Dining With Denise Neil

Want a mariachi serenade at your table? This new Wichita restaurant will deliver

A big new Mexican restaurant has just opened near downtown Wichita, and it'll soon be the spot for table-side mariachi serenades.

El Vaquero, which translates to "The Cowboy," has been open for about a week in a cavernous space at 1320 E. Central. It's owned by Armando Michel, who also owns the local Michel Drywall, and two partners who have experience managing and cooking in Mexican restaurants.

"The guys who are running it are experts," Michel said. "They have been doing that all their life."

The building, which Michel has owned since 2010, has more than 6,000 square feet, and he formerly ran it as an event venue. It was a popular destination with the local Hispanic community, he said. But he decided the building would also make a good restaurant.

It's now filled with Mexican-style tables and chairs and features a menu of Mexican favorites like enchiladas, tacos, burritos, fajitas and quesadillas. One of the most popular dishes in the first week of business has been the molcajetes, said Michel. That's a mixture of beef, chicken and shrimp served with a Ranchero sauce in a clay pot.

El Vaquero also has a lunch menu with several dishes for $4.99 plus a vegetarian section and a menu for kids and seniors. You can see the full menu here.

"The people who are cooking are bringing the flavor from Mexico," Michel said. "It's tasty. It's not like, 'Here is an enchilada with no flavor.' "

Michel, who is from San Antonio, is in the process of applying for his entertainment license, and once it's approved, he'll hire mariachi bands to roam the restaurant and play table-side for diners. That's an attraction at many San Antonio restaurants, he said, and he thinks Wichita will enjoy it, too.

He also is applying for his liquor license and will soon add beer to the menu. He hopes to get city approval to open his large outdoor patio to diners as well.

El Vaquero, which seats 177, will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call 316-260-3333.

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