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Restaurants & Bars

Here’s What to Expect from Vaqueros Texas Bar-B-Q When It Opens in Allen Next Year

The excellent barbecue trailer at Hop & Sting Brewery in Grapevine is finally getting a brick-and-mortar restaurant—where it can serve its full menu.
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A taco night spread at Vaqueros Texas Bar-B-Q in Grapevine. Brian Reinhart

Around the back of Hop & Sting Brewing in Grapevine, a barbecue trailer draws customers from around North Texas. It’s not your usual ’cue, though they serve all the classics. Vaqueros is proudly and deeply rooted in Texas and Mexican tradition, with Thursday taco nights, smoked cochinita pibil, birria, jalapeño mac, and a whole host of rotating specials.

Vaqueros has been poised for a breakout for a while, and now we know when: in spring 2024, it will open a large brick-and-mortar destination restaurant in Allen. It’s a partnership with M Crowd, the restaurant group that runs Mi Cocina and Taco Diner. They might sound like strange teammates, the small craft-obsessed weekend trailer and the big regional chain, but M Crowd recognized Vaqueros’ unique quality—and Vaqueros saw an opportunity to flourish.

The trailer’s owner, Arnulfo “Trey” Sanchez, was getting a little bit tired from the labor. He and a small team crank out exceptional barbecue in a very small space, and though smoked meat is Sanchez’s family trade, the labor of managing the business was becoming a strain. Like Cattleack Barbeque pitmaster Todd David—who recently sold his business to an employee so that he could focus on smoking meats—Sanchez just wanted to get back to his passion: the fire.

“Here lately, I had a pitmaster leave, and I had to pick back up that 3 a.m. shift,” Sanchez says. “It was just me, the fire, no one else around, and it brought me back into why I got into this. This is cool. Just me and the fire. Not the being up at 3 part. But you forget what those enjoyable aspects of it are when you’re having to do everything.”

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Vaqueros doesn’t always have time to make crispy tacos at its trailer—but the Allen location will have the full menu, plus daily specials. Brian Reinhart

Sanchez says he and M Crowd are “full-on partners” in the brick-and-mortar Vaqueros. The pitmaster provides his expertise, and the restaurant group provides its support: finance teams, accounting, human resources, and all the other elements that many cooks don’t train on.

“I’ve got the support of all of that so I can focus on the food, the recipes, the training, the enjoyable things for me,” he says.

Here’s what the new Vaqueros will look like: the trailer’s full menu, plus many of its specials and taco night deals, available for lunch and dinner seven days a week. There will probably be additional daily specials, too. The pit room will be a showpiece, on display from the dining area. “There will be glass windows looking into the meat prep so you can see how the sausage is made,” Sanchez adds.

Oh, and that pit room will be a sight to behold, even more so than usual. Vaqueros has commissioned custom pits from Ryan Newland of Backline Fabrication in Dripping Springs. Newland’s business doesn’t just do smokers. He designed an enormous set of dice for the song “Roulette” on Katy Perry’s Witness tour—each dot on the dice was lined with lights and safe enough for dancers to climb through—and also built an enormous basketball set for her song “Swish, Swish.” At a previous job, he built a motorcycle for Lady Gaga to drive onstage.

It makes sense that this guy wants to reinvent the smoker. Sanchez told me about several texts he’s received from Newland.

“I gave him some guidelines and he texted me and said, ‘Hey, are you still cool with all that Aztec shit?’ He’s going to incorporate Aztec pyramids on them. He’s gonna go nuts with it. I’m super excited to see those. I talked to him about incorporating a grill or a live fire trompo so that it can be part of the show out there. His exact words to me talking about that pit: ‘You need to call Texas Monthly and tell them to bring two fuckin’ photo crews out there because no one has ever seen anything like these pits I’m going to build you.’”

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More tacos—and ribs—at Vaqueros. Brian Reinhart

Sanchez hasn’t forgotten where he started. He wants to include Hop & Sting in some way at the new spot, possibly by pouring a special Vaqueros lager. They’re still in talks about that. He also expects the trailer to remain open at the brewery, so loyal Grapevine customers can still get their fix.

Before that, though, his family roots are in East Dallas. His father ran Arnold’s Texas Bar-B-Q on Haskell Road, in the space that was most recently the original location of Petra and the Beast and will soon be a Baker’s Ribs. Petra’s chef, Misti Norris, has a framed photo of the old barbecue shop on a shelf behind the host stand at her new location. (Sanchez walked in for dinner one night and saw it immediately.)

“It would be nice to get back to Dallas,” the pitmaster says. He and M Crowd are already discussing possible target markets for Vaqueros if the Allen location is a success. “We’ve talked about Dallas, we’ve talked about Grapevine.”

That might sound like Vaqueros is getting ahead of itself. But Sanchez has been serving up great barbecue since 2018, and his father did before him. Allen, we hope, is just the next step.

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.

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