TCU Area Tex-Mex

The tradition of the Vaquero goes back centuries. Originally Spanish, the Mexican cowboys have their own unique history and mystique. Likewise, Los Vaqueros newest University location has a heritage all its own.

Pictured from left to right: Michael Cisneros, John Cisneros and Yvonne "Kiki" Cisneros
The Stuffed Jalapeños
The Steak Ranchera is a longtime customer favorite that features a tender ribeye steak topped with a tangy, red Ranchera sauce, accompanied by a traditional cheese enchilada, rice and charro beans.
Traditional Mexican flan is prepared daily by Chef Johnny Cisneros

by Courtney Dabney
Johnny Cisneros III serves as head chef at all the Los Vaqueros locations. You might say cooking is in his blood. He is a third-generation chef who honors his family’s heritage in a special way at the University location. A mural by local artist Darla Lyon graces the entrance of the restaurant. This painted tribute is based on a family photograph of the eldest Chef Cisneros, circa 1950, when he had the honor of serving President Dwight Eisenhower. It was a proud moment for the family.

The former home of Old Rip’s is just around the corner from the TCU campus. In fact, Los Vaqueros has had a long-standing partnership with TCU. With the baseball team now in the Big 12, they will be hosting game-day parties to celebrate throughout the season. And they have been in the habit of serving their famous Purple Frogaritas during football season (which are only $3 on game days) for many years. Their new proximity to campus will also be convenient for their TCU game-day tailgate packages, which are available for pick-up. Why cook when you can pick-up and go?

Before you lose your head and polish off an entire basket of their thin and crispy chips and fresh salsa, you need to ponder the menu. Many of the traditional combinations are named after family members and include enchiladas, tacos and tamale dishes. You will also find specialties like slow-cooked Carne Asada, stuffed Chile Rellenos, and Tacos al Carbon.

The Stuffed Jalapeños ($9.95) are an interesting twist. These are not your standard, breaded and deep-fried variety, stuffed with cream cheese. Rather, these fresh jalapeños are sliced length-wise and topped off like nachos. They are filled with taco meat and covered with shredded cheese before being baked. A generous scoop of homemade guacamole and sour cream are front and center for dipping. Not blazing hot, but the perfect kick-start to your meal.
I have already mentioned the Purple Frogaritas, but the house special Vaquero Margarita ($7.95) is another refreshing concoction with tell-tale lime and Cuervo notes. Or you might enjoy the Skinny Margarita, weighing in at just 137 calories, offering the same flavor with less guilt.

Tequila Chicken Tacos ($11.95) prove that Mexican food can be healthy. Rotisserie chicken, which has been marinated in lime juice and tequila, is folded into your choice of either flour or corn tortillas. Feta cheese is crumbled over the top along with avocado slices, fresh cilantro leaves, and a side of the house green tomatillo sauce. These two plump tacos are ample when served alongside charro beans and a medley of grilled squash.

The Steak Ranchera ($17.95) is a thinner 8-ounce cut of Choice Ribeye steak. The beef is very tender and flavorful, topped with a tangy, red Ranchera sauce and delicious melting cheese. It is served with a classic cheese enchilada wrapped in a fresh corn tortilla and draped in mild chili sauce and crunchy white onions. The best way to describe the enchilada is that it is à la Old Original. This is true Tex-Mex, nothing flashy, just home-style specialties.

Most of the interior is painted a sunny yellow with a dragged faux finish. Modern Mexico pops of color are spread throughout. The chair seats are a bold blue, and the door facings pick up that same tone. Aztec masks adorn one wall. Other mementos are scattered around, like colorful hanging tapestries and authentic pottery and artwork. Wrought iron chandeliers hang overhead.

The Flan ($4.95) is traditional but only enough to serve one; so if you are thinking about sharing dessert, the fried Sopapillas might be a better way to go. This egg custard is creamy and mild, with not too much caramel sauce, just a delicate spoonful.

A full bar greets you as you walk in the door, but it is functional and not for sitting. Worn concrete floors lead to the enclosed patio with its view of University Drive. If you are lucky enough to live close by, then you can call in your order and have it delivered right to your door (local delivery service began on St. Patrick’s Day). Los Vaqueros offers excellent service and a friendly staff in a prime location. The collegiate crowd is sure to embrace its new neighbor.

Located at: 3105 Cockrell Ave.
For reservations call: 817.710.8828 $-$$
Open: Mon. - Thur. 11 a.m-9 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.