Terry Flores and Lily Hernandez surveyed the empty dining room at Bocados just before the start of lunch service on Tuesday. The longtime friends and business partners have decided to close the Montrose Mexican restaurant located across the street from the University of St. Thomas after 15 years of business.
"This is my baby. This was my dream," Flores tells CultureMap of the West Alabama Street eatery that is a neighborhood favorite for its margaritas, fajitas, homemade salsa, guacamole and special dishes named for patrons and staff.
The last day of service is set for May 5, when Bocados will host a final Cinco de Mayo celebration.
But that's not to say they're moving on — in fact, far from it.
Next up: Red Ox Grill
The restaurateurs have another project in the works: The Red Ox Grill, expected to open in a yet-undisclosed location in the downtown area in late June or early July. The pair promises that the restaurant will be family-friendly, bike-friendly and dog-friendly (on the patio anyway), with a full bar, lunch and dinner service daily and brunch on weekends.
Hernandez called the menu at the Red Ox an "implementation of everything [they've] done in the past," with the street tacos and margaritas beloved by Bocados patrons and Cuban sandwiches from Boca Chica, their short-lived experiment on Waugh, in addition to burgers, salads and sandwiches.
"It's a new chapter," says Flores, who said that the concept was originally intended for the spot where Down House owners Chris Cusack and Joey Treadway are reinventing D&T Drive Inn, an iconic Heights-area dive bar.
Flores and Hernandez own that property along with Debra Kaylor, but the opportunity to purchase the Red Ox Grill's now-intended home — a former restaurant on the forthcoming METRORail Red Line that needs only a bit of cosmetic attention — was too perfect to pass up.
This doesn't necessarily signal the end for Bocados, either. Flores says that the pair is looking to purchase another Heights property to house the concept. Until then, the pair will offer catering services of Bocados favorites.
But neighbors who have enjoyed spending long hours on the outdoor patio and taking part in the regular "steak nights" when Flores cooks T-bones on a barrel grill while a DJ spins tunes are already lamenting the loss of the quirky bungalow restaurant. Those with long memories recall the popular mid-week "ladies nights" in the 1990s when tables and chairs were moved to the side for a late-night disco that drew a standing-room only crowd.
The restaurant was also a constant gathering spot for fundraisers for customers and friends in need. Last year, Flores and Hernandez, who have been friends since they were students at St. Thomas, opened the restaurant on a Sunday, when it is normally closed, to raise money for a woman with no health insurance who suffered a bizarre accident while working out.
Meanwhile, The Brick and Spoon, a Lafayette, La. restaurant that purports to serve "fine specialty coffees, unexpected twists on classical dishes, eye-opening cocktails and . . . signature, designed-to-order Big Spoon Bloody Marys," is set to open its first Texas location in the Bocados space on June 1.
Celebrate Bocados "last dance" at the Cinco de Mayo event on May 5 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. with drink specials, free appetizers and DJ Jumpin Jess.