When former Tamale House #3 employees Shirley Trevino and Raquel Banda announced their plans for the taco cooperative restaurant, they cited a main goal "to honor the legacy of [late Tamale House owner] Robert Vasquez and his food, and we want to follow in the footsteps of that iconic Tamale House."
However, Tamale House East’s Diane Vasquez Valera, Carmen Valera, and the rest of the famed Austin Tex-Mex restaurant family want to make it clear that they are not affiliated with the forthcoming Our Taco House Co-op.
Various members of the Vasquez family have run Tex-Mex restaurants in Austin since the 1950s — almost all of which have shuttered. Robert “Bobby” Vasquez opened Tamale House #3 in the late ’70s, and it became a much beloved taco institution on Airport Boulevard. The restaurant closed after his death in 2014. The Vasquez restaurant legacy continues today with Tamale House East, which is run by the Valera branch of the family, including Vasquez’s sister Diane and his niece Carmen. It opened in 2012 on East 6th Street.
Diane Vasquez Valera and her daughter Carmen and niece Elaine wrote a Facebook post today, openly expressing disapproval of anyone outside of the Vasquez household — like the owners of the Our Taco House Co-op — using their historic name as an identity. They did, however, note that they support women-owned and minority-owned businesses:
“The girls [Trevino and Banda] should open up whatever they want to open up,” Diane Vasquez Valera told Eater, “but it should not be our family story. It should be their story, and they should create their present and their future.”
“The family and Tamale House are still here, and I think it needs to be respected more than it has,” Valera said. “The legacy continues” with Tamale House East, “and it's a legacy that Robert wanted to continue through his family.”
It appears that Trevino and Banda heard the message: As of publish time, all mentions of Tamale House are gone from Our Taco House’s Facebook page. The website has been deactivated for now, while it is being revamped. The crowdfunding campaign has been delayed to October. Trevino told Eater that they were “not trying to take anything away from them” through the restaurant.
To our customers and community,
In an Eater article published on August 22, 2017, Our Taco House Cooperative comprised of members Bryan Lawhorn, Brad Beyer, Mateo Marron, Raquel Banda and Shirley Treviño announced that they are opening a cooperatively run taco restaurant.
"They have not spoken to the Vasquez family about the venture, though they are using recipes they learned during their employment" the article states. Ms. Banda is quoted as saying, "They really haven't questioned it."
This last statement is untrue.
We do not condone the use of the Tamale House name, history and memory of my late brother Robert "Bobby" Vasquez as the cornerstone of this new business.
We are supporters of new business in Austin, especially women-owned, minority-owned, and employee-owned companies, but our family does not support, nor are we affiliated with Our Taco House Cooperative in any way.
When my grandparents opened a tiny cafe in downtown Austin in the early 1900s, there were no programs to help small business owners, only hard work, determination and above all, family. The seed of their business turned into the work of my family for many years to come.
In 1958, my parents opened the first Tamale House on a tiny plot of land at 1st and Congress. I started helping at the restaurant when I was 13, working alongside my mother Carmen to perfect recipes and run the family business. My sister Peggy opened Tamale House #2 on Guadalupe and, when my Brother Bobby opened Tamale House #3, I taught him the family’s recipes and helped him in every way I could. It was just the two of us. I opened my own restaurant on "the wrong side of the tracks” in 1984, a time when many people would only venture out to East Austin during the day.
Tamale House restaurants have faced many challenges in our decades of operation, but we persevere and continue to provide good jobs and offer affordable, quality food to our wide range of customers.
We all miss Bobby and I ask you to help us honor him and our family's legacy by discouraging outside use of the Tamale House origin, history and names of our late family members.
Thank you for your support and business over the last 70 years. We look forward to serving you and your family for many years to come.
Diane Vasquez Valera, sister of Bobby Vasquez, Manager Tamale House East, with support from Elaine Vasquez, daughter of Bobby Vasquez and Carmen Valera, daughter of Diane Valera, Owner Tamale House East