October 6, 2022
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While Cesar and Connie Vaca from Derby have spent most of their lives in restaurants, it was their children who inspired the idea to take the plunge and open their own restaurant. That is now becoming a reality with Las Vaquitas set to open later this month at the corner of Baltimore and Madison Avenue.
Fittingly, the name Las Vaquitas refers to the children of the Vacas, as they helped shape their parents’ restaurant dream. In particular, his daughter Yasmin was a great motivator.
Since the age of 2, Yasmin has been fighting cancer. At age 6, the cancer reached her brain and the prognosis was that she had only three months to live (although she is now preparing to attend the University of Kansas). His only wish – to have a restaurant, which prompted his parents to act.
“We did everything we could to find him a restaurant for those three months, and it was called Las Vaquitas Mexican Food,” Connie said.
It was in the Vacas’ hometown of McAllen, Texas. Then, in 2015, the family was passing through Derby on their way to Spokane, Washington (for work) – visiting Connie’s sister. However, the children loved the school and the community so much that they never left.
After settling in Derby, Cesar started working as a waiter in Los Cocos and has been entrenched in the restaurant industry for 20 years.
Earlier this year, however, a gallbladder operation put Cesar out of action for a while. With Cesar as their main supplier, the Vacas had to come up with a new game plan – start a small take-out business from their home. Given the strong reception of their food – Cesar has been cooking for over 10 years – it reignited the fire and officially set them on the path to restaurant ownership.
Additionally, Connie noted that the community support has really helped the business come together. From the building itself to the cabins in the restaurant, a number of people have helped to help Las Vaquitas establish themselves in Derby.
“It was probably formed because of my daughter, but the people at Derby made it happen,” Connie said. “It’s just one blessing after another. It’s like, ‘OK, how do we do that?’ They are just people helping us; everything [Cesar’s] clients.”
As for the menu, Las Vaquitas plans to offer a number of Mexican staples ranging from tamales to burritos to mole. They’ll also serve breakfast, but the Vacas both expect the tacos to be the star of the show.
“It’s going to have to be street tacos,” Connie said of the restaurant’s signature dish, “because our tortilla comes from McAllen, Texas. You can’t find them after Odessa [Texas].”
Authenticity is also something the Vacas said customers can expect from their food, with Cesar specifically touting the salsa.
Depending on how good the restaurant is, like take-out, Connie has previously said she hopes Las Vaquitas can expand to a larger location and keep the building at 128 E. Madison as a taqueria. – with some potential additions to the menu.
Even with those aspirations, Connie and Cesar said the reality of the situation has yet to hit them, although their children and family are proud to see them achieve their dream. Although there have been bumps along the way, the Vacas believe their authentic, home-cooked food (chorizo, masa, etc.) will appeal to the Derby community – and they’re more than ready to serve.
“We’re going to treat people like they’re our family,” Connie said. “If something goes wrong, we’ll fix it for you.”
For updates on the restaurant’s official opening date, follow Las Vaquitas Mexican Food LLC on Facebook.