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Classic Tex-Mex Restaurant of Days Gone By is Making a Comeback


Three tacos on a tray with limes. | Image by Alex Salcedo

A once-popular and thriving Tex-Mex restaurant closed down for more than a decade, is now being revived by owner Gilbert Cuellar, Junior. Casa Rosa has found a new home in the Lemmonwood Shopping Center.

Formerly located at Inwood Village, Casa Rosa will soon occupy the space at 5622 Lemmon Avenue, where the El Fenix Mexican Restaurant once stood. The building is being renovated to fit Cuellar’s vision, and he says his goal is to be open in early 2022.

Originally, Casa Rosa was founded in 1981 as a part of the El Chico family of restaurants. It was meant to be a slightly more upscale concept than El Chico, with the core still being well-done Tex-Mex.

In 1996, well-known critic Mary Brown Malouf called Casa Rosa “one of the prettier Mexican restaurants around – with its deep heart-colored walls, heavy carved moldings and furnishings, and giant Spanish paintings,” as well as mentioning the exciting menu.

In 2003, the restaurant went through an ownership change and a rebranding under the new name “Cantina Laredo.” By 2013, Cantina Laredo had closed, and Trader Joe’s took its place. During this time, Gilbert Cuellar went on to create other restaurants, such as Cuellar’s Fajita Ranch, which he opened in 2016 with his cousin John Cuellar.

“Bringing back Casa Rosa was probably the furthest thing from my mind,” said Gilbert. “But I got a call from a real estate person, who asked if I wanted to see this restaurant space that had closed. When we got there, I was amazed it was the El Fenix space. I love old buildings like that, steeped in history. It was a request from the landlord, who asked if we could put Casa Rosa there because she had enjoyed going to the Inwood Village restaurant all those years.”

Gilbert adds, “The thing about Casa Rosa, what’s special beyond the fact that we do a very good job at what we do, is that we know what people want. The heart and soul of our menu is our Tex-Mex.”