South Texas-style taco shop Vaquero Taquero will expand with a second restaurant in downtown Austin this summer at the former site of Waller Creek Pub House, which closed last summer. Co-owner Miguel Cobos is aiming to open the 603 Sabine Street restaurant by June.
These expansion plans came to fruition as Vaquero Taquero refined its processes and cut down turnaround times during the pandemic., which ensures that the restaurant can scale — it was just a matter of where Vaquero Taquero would land next.
During the pandemic, “even at the most difficult times, we managed to swim, not sink,” Cobos says, “so we thought maybe we can catch a wave at the right time and be surfing by the time the pandemic is done.”
The restaurant managed to cut down the timing of the whole process as much as 66 percent, Cobos shares. So instead of waiting 15 to 20 minutes for an order at the North University restaurant, guests routinely wait only five to seven minutes now. During busier times, orders are prepared within 15 minutes, down from 45 minutes at one point.
To make a new location happen, Cobos spent nearly 10 months seeking out the Sixth Street spot, contacting the landlord not long after Waller Creek Pub House closed permanently last spring. He likes the spot because “you’re on Dirty [Sixth] but you’re not quite on Dirty,” referencing the location’s somewhat hidden Sabine Street entrance between Sixth and Seventh streets.
But it wasn’t until Cobos’s third attempt that he landed the lease. “It took a lot of persistence,” he says. “We were rejected twice, the first time coldly. and the second time [because of] bad luck.”
The first rejection happened because, as Cobos explains, Vaquero Taquero didn’t have enough financial reserves in the bank. After the address sat vacant for the following four to five months, he sought out the space again. That time, the deal was nearly complete until another bidder came in and agreed to lease the entire building, he says, and not just the back section, which was what the restaurant was seeking. “Someone offered a better deal than us,” he says.
Four to five months after that happened, Cobos learned the unnamed tenant disappeared, and the location was again up for grabs. Before finalizing the decision, Cobos invited the entire Vaquero Taquero team to review the site together. “I asked if they are ready to go again, and the whole team gave me a ‘yes,’” he says. “The next day, I showed up and signed.”
Cobos is personally working on remodeling the space before its anticipated June debut. The second location is scheduled to open roughly three years after Vaquero Taquero’s first location in North Campus debuted. The concept started as a taco cart in front of the Mexic-arte Museum in 2016, before moving to a food truck mostly in Hyde Park in 2017. Cobos says there’s a strong possibility the taco cart will make a return downtown.
Waller Creek Pub House opened in 2015 with an impressive selection of beers, burgers, and the like. It closed last spring due to difficulties operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Update, 4/19 — This article has been updated to clarify the original iteration of Vaquero Taquero.