When the May 22, 2011 tornado churned through Joplin, thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed. El Vaquero, then located at 21st and S. Main Street, was one of the restaurants obliterated. It has taken time for my community to recover and we are not finished yet. Slowly, steadily, homes and businesses have been rebuilt. New companies and restaurants have appeared in the tornado zone along with the return of old favorites.
This past week, 32 months after that horrific storm closed its doors, El Vaquero opened in a new building, a few blocks south of the original location. I looked forward to having lunch there today, as my first. Not just because the food was always great, prices low, and service friendly. I wanted to welcome El Vaquero back to the neighborhood, back to Joplin. Every comeback by a fallen business or restaurant is a triumph over the destruction that threatened to define what Joplin would become. Every “Now Open” sign is an opportunity to celebrate rising from the ashes and overcoming obstacles and LIFE itself.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who was glad to see this popular Mexican food establishment open again. The parking lot was so full the first time I swung by that I ran a few errands and came back a little later. The interior was bright, spacious and beautifully done. The food was excellent and the servers friendly. It was a delightful lunch.
Driving away, I noticed a sign on a nearby business that read, “Welcome back El Vaquero. Smells great.” What a happy sentiment! Welcome back, indeed.