‘No interest in opening anywhere else’: Vallarta’s thrives in Craig, claiming eight ‘Best Of Highways 13 & 40’ awards
For the Craig Press
If it weren’t for a bunch of Craig hunters passing through Montrose who made it a point to stop at Vallarta’s, the huge family running it might still be there.
But the hunters were persistent. There are no Mexican restaurants in Craig, they said, and so Cassandra and her husband, Pepe Nunez, went to check it out. The mall manager showed them their first location, and they practically leased it on the spot.
Those hunters were right. The place took off “like crazy,” Cassandra said. They closed their other two restaurants, including the one in Montrose, and decided to plant their roots in Craig with their mother and Pepe’s nine siblings. This was back in 2007, but the Nunez family — including most of the siblings — have stuck around. The restaurant made even more of a commitment back in 2018 by moving into the old Signal Hill building.
“We really have no interest in opening anywhere else,” Cassandra said. “We have our own place now, and the community’s been really great.”
Their customers seem to love the place just as much as they love Craig. They won the community vote for Best Take Out, Best Happy Hour, Best Lunch Spot, Best Mexican Restaurant, Best Cocktails, Best Dinner Restaurant, Best Family Restaurant and Best Salsa. Eight awards in all.
Vallarta capitalized on Craig’s dearth of Mexican restaurants, but they earned their titles with the cooking of Margarita Nunez, who moved to the U.S. to be closer to her adult children after her husband died. She decided to open a restaurant with her kids because, besides having the perfect first name for it, she was known for her cooking.
“It’s all her recipes,” Cassandra said. “She’s been cooking since she was little. Honestly we couldn’t have done it without her.”
Cassandra was still in the kitchen every day until October, when she went back to Mexico to take care of her ailing mother. One of Pepe’s brothers is now a chef and can handle the recipes with the help of their brothers. Pepe and Cassandra are the owners, with Pepe managing the back (kitchen and Cassandra managing the front (service), although it’s a family business.
Mexican food is the couple’s life. They met working together in a Grand Junction restaurant, and after six years, Pepe wanted to open his own place with the help of Margarita.
Vallarta’s leaned on that community support during the coronavirus, a brutal time for restaurants, but Craig, once again, didn’t let them down, even when the restaurant could only offer take-out and delivery.
“We got so much support during that time,” Cassandra said. “We struggled, but the community was great. Even the other businesses too. If they ordered take-out from us, we would order take-out from them.”
Vallarta’s of Craig is located at 2705 W. Victory Way. The restaurant is open every day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The phone number is (970) 824-9812 and the website is https://vallartasofcraig.com.
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Kelsey Loya grew up watching her mom work in her hair salon, but she didn’t necessarily plan on becoming a cosmetologist herself.