Family is exceedingly important in Vega’s Fiesta, a Mexican style mom-and-pop restaurant right off Highway 11 E in Jonesborough, Tennessee. The focus of the dining room is an abstract painting filled with bright streaks of purple and green on a stark white background. This may seem out of place on the orange wall of the dining room to a patron unfamiliar with the Guzman family’s story. This painting is the work of Diana Guzman, Maria De la Luz Guzman’s late daughter.
Guzman lost her daughter five years ago in a motor vehicle accident.
“She loves those colors. She did that painting up there,” said Guzman with pride. “So, now this is like home to me.”
Guzman and five of her siblings opened Vega’s Fiesta 11 years ago. They bought the restaurant after a few years of renting and decided to renovate once the building was in their name.
“This was the dream,” said Guzman. “My brothers have worked in different restaurants and I, even myself, worked for McDonald’s, but this was the dream. So, one day we said, ‘you know what, let’s try it.’ We tried it, and were still here so...”
Vega’s Fiesta started out as a six-sibling dream, but their numbers have dwindled down to four. Guzman attributes their leaving the business to a lack of love for the industry.
“The more important thing when you have a business is you have to love what you do,” said Guzman. “That’s the secret, because if you don’t love what you do it’s not worth it.”
Guzman pointed out money is not always good in the restaurant industry, and at times when things get tight it’s her passion for what she does that gets her through the day.
Guzman’s love for the restaurant is shown in the little touches she displays around the building—like the fresh roses on every table.
“Every time I eat at Vega’s Fiesta there’s two fresh roses on the table,” said Trisha Wilhoit. “We used to go for lunch after church every Sunday before they started closing on Sundays.”
Guzman does a little bit of everything at Vega’s Fiesta, from décor to finances, but her true passion lies in the kitchen. Guzman’s love for cooking is reflected in the authenticity of the menu; all the traditional dishes offered on the menu are family recipes from Guzman’s upbringing.
Dishes like flautas, deep fried taquitos in a corn shell served with bright green guacamole salad, rice, and refried beans; or pozole, a bright red soup filled with hominy, pork, and chili peppers. To finish the meal with a sweet treat, Vega’s Fiesta offers a selection of desserts including flan, a custard dessert made from eggs and cream; “pastel de 5 leches”, a moist cake smothered in condensed milks; and a bright green pistachio cake.
However, the restaurant does offer a “Tex-Mex” style menu as well for more Americanized-Mexican dishes.
“I love to cook,” said Guzman. “When I’m making mole, it feels like I’m in another world.”
Guzman’s favorite dish to make is a Mole, (mo-lay) a Mexican gravy Guzman compared to American barbeque sauce. She described the dish as a little sweet, a little spicy, and filled to the brim with different condiments. She was taught this recipe by her grandmother who learned it from her grandmother before her.
Dustin Owens, a longtime patron of Vega’s Fiesta, has been eating mole since his first visit to the restaurant in 2018.
“I didn’t think I was going to like mole but it’s one of my favorite dishes to date,” said Owens. “I didn’t even think I liked traditional Mexican food until I tried Vega’s Fiesta.”
With pages of options, there is something for everyone here. Vega’s Fiesta is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every Monday to Saturday, so come on by for some authentic homemade Mexican dishes and flavors.