La Vaquera translates to “The Cowgirl”, an apt name for the vibrant little restaurant nestled in Southwest Little Rock.
The restaurant location was opened by husband and wife dream team Miguel and Sanjuana Torres in 2017.
Meet the Owners
Miguel and Sanjuana both hail from San Luis Potosi in Central Mexico. They met and struck up a friendship at the age of eight, and little did they know then how important their connection would be all these years later.
Miguel left San Luis Potosi to move here to the United States when he was only thirteen years old. Coming from a big family, Miguel immigrated to the US in order to find his own path and his own place in the world. He traveled to Arkansas with an older sister, but within a few months he struck out on his own. Finding his way to Indianapolis, Miguel searched high and low for a business willing to employ someone as young as him. Fortunately, Miguel found a job with a Chinese restaurant. From then on, he has worked solidly in the restaurant industry. He has lived all over the United States, including Boston, Memphis, and Dallas, but he ended up returning to Arkansas to be with his older sister. He learned quickly that nothing is as important as family.
Miguel traveled back and forth to visit home frequently. It was on these visits that he reconnected with Sanjuana, and it didn’t take long for the sparks to fly. They were teenage sweethearts and eventually married, starting their own family in 1992. It took Sanjuana a little more convincing to settle down in Arkansas, however. She was studying to teach Pre-school and wasn’t quite as sure that her future was in the United States. After some time though, she decided to move to Arkansas and have all her family together. She officially made the move in 1999. Once here, she too found herself working in a Chinese restaurant.
Miguel and Sanjuana decided to open up a convenience store and sell groceries and produce in the Southwest Little Rock community. They both enjoyed working for themselves and being their own bosses. When the market crash happened in 2008, they began losing business to Walmart and needed to find a way to supplement their income. They kept their eyes and minds open to business opportunities wherever they went and they came along a taco food truck that was for sale. It was called La Vaquera. This was the beginning of their big restaurant adventure - their origin story. The truck was so well received that the Torres family was able to open a restaurant location in 2017. By this time their family had grown to include five children, all of whom help out regularly around the restaurant.
La Vaquera is an authentic, family run place. In fact, Miguel and Sanjuana are the only chefs! They have an employee who helps run the front of the restaurant and works with the customers. The recipes on the menu all come straight from Sanjuana and her mother’s own recipe book and everything is tested thoroughly by the Torres kids before being approved for the menu.
When asked what their favorite menu items were, they had a tough time picking. Ultimately, Miguel has a fondness for the Steak Tacos and Sanjuana has a soft spot for their Steak Quesadilla. Their oldest son, Miguel, favors the Enchiladas Potosinas – which can’t be found on the menu, but can be specially requested. These special enchiladas are set apart by the made-to-order guacamole that coats the inside. In addition to the fresh guacamole, they can be stuffed with either grilled steak or chicken.
I have a personal weakness for enchiladas, so I decided to try the Cheese Enchiladas and washed it all down with Horchata made from scratch. Fortunately, I went with a large group, so we were able to sample many fine dishes. La Vaquera has real bragging rights when it comes to their house-made enchilada sauce – it’s delicious. It has such body and bold flavor that it truly makes the dish. The horchata was delightfully refreshing with the perfect dosing of cinnamon.
The Milanesa de Pollo was a perfectly seasoned and crispy piece of juicy, tender chicken breast.
A Little Rock favorite is the Taco Salad. It is a beloved classic of the people in Arkansas, and the version cooked up by La Vaquera doesn’t disappoint. It comes in a wonderfully crisp shell and is stuffed with flavorful meat and veggies.
All around the table I only heard positive reviews (and many sighs of satisfaction) about everything tried. The Gorditas came in hand-patted corn pockets that struck the perfect balance of flavor and thickness. The beef stood out as a particularly succulent stuffing for this hand-sized pocket of goodness.
The Bistek a la Mexicana is a spicy, flavorful dish that isn’t for individuals who can’t take the heat. If you like some fire though, this is the meal for you. It’s tender steak is seasoned to perfection – it’s the real deal.
The Tacos Supremos are a colorful and fresh fiesta on a plate. They taste as good as they look too!
The food is truly delicious, fresh, and authentic. What really makes La Vaquera stand out though is the special story of a dedicated and loving family that came to the United States to seek opportunity. I asked Miguel and Sanjuana what their experience in the US had been like. Sanjuana simply said it had been “beautiful” with a content smile. Miguel replied that he has lived a full life here in the United States. He’s gone through it all, the good and the bad. He’s had hard times, but he has had many happy times as well.
They are happy to be here in the United States, and they are happy to be raising their children here. As parents they want nothing more than for their children to be happy, explore, do well in life, and have the chance to do things that they themselves were not able to. Miguel and Sanjuana embody the spirit of most immigrants to the US. They work hard – and frequently. Their restaurant is open 10AM – 9PM Monday and Wednesday – Saturday and 9AM - 9PM on Sundays. They believe wholeheartedly in chasing after dreams and relentlessly pursuing a better life. Miguel believes that anyone can accomplish anything they want if they are willing to work hard for it. He knows it can be hard sometimes, he has experienced it for himself, but he believes “where there is a will, there’s a way.”
I heartily recommend dining at La Vaquera. Come, eat, talk, and have another beer!
Sunday: 9AM – 9 PM
Monday: 10AM – 9PM
Wednesday - Saturday: 10AM – 9PM
About the Author:
I love food and I love getting to know new people. I have always found that everyone has an interesting story, and absolutely nothing beats sharing stories over delicious food. It is my goal in life to meet as many good people and eat as much good food as possible.