Nearly three years after leaving West Berry Street, traditional Tex Mex haven Los Vaqueros is taking another run at the TCU crowd, this time touting something it didn't have before: ample parking.
Opened in August by the Cisneros family, local Tex Mex restaurateurs for decades, Los Vaqueros University takes over the Old Rip's space, just a block from its previous location, where Cafe Brazil now resides. In an area known for parking headaches, Los Vaq has its very own lot, a big plus.
This location is quite different from the rustically decorated, behemoth Los Vaqueros flagship on the north side. It's small and classy, with large windows, brightly colored murals and a lovely landscaped patio. Fans of TCU will love the purple margaritas, purple menus and go-Frogs messages written, in purple, of course, on the windows.
The menu is shorter than the north side location's, but signature dishes remain: tortilla soup, "homestyle" enchilada plates and combo dinners named after Cisneros family members -- Sonya's Favorite, Susana's Favorite, Victoria's Favorite, etc.
A solid bet is the restaurant's signature cheese and onion enchilada dinner ($9.95). A pair of soft, warm corn tortillas came filled with melted Jack and cheddar cheese and diced onions. They were served "homestyle," topped with a meatless, spicy red sauce, along with shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes. Accompanying Mexican rice had a slight kick to it and refried beans were creamy and flavorful.
We also liked the stuffed avocado ($9.95), one of four salads offered. How is this a salad? Two avocado slices were stuffed with a terrific chicken salad, a little sweet, a little smoky.
Upon the recommendation of our friendly, attentive server, we tried the Relleno Combination ($13.95) -- a chile relleno, chicken enchilada, charro beans and rice -- but found a few problems. We liked the chile relleno, a lightly battered, poblano pepper filled with melted Monterrey Jack and cheddar cheese and topped with a rich ranchera sauce. But the pepper was tiny. It was actually dwarfed by the enchilada, which came doused in a sour cream sauce and filled with plenty of shredded chicken; too bad it had such a strangely bitter aftertaste.
Four avocado slices came on the side; two had slightly browned edges. A small corn medley was good, as were the soupy charro beans.
For dessert, we tried the housemade flan ($4.95) and loved its silky texture and sugar-rush syrup.
Los Vaq is certainly taking a chance on this new space. It is, after all, right next door to unflinching TCU hangout Fuzzy's Taco Shop, and across the street from where it closed not that long ago. But with a parking lot in place and its enchiladas as good as ever, it could very well find success among the purple pride audience.