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6 Dreamy Venues in Austin Run by Mothers and Daughters

Get to know these dynamic teams of incredible female chefs, restaurateurs, and bar owners

Maritza & Reyna Vazquez of Veracruz (photography by Elijah Echeveste)

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we want to highlight mothers and daughters who are slaying in the Austin hospitality scene. As Austin diners, we are fortunate enough to have several fabulous spots where mothers and daughters serve up deliciousness.

These are wonderful Austin restaurants and food trucks (and one cocktail bar) where mothers and daughters join together, sometimes with their whole families or multiple generations of women, to run these charming spots. There is a special energy when women work together and lift each other up. Multiply that by the family dynamic, and in many cases, the potential for greatness — and inclusion — grows exponentially. 

Thanks to these inspiring women for making the time to speak with us!

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Chef Iliana de la Vega & Chef Ana Torrealba

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photo courtesy of El Naranjo

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photo courtesy of El Naranjo

El Naranjo 

Of course, the secret has long been out about how utterly gorgeous Chef Iliana de la Vega’s traditional Oaxacan food is, having caught the eye of Bon Appetit, the New York Times, and the James Beard Foundation — Chef de la Vega won Best Chef: Texas in 2022. However, it may be less known that the restaurant is truly a family affair and that her daughters, Ana and Isabel Torrealba have been contributing to the restaurant’s success for years. 

Chef de la Vega, has in fact recently handed over the reins of the restaurant to her daughter Ana, the new Chef de Cuisine at El Naranjo. Not that Chef de la Vega is moving on, merely that Ana is stepping up into her mother’s former role as head of the kitchen. Isabel started by helping her mom out with her cooking classes, and now is a partner, planning and guiding gastronomic and cultural tours with Chef de la Vega in their business Mexican Culinary Traditions, to “show people Mexico through our eyes and stomachs.” 

Chef Ana Torrealba started out baking bread for the restaurant when El Naranjo was first an entity in Mexico City, before Chef de la Vega and her husband, Ernesto Torrealba, moved to Texas and started El Naranjo as a food truck on Rainey Street in 2010. Ana enjoyed baking for its precision, and she has always been fascinated with science and how that translates in the kitchen. She has a degree in food engineering, which gives her a broad background in details such as food storage but also how food gets from the farm onto the shelf and plate. 

While Chef de la Vega grounds the business with traditional foundations in Oaxacan cooking, Chef Torrealba has introduced some fun concepts, such as a mole of the month and innovative ceviche recipes. Of working with her daughter Ana in the kitchen and Isabel on the tours, she beams, “I’m very happy to pass it on. It’s so good to see them flourish. I am so proud that we are here for each other.” And of her daughter’s prowess as the new Chef de Cuisine, she boasts that “Ana is doing such a great job. I just give her the space to shine.” 


Buenos Aires Cafe mother and daughter duo Chef Reina & Paola
Photogray by Baptiste Despois from Zenk Photography

Buenos Aires Café 

Buenos Aires Café has long been one of the darlings of Austin’s small but ever-growing international cuisine scene, celebrating its 19th year in business this fall. Chefs Reina Morris and Paola Guerrero-Smith are the formidable yet charming mother and daughter behind Buenos Aires Cafe. They do not take the gift of working together for granted, nor the ability to keep their Argentinian restaurant running through a pandemic and rapidly rising costs of doing business. 

According to their website, “Despite being discouraged by culinary professionals who believed that restaurants were not suited for women, Chef Reina pursued her dream of opening a restaurant. With the support of her husband, she opened her first restaurant in 2005, serving pastries and empanadas before expanding the menu to include other Argentine delicacies.” That first location on South 1st Street has long since shuttered, and both women now run the Buenos Aires location on East 6th that has been serving up traditional Argentinian fare since 2009. 

Chef Reina ran their Hill Country Galleria location for several years while Chef Paola led the team at the East 6th location. After the peak days of the pandemic and the unique challenges it brought to the restaurant industry, they decided they wanted to work together and focus on the East 6th location. Reina sold the Galleria restaurant and moved to East 6th while Paola took some time off for maternity leave. The timing worked out perfectly so that Paola could spend her time with her baby until she was ready to step back in and work side-by-side with her mom. 

