New taqueria brings Tex-Mex tastes to Evanston

Marshall Cohen

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Austin’s Tacos, 622 Davis St., opened its doors in December after several months of delays, infusing downtown Evanston with a flair of authentic Southwestern flavor.

The Tex-Mex restaurant, located at the former site of Al’s Italian Beef, has been open for almost a month, and owner Sam Vergos said business is “going great.”

“We’re starting to see positive signs now, after the holiday season,” he said.

The premium taqueria serves authentic food with both Mexican and Tejano influences. Vergos said the restaurant serves no ground beef and instead offers fresh fish and brisket.

Vergos also noted the restaurant recently received its liquor license from the city and plans to open a bar section that will serve margaritas, wine and beer in the coming weeks.

Evanston resident MaryAnne Powers dined at Austin’s Tacos on Monday and returned Tuesday for lunch “because it was so good.”

“It’s really good quality, the prices are excellent and the menu is very creative,” Powers said. “It doesn’t even compare to Taco Bell – it’s a whole different cuisine, and I think the community is lucky to have it.”

In fact, Evanston already has several Mexican-influenced restaurants including Chipotle, 711 Church St., and That Little Mexican Café, 1010 Church St.

“I like competition,” Vergos said. “I’m the type of guy who would rather be in an area where there are a lot of restaurants than be by myself somewhere.”

Vergos grew up in the Chicago area but moved to Dallas, where he currently owns three other restaurants: Original Market Diner, Circle Grill Restaurant and Better Burger.

A lifelong restaurateur, Vergos opened his first establishment in 1971 at the young age of 22. He went on to manage nearly 40 restaurants and retired several years ago, only to return to work after six short months.

“I’ve been working all my life, so I can’t just sit and do nothing,” he said. “I decided that I wanted to do something new, so I decided to open Austin’s Tacos here.”

Although all of his previous ventures were based in Texas, Vergos decided to return to his childhood home region and open Austin’s Tacos in Evanston because the neighborhood had the “best mix” for his business.

“There are people living here, lots of offices and also Northwestern students, who played a big part in my decision to open up here,” he said.

For Vergos, Austin’s Tacos is more than just another restaurant.

“It’s part of my life, and hopefully it will become a part of Evanston,” he said.