The co-owners of a successful, authentic Mexican restaurant in Tuscaloosa have opened a second location north of the Black Warrior River.

Victor Huerta and Carmen Gomez own and operate Vera Cruz, which opened on 15th Street in November 2016.

In an interview with the Tuscaloosa Thread last week, they said the business has grown steadily and drawn many loyal customers who live in Northport and asked the duo to explore opening a restaurant on their side of the river.

When fellow local restaurateur Rajvinder Singh called Huerta looking to discuss the future of his own Mexican restaurant, La Bamba, the friends saw a mutually beneficial opportunity.

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Singh sold the space to Huerta and Gomez, who have now opened a second Vera Cruz location there at 1301 McFarland Boulevard Northeast.

"We wanted to expand our brand and we have so many customers from Northport who always mention that they wanted something closer to them," Huerta said. "I actually worked at this location several years ago, when it was very successful as Pepito's in the late 90's, so we knew it made good sense to come into this space."

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

The location is more accessible for folks looking for lunch or dinner north of the Black Warrior River, but that stretch highway is also the site of a massive Alabama Department of Transporation project to add lanes to McFarland Boulevard, which Huerta said is having an impact on their walk-in business.

"Man, we are ready to see them wrap that up," he said.

Huerta and Gomez said what sets Vera Cruz apart from similar restaurants in the area is their unwavering dedication to their brand, an authentic Mexican taste and their own hands-on leadership.

"We're managing owners who are on site all the time," Huerta said, "We don't rely on managers and that makes it more personal for our customers, to feel welcome and well taken care of and looked after."

Huerta said they make use of a charcoal grill, not a typical kitchen range, which imparts a unique flavor to their menu items.

For first-time visitors, the co-owners recommend trying their specialty Trio Salad, a combination of steak, chicken, and shrimp served on a bed of rice, beans and lettuce all generously topped with cheese. Another crowd-pleaser is the Veracruz Tacos, filled with steak, bacon, onions and melted cheese.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are margarita nights, they said, with specials on strong drinks in a variety of flavors, frozen or on the rocks.

"Our margaritas, we have never had a complaint about them being weak," Huerta said. "You're getting your money's worth!"

Above all, Huerta and Gomez said they hope people will come and give them a try, whether they are fans of Vera Cruz on 15th Street, former La Bamba patrons or just looking for a new place to grab a bite. They have revamped the interior, replaced a leaking roof and more, and are ready to welcome patrons in to their second location.

"We want to send out a message that we are a family restaurant, we know the business and we have a great product," Huerta said. "But we're not La Bamba, so when people come in, we hope they are excited to find Vera Cruz, just near Northport."

The new Vera Cruz location is open now, just north of the river on McFarland Boulevard between ABZ Rental-All and the Lai Lai Chinese restaurant. They open at 11 a.m. every day of the week and are open until 9:30 except on Fridays and Saturdays when they stay open until midnight, and on Sundays when they close at 9 p.m.

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