Rosa’s Café Tortilla Factory opened its first Austin-area location Dec. 15 in Cedar Park’s 1890 Ranch shopping center. There was no hoopla, no ribbon cutting and no coterie of civic officials to mark the event. But by 11 a.m., the line of customers stretching to the door indicated dozens of diners had awaited the Tex-Mex restaurant’s opening with eager anticipation.
Although this is the first Rosa’s in the Austin area, the restaurant’s fame preceded it, said Director of Field Marketing Kent Dean.
“We’ve been well-established for a number of years in the West Texas markets, with a well-established following,” Dean said. “The addition of an Austin location was highly requested by people who already knew us.”
The second customer through the door Wednesday confirmed Dean’s assessment.
“We grew up in West Texas and we’ve been waiting for this one to open,” said the lady at the salsa bar with a wide grin on her face.
The first Rosa’s opened in San Angelo in 1983. The company and its five locations were purchased by Bobby D. Cox in 1995. Cox has expanded Rosa’s to 30 locations across the state, with one franchise in California. The Cedar Park restaurant is part of the Central Texas region, which also includes restaurants in Waco, Killeen and College Station.
Carlos Hernandez, Rosa’s vice president of operations, said they will be watching the Cedar Park café closely as the company plans to open more locations in the Austin area.
“This is the first one in the Austin market, and our success here in Cedar Park will give us the opportunity to grow in Austin,” Hernandez said.
Rosa’s offers a traditional Tex-Mex menu replete with enchiladas, tacos, tamales, fajitas, and a complementary salsa bar featuring a variety of different flavors and seasonings. Unlike many eclectic restaurants in the Austin area that have tried to reinvent the Mexican food wheel, Rosa’s relies on authentic, tried-and-true recipes that could easily be labeled “comfort food.”
“Everything we serve is made fresh daily, with no carry-overs,” said Director of Operations Brad Poyner. “Our business doesn’t even have a freezer. Our competitors may do some things we do, but we have a commitment to quality and freshness.”
“One of the best things Rosa’s brings to the table is value,” Dean said. “We offer sit-down quality at an economical price with quick service.”
A la carte items are available on the menu, but look to the full-plate dinners for the most bang for the buck. The dinners range in price from $4.99 for tacos and enchiladas, to $8.99 for beef or chicken fajitas.
Full plates come with ample portions of entrée, rice and beans, lettuce and tomatoes, and many come with guacamole. All the dinners are served with fresh flour tortillas made as the customers watch. The “tortilla factory” behind the big glass window is a hit with kids of all ages.
The service is fast, even during rush periods. Customers order and pay upon entering the restaurant, but that’s where most of the similarities to fast food end.
“It’s easy to mistake us for a fast food restaurant, but what we really are is fast-casual,” Hernandez said.
Rosa’s bills itself as an upscale, “fast-casual” eatery where diners can order and be served in minutes, then sit down to enjoy the amenities of a full-service restaurant, including real plates and silverware — and someone else to clean up the table. For those in a hurry, the Express Drive-Through gets hungry diners on their way with an average wait time of less than three minutes.
“Our food is always fresh and fast,” Poyner said. “We pledge to our customers to always greet you with a smile, and to say ‘thank you’ when you walk out the door.”
Rosa’s Café Tortilla Factory is located at 1509 E. Whitestone Blvd. in the 1890 Ranch shopping center. The restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., and 10:30 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday. For more information, visit rosascafe.com.