Torero’s Mexican Restaurant

| December 10, 2012

Torero’s Mexican Restaurant is much more than a delicious meal. It has been a family tradition for twenty years!

My 30th Birthday at Torero's, with my soon-to-be husband Doug Largent, May 18, 2000.


My affinity for Torero’s Mexican Restaurants goes back twenty years. My boyfriend’s mother, (now my mother-in-law), had a coupon for a new Mexican restaurant that had just opened on the access road in front of what was then South Square Mall in Durham, N.C. We rarely traveled as far as Durham in those days, but we were up for an adventure, and hey, we had a coupon. Throwing caution to the wind, we decided to check it out. Upon sitting down at our table, we were greeted with an unlimited basket of hot tortilla chips and delicious homemade salsa. I ordered spinach enchiladas covered in a mild, green tomatillo sauce, served with Mexican rice and refried beans. The portion was gigantic, the service was fast, friendly and attentive, and the food were delicious. I have been completely hooked ever since.

From that moment on, every special occasion in my life was celebrated with a meal at that Torero’s — birthdays, getting a new job, getting promoted at said job, friends visiting from out-of-town, getting accepted to design school, becoming engaged, completing my SCUBA certification requirements, graduating from N.C State College of Design — just to name a few. It was simply a given that every important event I experienced would be commemorated with a trip to Torero’s. It was also my restaurant of choice if I simply wanted a meal out, and even served as therapeutic comfort food during tougher times. Suffice it to say, I practically lived there, and every waiter new my order by heart. My last dinner in town before my husband Doug and I moved to New York City in 2000 was spent there, with a big “Bon Voyage” blowout, surrounded by our family and friends that we were to leave behind as we embarked on the adventure of our lives.

La Taqueria Mexican Restaurant, 14th Street, New York City, circa 2004.


Upon arriving in Manhattan, I set out to find “my Torero’s” there. I thought, surely, on an island of almost 20,000 restaurants, and nick-named  “Restaurant City,” I could find a decent Mexican Restaurant. New York City, by its nature, is a city of extremes, and Mexican Restaurants are not exempt from this dichotomy. They offered either very expensive gourmet Mexican food like Rosa Mexicano, located in our neighborhood of Chelsea, or served up cheap, greasy taqueria take-out, comparable in taste to the not-so-haute cuisine of Taco Bell. I was determined not to give up, as my mission became more and more an obsession. Using Zagat as my guide, I spent night after night dining in Mexican restaurants all over the city, only to leave full yet disappointed, discouraged and unsatisfied. Those restaurants, that were somewhere in between the $14.00 guacamole and a $1.00 bean taco, did not even come close to the deliciousness found at my hometown Torero’s. Additionally, spinach enchiladas were non-existent and refried beans were unheard of. My mission quickly became futile, and I sadly grew resigned to the reality that The Big Apple, a city that was famous for “having everything” was severely lacking in one crucial feature — Mexican culinary delights.

During the ten years we lived in New York City, Doug and I would head back home to Chapel Hill about four times a year. To avoid traffic on I-95 South, we would often hop in the car after I left work and drive straight all night long, arriving in Chapel Hill at dawn. Every time, Doug’s Mom would have bags of Torero’s take-out waiting for us on her dinner table — the perfect treat for us road-weary-Mexican-food-deprived travelers. Before heading back to Gotham City, I always made sure to dine at my beloved Torero’s one more time, knowing it would have to last me at least three months until our next trip home.


During one of our trips back to North Carolina in 2005, I made a wonderful discovery. A branch of Torero’s had just opened up at Plantation Plaza (now Carrboro Plaza) in good ‘ol Carrboro. I was over-the-moon excited! I simply could not believe my good fortune that there was finally a Torero’s right here in town. Now whenever I needed my “great Mexican food fix” when I returned home for a visit, I no longer had to battle the traffic on Highway 15-501 and venture all the way to Durham.

In the fall of 2009, when Doug and I were trying to decide whether to move back home to Chapel Hill or not, I made a very extensive list of pro’s and con’s for both N.C. and N.Y.C. I wrote “Torero’s” in big letters, with a few exclamation points for emphasis, on the pro-N.C. side of the chart. Ghenet, a superb Ethiopian Restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y. was listed on the pro-N.Y.C side. Since we did finally land back in Chapel Hill, (well, Carrboro), in the spring of 2010, clearly Torero’s won out. Now, thankfully, my nine hour commute to great Mexican food has been cut down to just a five minute drive.

Torero's Mexican Restaurant, Durham, N.C.

Soon after getting settled back in North Carolina, the Carrboro Torero’s became my new home away from home. I still often patronize the Durham Torero’s, as well. In early 2010, it expanded by relocating to the old On the Border building at Oak Creek Village Shopping Center off of Highway 15-501. It is a mile closer to Chapel Hill, the food is still excellent, and there is rarely a wait for a table. It is so much bigger now, I have a different waiter every time. But the service is fast and attentive, and when the owner is there, he still greets me like a close “amiga.” They have also just added an all-you-can-eat lunch and dinner buffet, as if the huge portions they give for a regular meal are not gargantuan enough. However, the Torero’s in Carrboro (now called Munchies Mexican Grill) always feels much more intimate, and they always know my order by heart the minute I walk in.

Like mother, like daughter, “Zoomer” loves eating at Torero’s just as much as I do. Actually, the first time we took her to a restaurant, when she was just seven weeks old back in 2009, was at Torero’s. Her very first meal in a restaurant, at 14 months old and right after we moved back home, was at Torero’s. Along with the plentiful yummy options available, Torero’s is very kid-friendly. Crayons and a coloring page kid’s menu are supplied upon entering, and we often take advantage of their “Kid’s Eat Free” days. (Sunday & Tuesdays in Carrboro, Monday-Thursday in Durham.) Even though it is already really well-priced, especially for the huge portions they serve, coupons are easy to come by, and they also offer a 25% student discount to students from all neighboring colleges, so be sure to bring your student ID with you if you qualify.

Now that we living back in the land of Torero’s, our family tradition of marking special occasions there lives on. We celebrated Zoomer’s 2nd Birthday there, and spent Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and my Birthday enjoying the same spinach enchiladas I first tried and fell in love with twenty years ago. The only difference is, now that I follow a vegan diet, I always ask them to “86” the cheese and sour cream, add extra guacamole, and request the lard-free vegetarian rancho beans instead of the refried beans. Even without the dairy and fatback, it is still as delicious as ever!

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