At both of St. Clair’s new Mexican restaurants, orange paint covers the walls, tacos are menu staples, and the deals are abundant. This aside, each eatery brings its own flair to the cuisine.

Buenas Vibras opened Feb. 3 at 1909 N. Service Road East. TacOMG! will open its doors at 365 S. Main St. at the end of this month.

They are joining St. Clair’s Tres Toritos, a long-standing, family-style Mexican restaurant at 10 E. Gravois Ave.

Meet the eats

Buenas Vibras offers Tex-Mex with a Midwestern twist and authentic options in between, owner Antonio Hernandez said. 

The menu at the 2,400-square-foot dine-in restaurant includes fajitas, tacos, burritos, rice dishes and traditional foods such as esquite, or corn typically sold streetside. The dishes, particularly the traditional offerings, will rotate depending on customer interest.

TacOMG! sells Los Angeles-style tacos, burritos, nachos and more, co-owner Christine Consolino said. Her business partner, Concha Santamaria, 65, developed the recipes while living in LA.

Their restaurant will have a walk-up counter to order drinks and food, which will include vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. 

Focuses: family, growth

Buenas Vibras is family-run and family-focused, said Hernandez, 34. One of the four employees is his mom, Luly Alvarez, and his step-dad and cousin help out when they can.

“In the Mexican culture, we’re really close as far as family,” Hernandez said. “That’s a big thing, the number one thing. So, if there’s any way we can help, we always help each other out.”

As a parent of children with drug addictions, Consolino wants to provide second chances to people struggling with addiction, she said. She has hired Jason Crisel, who is residing in Mercy Ministries Church, to do construction. She is looking to hire at least six staff members, but she will distribute regular drug tests.

She owns four other St. Clair and St. Louis-area businesses, ranging from Barking Bulldog Boutique to independent bounty hunter work. She started up TacOMG! with the intention of franchising it.

“I wanted something that I could grow with, so I knew I had to probably go into the food industry to franchise and grow at a faster rate,” she said.

Hot shot deals

Buenas Vibras sells special tacos at prices ranging from 99 cents to $1.99 every Tuesday. Hernandez said his favorite option on the menu, the street tacos, is included. On Wednesdays, kids eat free.

TacOMG! is located next to the railroad tracks, and Consolino said customers will get to celebrate whenever a train passes.

“The day the red lights start flashing and the dingers go off, and anytime a train comes by, they’re going to get a free shot,”she said.

In addition to the 1,600 square feet of indoors-plus-patio seating, TacOMG! will have a “secret window” with access to the street. This will open after dine-in hours, or from 1:30 to 2:30 a.m. on weekends, to serve clientele leaving the bars.

Slow start

Both restaurants had slower starts than expected. Hernandez had expected to open Buenas Vibras a year ago; Consolino planned TacOMG! for January 2021. 

COVID-19 complicated the process of getting supplies and materials, but other problems arrived, too, the owners said. Consolino was spread thin among her other companies. One day after Buenas Vibras’ already postponed opening, the oven hood broke, and smoke filled the kitchen.

“This was after I had everything prepped on the line and everything ready to go,” he said.

Both owners invested thousands into their businesses. Hernandez said he spent about $50,000, supported by funds he had saved from his years of area kitchen work. Consolino spent about $30,000, with loans from Farmers and Merchants Bank.

“This was kind of a crazy thing for me to do during a pandemic,” Consolino said. “But I figured it was the best time.”

Buenas Vibras is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. People can reach the company at 314-303-0642 or on its Facebook page. A website is to come. 

TacOMG! will be open Mondays through Saturdays. People can call the restaurant at 800-659-TACO.