Paola says they have grown even closer through working together. “I love to see the spark in my mom’s eyes when she creates a new menu for special occasions like our wine-paired and cocktail-paired dinners or for catering. We had our challenges but found our moments of compromise. We can listen to each other. We both feel heard, but we have our autonomy, too.”


Mackenzy and Roxie Nikolakos of Yamas (photo by Jonathan Garza)

Yamas

Anyone who has spoken with Roxie and Mackenzy Nikolakos and dined at their buzzy, well-received, family-run Greek restaurant, Yamas, can pick up on their family ties right away. The two are so close, that they laugh often and finish each other’s sentences. While Roxie, her husband Hristos “Chris,” and their two sons were preparing to open the restaurant, Mackenzy couldn’t help but pitch in. Mackenzy’s intention after leaving New York and the fashion world was not to help her parents open a restaurant, but the pull of Yamas was irresistible. 

Roxie and Chris had offered her a role as General Manager, yet she initially turned it down. However, she had designed the logo and found herself jumping in with ideas and assistance and wanted to make sure that her parents’ dream of opening a restaurant came true in the best way. She eventually gave in to the desire to be a part of this grand family venture — and adventure! Mackenzy serves as the GM and enjoys the restaurant life, even with all its intensity. 

Roxie tends to every minute detail around the place and brings Yamas’s delightful decor to life. She greets guests warmly and welcomes them to the restaurant and can often be seen chatting with guests. She has also earned the nickname “Mama Roxie” among the restaurant staff, with whom they are also quite close. 

Roxie gushes “Watching Mackenzy work…my eyes light up, because she is so smart, and she is such a strong woman. If something bothers her at work, she is able to keep her cool and manage it. I love watching her thrive at what she likes to do. And I didn’t know this would be her element, but it is.” 

Mackenzy says she was a little worried about working together, precisely because they were very close already, but that they actually work really well together. “Collaborating with my mom, she is so detail-oriented. Even when I’m feeling burnt out, she is still out there, talking to people. It’s amazing to see her flourish and express her passion for everything about the restaurant and the design aspect.” She laughs and adds that the one thing they argue about is the flowers.

Yamas has become a community, for their family, for many other Greek people in Austin who were seeking out a home away from home, and for lucky Austinites. They bring the family vibes to the whole place and make it a warm and inviting space with wonderful Greek food and echoes of Greek culture. 


(photo courtesy of Ensenada’s instagram)

Ensenada ATX

Three generations of family have made the Ensenada ATX food truck an instant hit with Austin crowds. Most recently, Kristell Jean, the youngest family member who can often be seen greeting guests and occasionally making brownies for Ensenada, joined the cast of competitors in this season of  Masterchef Junior! And her mother, aunt, and grandmother couldn’t be prouder! 

The Ensenada women behind the seafood taco concept are grandmother/mother, Liz Everett, who works as the Chef, runs daily operations, and develops recipes. Daughter/sister/aunt, Stephanie Everett Martin takes care of social media, develops recipes, and was the catalyst for, and investor in the business. Daughter/mother/sister Cristina Everett makes Ensenada’s popular salsa macha, helps with operations, and develops recipes. Granddaughter/daughter/niece Kristell Jean, spends time at the food truck, often welcoming customers and occasionally even making delicious brownies. 

Stephanie moved to Austin in 2019 and soon missed family and the comfort of home. In what she calls “a heartfelt request,” she convinced her mother, Liz, to come to Austin and bring with her the treasured family recipe for their signature Ensenada taco. Together, they dove in for the culinary adventure of a lifetime, opening the Ensenada food truck in June of 2022. Cristina soon joined the family business, contributing her family’s favorite fiery salsa macha recipe. Kristell hangs out at the truck whenever she can, greeting customers with warmth and an almost innate sense of gracious hospitality that appears to run in the family.

