Mario Mendiola is an energetic, man-on-the-go entrepreneur and realtor who has a passion for both his hometown and its downtown.
In early 2020, he saw through a lengthy restoration of a historic two-story building on the corner of Texas Avenue and Sixth Street in downtown Weslaco. A formerly abandoned building is now a stylishly restored building for offices and upstairs apartments.
Mendiola had another downtown project brewing. He wanted to bring something new to Weslaco, a project with “a cool vibe,” as he put it. Mendiola then landed his idea on what was a large vacant lot along south Kansas Street, one block over from Texas.
Finding The Right Atmosphere
It’s The Eatery – Downtown Weslaco, a place that’s “somewhere you can go to eat a variety of good food, kick back, relax, socialize, listen to some good tunes and enjoy fresh air in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley.” A recent early evening Friday visit shows that spot is meeting the description.
As the sun set, visitors were arriving to The Eatery, with several food trucks surrounding sitting and gathering spots with large picnic tables and chairs available. There was plenty to choose from with barbecue, taquerias, burgers and hot dogs, with a coffee place as well as beer on tap. Many of the early arrivals were like Mendiola in being young adults and professionals gathering to enjoy both each other’s company and the cool vibe.
“The vision I had was that it was something Weslaco and the Mid-Valley needed,” Mendiola said of The Eatery, which opened in October 2020. “It’s something to enhance the local scene.
“You can come here and exhale a little bit and just enjoy being outdoors,” he said.
The Eatery is open seven days a week. The food trucks and local businesses there operate independently of each other and set their own hours. A coffee shop, Vintage Hot & Cold Brew, opens early and draws morning customers. There’s a lunch crowd with barbecue and burger places. The taquerias and Tex-Mex food fare draws customers at lunch and in the evenings. Live music is usually going on during weekend evenings.
Keeping It Local For Weslaco
Mendiola likes that all involved in The Eatery from a business perspective are Weslaco people.
“It’s a tight knit group here,” he said. “Everyone is from Weslaco, from the contractors and construction people who helped us set up, to the businesses we have here. Everyone helps each other out here.”
Eli Gonzalez is one of those Weslaco business people at The Eatery. He owns and runs Vintage Hot & Cold Brew. Gonzalez was looking for the right place to open up a coffee shop that also offers smoothies and energy drinks. The Eatery provided the atmosphere he was seeking for his new business.
“Something like this is something bigger cities are accustomed to having,” Gonzalez said. “I like the atmosphere we have here. Friends and family getting together to visit, with live music, I think it makes people think of coffee.
“It’s meshing well,” he said of The Eatery, which already has thousands of followers on Facebook. “I think it’s a really great addition for the Mid-Valley area.”