La Plazita Mexican Restaurant: A Gathering Place for Authentic Tastes

La Plazita mexican tyler tx eguide restaurants 2Written and Photographed By Barbara King

How can you tell that you’ve stumbled across an authentic Mexican restaurant? The first clue might be that La Plazita is family owned and operated, and that the Cornelio family originates from Mexico. The family opened their dream business nine years ago, on Highway 64 just before you get to the airport.

The name is unique and different too, and as daughter Mayra explains, “it means ‘center of town,’ or ‘gathering place’ in Spanish and describes just what we hope happens here. People come and visit, eat, mingle, and enjoy our food.”

Chances are you will be greeted, seated, and served by a member of the extended Cornelio family, be it a sister, brother-in-law, niece, or nephew. The restaurant, opened by Mario and his wife Del, is a testimony to years of hard work, a passion for food, and a love of people. The couple even reside next door, right next to the umbrella-laden patio for outside dining.

“My father learned about the restaurant business from years of working himself up from dishwasher, to bus boy, to chef,” explains Cornelio. “Our whole family knows how hard you have to work to be successful, because there are lots of different options when you go out to eat. We put our heart and soul into making our guests feel at home, and our reputation is really important, because it reflects our pride in our family.”

The bright and colorful dining room is a beehive of activity at lunchtime, and every table and booth is packed with customers. People can spot a good deal when they see one, and they often recognize the authenticity of the food and also the extravagant portions. Mayra laughs and says that she can spot a first-timer at the restaurant. “They have no idea how generous the portions are and will order, for example, three enchiladas and will always end up taking them home.”

What’s on the menu at La Plazita? Everything you could imagine when searching for authentic Mexican cuisine and a lot more. Begin your culinary journey with an appetizer, and there’s lots to choose from, Chile con queso, guacamole, pico de gallo, charro beans, or nachos.

Listed on their menu as favorites are Guerrero Enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas and Carne Asada. You can mix it up and get combos of tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, tamales, flautas and stuffed bell peppers. Lunch specials that are served alongside beans or a Mexican salad include cheese enchiladas, crispy tacos, smoked sausage tacos, or lunch fajitas. Chips and salsa are included with the purchase of any entrée.

Lunch entrées are served Monday-Saturday from 11am-3pm, ranging from $7.99-$8.99, and you’ll get your money’s worth if you order fajita wraps, vegetable quesadillas, or carne asada.

Dinner entrées will have your taste buds in an uproar. Specialties include Chicken Monterey, grilled pork chops, tamales, sour cream enchiladas, burritos, tacos, and three-colored enchiladas. The green sauce is spicy with a kick but highly recommended by pleased customers. Menudo (Mexican soup) with tortillas is the weekend featured special on Saturdays and Sundays.

La Plazita is most definitely a family environment, so bring the kids for their small size tacos, enchiladas, nachos, grilled cheese, chicken tenders, hamburger, cheeseburgers, or hot dogs.

For the less adventurous, they offer several American-style items such as salads like avocado, chef, and fiesta; sandwiches such as chicken salad, club, grilled ham and cheese, and BLTs; chicken-fried steak and hamburgers.

Don’t forget dessert! For $1.89, you can feast on a sopapilla, the warm Mexican pastry, drizzled with honey and dusted with cinnamon sugar, and topped with whipped cream and a cherry. Chocolate lovers get ready for a chocolate chimichanga, a flour tortilla stuffed with a snickers bar, dusted with cinnamon and sugar, and topped with chocolate syrup, whipped cream and a cherry.

Karen, a transplant to East Texas from southern California, was enjoying a late lunch and raved about the flavor. “Living in California, I was exposed to great Mexican food,” she said. “You tend to favor the things you grew up with, and I spent a lot of time looking for that authentic taste, and I found it here.”

Reservations are not required, but Cornelio encourages larger groups to call ahead because the dining room only holds about 100 guests. “My parents are so proud to see the business growing and growing,” she says, “and plans are underway to expand the dining room.” Catering is available for special events, but orders must be picked up from the restaurant.

What you will not see at La Plazita is glitzy signage, expensive menus, or fancy tablecloths, but you will get great authentic food, great service, and a comfortable atmosphere.

“We feel that what makes us different is the extra care we take in preparing everything fresh, from the enchiladas to the salsa to the beans,” says Cornelio. “We care that when you leave, you’ll come back and maybe bring more friends and family with you.”

Come visit the Cornelio family and join them for a meal at La Plazita, located at 11980 Highway 64W., Tyler, close to the Tyler Pounds Field Airport.

Restaurant hours are Monday-Thursday 7am to 9pm, Friday 7am to 10pm, Saturday 6:30am-10pm and Sunday 7am to 3pm.

For more information call (903)526-4193.