: The Retiree opted for the Quesadilla Primavera ($9.99), an entrée that my dining partner and I had enjoyed not too long ago. Here, white meat chicken, spinach, onions and mushrooms are all sautéed together, then wrapped in a flour tortilla and grilled. Thus loaded, the quesadilla is then served with lettuce, sour cream, homemade pico di gallo relish and guacamole along with some of Vega’s Fiesta’s excellent seasoned rice. Needless to say, the Retiree was quite pleased with her supper. After having a taste of her Quesadilla Primavera, I had to agree.

Pollo Guanajuato: The Carnivore ordered Chicken Guanajuato ($10.49) or “Chicken as prepared in the Mexican city of Guanajuato.” This is white meat chicken sautéed with spinach and mushrooms, drizzled in Vega’s Fiesta cheese dip and served with seasoned rice, refried beans guacamole, pico di gallo, lettuce and sour cream. The good people in Guanajuato must know a good thing when they cook it. I noticed that, while my meat-eating friend’s fork was zeroing in on the pieces of sautéed chicken, he was also scooping up more vegetables than meat with each bite.

Texas Vega’s Fiesta Salad w/ Chicken: The Dieter’s choice was the Texas Vega’s Fiesta Salad ($11.99) adding chicken as her protein source. A flour tortilla is molded into a bowl shape and then deep-fried until crispy. It is then filled with lots of lettuce, rice, grilled chicken chunks, then slices of bell pepper and tomatoes. Next, melted cheese is drizzled over all of it. The Dieter does not like to eat her Fiesta Salad layer by layer; she prefers to mix all of the elements together with some judicious stirring so as to get something of everything in each bite she takes. The Dieter also likes to break off a piece of the fried tortilla bowl, adding texture and crunch to her meal.

Grilled Chicken Chimichangas: My dining partner went with the Grilled Chicken Chimichangas platter ($9.99). Here, two flour tortillas are filled with shredded chicken that has been sautéed with tomatoes, onions and bell pepper slices, then deep-fried and zig-zagged with melted cheese. The platter is then finished with a side order of refried beans and garnished with guacamole and sour cream. My dining partner was very pleased with the texture and the taste of her chicken chimichangas order. After sharing it around the table, the rest of us had to agree with her.

Coctel de Camarone with Chile Relleno: My supper was a Vega’s Fiesta signature entrée, the Coctel de Camarone (this means “Shrimp Cocktail,” Anglos) for $8.99, and a chile relleno ($3.89) ordered a la carte. The relleno was an unrolled poblano pepper layered with ground beef and melted cheese; it was okay, but nothing special. On the other hand, the Coctel de Camarone was very special indeed. Instead of the usual Americanized-version, constructed of five or six boiled shrimp served with a dollop of tomato and horseradish cocktail sauce, Vega’s Fiesta’s Coctel de Camarone is a blending of ketchup, fresh-squeezed lime juice, succulent clam juice and some of the house’s proprietary pepper sauce into a tangy and colorful seafood-laced broth. Next was added diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro, chunks of ripe, creamy avocado and (of course) a good quantity of succulent jumbo shrimp, then given a good stir to distribute all the solid elements throughout the liquid. After chilling, this “seafood soup” was brought to table in a sizable and clear glass bowl, garnished with a boiled shrimp and al wedge of lime. Though some cracker packets were included with the meal, these were not needed as I was reveling in the succulent shrimp and the mélange of flavors in every spoonful.

The bottom line: It is great to see Vega’s Fiesta return to on-site dining. Their use of the patio and pavilion as their dining area is an inspired move, especially with the approach of the summer season. The dining venue is attractive, comfortable and fulfills the requirements of social distancing with minimal bother. Though the wait staff has a longer round trip from kitchen to dining area, they are working hard to make sure their customers are greeted, seated and served in a timely and pleasant manner. The menu at Vega’s Fiesta is compact yet varied enough to attract your interest and guarantee your return patronage. Take it from my buds in the dine-around bunch: Vega’s Fiesta Mexican restaurant is an “al fresco” dining delight.

Recommended by the Mystery Diner.