A Facebook post about the future of Villa Arcos has fans of the iconic Secord Ward taco joint buzzing. In it, Dena Gutierres, sister to Villa Arcos owner Yolanda Black Navarro, writes that she's relocating the restaurant to the Telephone Road building currently occupied by Oak Leaf Smokehouse and changing the name to Texas Tacos and Barbecue.
Gutierres tells CultureMap that she's been leasing the restaurant from Black Navarro for the past five years and operating in the space with an official business name of "Villa Arcos Tacos." Even before Black Navarro's death in November, Gutierres says she told her sister that she would not be renewing her lease due to the condition of the building.
"The inspectors came from the city, and they had a list of things that would have cost $250,000 to fix. It would have been better to knock it down and rebuild it," Gutierres says. Later she adds, "I loved the other place. We were there for 40 years, but you can’t be there with no air conditioning, no heat. It was time. Things happen for a reason."
She found a new home in East End barbecue joint Oak Leaf Smokehouse. "(Owners) Brian Lewis and Lisa Kuhfeldt wanted out and I wanted a restaurant," Guiterres says.
If all goes according to plan, Gutierres will open Texas Tacos and Barbecue on February 1 where she serve both the signature Villa Arcos tacos and Oak Leaf's menu of Texas barbecue. The cooks who have been working for her at Villa Arcos are joining her at the new location, and some of the Oak Leaf staff will remain to operate the smoker.
As for the name change, Gutierres says an attorney advised her it was the best step to avoid a potential lawsuit from her sister's heirs who want to retain the famous name. Black Navarro's son Christian Navarro has posted to Facebook that he and his aunt Gina Duran will continue to operate as Villa Arcos in the location on Navigation. Navarro has yet to reply to CultureMap's request for comment.
UPDATE: Christian Navarro contacted CultureMap with this statement: "When Yolanda Black Navarro passed away on November 9, 2015, I expected that I would have time to mourn my mother's passing, rather I have spent the past 45 days attempting to resolve a business matter that has now become a social media matter."
"Here's the skinny Houston," he continued:
- Dena's 5-year lease term ends January 31, 2016.
- The City of Houston and I are working together to determine what corrections are required for Villa Arcos's Certificate of Occupancy.
- Villa Arcos will remain open at 3009 Navigation Blvd just like it has for the past 38 years.
- The legacy of Villa Arcos that has won praise from the Houston Press, the Houston Chronicle, Texas Monthly, and CNN's Headline News will continue during Gina Duran's management.
Whatever family drama exists, Gutierres says she's moving forward. "I want our customers to know where we’re at. If they want the same food they’ve had for the last five years, that’s where we are."