They shared their thoughts about working together: 

  • Liz: “Being able to spend meaningful time together, fostering mutual growth, and offering support as we navigate through life’s journey is a cherished privilege..and fills my heart with joy and gratitude.”
  • Stephanie: “We have the opportunity to nurture creativity collectively, residing in the same city, and supporting one another through our strengths and weaknesses. I take immense pride in my mother, a remarkable role model to me and many others…and my sister and niece, who joined us to build Ensenada ATX.”
  • Cristina: “Recognizing the diverse strengths we each possess to foster growth within the industry, we collaboratively share and pursue our dreams.”
  • Kristell Jean: “Spending time with them, sharing moments, giving them hugs, and learning from them is the best. They motivate me to grow and be like them. I see them as strong women, and that makes me feel safe and confident that I can pursue my dream with them by my side.”

(photo courtesy of Lulu’s)

Lulu’s

Lulu’s is run by a mother-and-daughter duo. Lulu’s is a stylish, elegant cocktail bar nestled among the bars on Menchaca in far south Austin. 

Lulu’s opened in October of 2022. Lourdes “Lulu” Garcia and her daughter Maritza Lourdes Gonzales are the team behind Lulu’s. Maritza shares their origin story, “I was born and raised in South Austin, and my parents are from Brownsville & Mexico City. We wanted to bring our Latin culture to South Austin in the form of a cocktail bar because South Austin is home to us and there was nothing like it on Menchaca Road.” 

Lulu’s has been a family effort from the start. Maritza and Lourdes share the responsibility for the day-to-day ins and outs of running Lulu’s, and together with Maritza’s husband, they are the face of Lulu’s. Maritza’s father did the build-out of the bar and her sister handles social media. 

On working with her mother, Maritza echoes similar sentiments from all of our featured mothers and daughters: “You learn the most about each other through the highs and lows. Throughout this process, I’ve gained even more respect, love, and admiration for my mom than I already had.” 


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Photography by Jane Yun

Maritza & Reyna Vazquez – photo credit_ Elijah_Echeveste
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Maritza & Reyna Vazquez of Veracruz (photography by Elijah Echeveste)

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Photography by Karissa Rangel

Veracruz All Natural

Veracruz All Natural, a true fan favorite among Austinites, is thriving as a testament to yet another food truck and restaurant with mothers and daughters running the show. Sisters Reyna and Maritza Vazquez started it all when they opened their first trailer in 2008, selling snow cones, smoothies, and natural drinks. In 2010, the Vazquez sisters moved into a larger food truck and started cooking Veracruz-style tacos, imbuing their food with traditional flavors and family recipes. The rest, as they say, is history! 

Now Veracruz All Natural can be found in seven locations throughout Austin, and their brick-and-mortar — a real stunner — Veracruz Fonda & Bar, opened in Mueller last year, to instant accolades. Now Reyna and Maritza’s mother, Reyna Gutierrez, and Maritza’s daughter, Lis-ek Mariscal, have joined forces to lead Veracruz into the future. 

Reyna Vazquez is the creative heart of the business, Co-founder, and Chef, working on R&D of new items on their menus. Maritza Vazquez runs the financial and operations part of the business. Lis-ek is in charge of the daily operations of Veracruz and events. Reyna Gutierrez is the inspiration behind the business, having taught her daughters her family recipes and having run a restaurant back home. 

Did they always plan to run a business together? No! 

  • Reyna: “No, organically things fell into place. We were both at moments in our lives where we were ready for change. When I asked Maritza to be my business partner there was always the chance of her saying no. Both her and my mom hopped along for the ride.”
  • Maritza: “I don’t think we really ever thought about running a business together when we were younger. As she said, things happened at the right time for both of us”

However, it came together quickly and has been moving at lightning speed and growing ever since. When asked what the best part of working together is, the Sisters Vazquez did not hesitate to sing each other’s praises. 

  • Reyna: “We get to spend time together while creating something. It doesn’t feel like a job because we enjoy spending time with each other while we grow the business. We try to respect each other’s boundaries and we continue learning. “
  • Maritza: “We are a family and a team and that’s what it feels like when we watch each other grow and create.” 

It’s an inspiration to see what families, especially mothers and daughters, can build together. Kudos to them on International Women’s Day!