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Vaqueros’ Mexican deserves a lot more attention

Not a hard shell


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There’s little room for avocado, pico or slaw in the well-stuffed tacos de pescado. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • There’s little room for avocado, pico or slaw in the well-stuffed tacos de pescado.

We’ve seen bland video ads for local restaurants before, but good lord, the 30-second info video on Vaqueros Mexican Restaurant & Taqueria’s website makes mayonnaise seem spicy by comparison. It seems that by seasoning every food item we sampled over two visits as beautifully as they did, they didn’t save enough spice for their marketing. That’s a shame, because Vaqueros, located in northern Springs, deserves attention. The food, served in its deep red, beautifully decorated dining room, rocks.

But before we chat food, let’s talk tequila. Vaqueros has a wide selection of blancos, reposados and añejos, with neat pours ranging from an easy $5 to a hefty $48 for a sample from $300 and $400 bottles of Mexico’s finest. We opt to sample some margaritas. The plata margarita uses Don Julio blanco tequila, a spirit already lovely with earthy, peppery notes, in a mix with lime, topped with Grand Marnier. A sizable and strong small margarita sings with citrus, undersweet with a smooth finish. The Godfather margarita is identical but for its use of Don Julio añejo for a smoother, woodier flavor that’s perhaps a little friendlier and more delicate. During the generous happy hour, which runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, we try a medium (20-ounce) original margarita, priced at $9.75, a simple and classic mix of Hornitos blanco tequila, Cointreau and lime juice.

Location Details Vaqueros Mexican Restaurant & Taqueria
9605 Prominent Point
Colorado Springs, CO
11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday

It’s all too easy to suck their margs down when dipping chips into the spicy house salsa, which sings with green and red onion. But save your appetite for the main dishes, as portions are big. We target first the “fresh & healthy choices” section of the menu, noting but skipping “skinny tacos” in lettuce wraps in favor of tacos de pescado. And our soft corn tortillas come filled to the edge with rich, savory if simply seasoned cubes of grilled tilapia. The plate arrives with avocado slices, pico de gallo and coleslaw for dressing the tacos, but there’s no space with all that fish.

We try also the tacos de tripa, which we’re told can be served with the tripe cooked chewy or crispy. We go crispy and are rewarded with a taco full of keto Fritos, maybe not what one expects in a taco but a fun play of textures with a meaty taste that goes great with accompanying lime wedges, raw onion, cilantro and radish slices. House hot sauces are served with both taco plates, and we enjoy a lime- and tomatillo-forward green sauce and a slow-burning scorcher of a red sauce with vinegar zip.

Stepping away from taco triumph, we order the lunch portion of the tres vaqueros, a house special featuring a chile relleno served soft or crispy, pork chile verde, and beef Chile Colorado, served with tortillas. That pork’s tender from a long, low cook. Lime, tomatillo and chiles contribute flavor, but we can still taste the meat itself. The Chile Colorado holds a similar tenderness and meat-chile flavor balance, though its beef plays well with earthy red chile instead. We also love the soft chile relleno, a savory, unctuous, cheesy wonder in a jacket that maintains some crispness.

In writing about these dishes later, I easily recall just how flavorful everything tastes at Vaqueros. Though they’ve been open for nearly two years, they don’t seem to have garnered the full attention they deserve. Here’s hoping this piece achieves what the bland 30-second web vid hasn’t. Salud!


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