Antonio Abarca, owner of family business Senor Toro’s on Interstate 10 at 16th Street in Orange, says he knows the offer of two free margaritas with each entree ordered draws guests into the busy restaurant. He also knows from years of experience that the good food and pleasant service keeps them coming back for more – and often. From the customers we talked to, their conversation makes it appear that he is correct. One man said he didn’t believe the offer when he first read it, but he came in with his family and sure enough, the server offered each adult a free margarita. And when they arrived at the table, the drinks were very good.
Abarca, who has been in the restaurant business since coming to America in 1979, said that there are now four Senor Toro’s Mexican restaurants in the general area, all owned by family. There is the first one in Vidor, owned and managed by his brother Pedro, one each in Buna and Woodville, and soon to be a new one in Lumberton, along with the one we visited in Orange. When Abarca arrived in America, he signed on with Casa Ole and plied his trade of cooking for the busy restaurant. The delicious recipes come down from family and are carefully cooked fresh each time they are ordered.
Although he loves his native country of Mexico, Abarca knows he could never have the job or the opportunities there that he has here. “America offers endless possibilities if one is willing to work,” he said. “I work seven days a week and we enjoy a good living. I do sometimes go home on Sunday and go to church and sometimes on Wednesday, but we stay busy most of the time and I feel I am needed here.” Abarca’s home is in Port Arthur and he has four children. He admitted to loving soccer but to not having much time to play now. “I do get to watch it from time to time on TV,” he said.
When asked what the most popular meal served at “Mr. Bull’s,” he says, “The Big Juan is one of our most sought after. It has ground beef, rice, beans and chili meat and is filling for hearty appetites.” My husband ordered that on this visit to the restaurant and can testify to its size and filling capacity.
The busy restaurant, located near several active ball fields, can seat 175 people at any given time and was once located just a few short blocks away on 16th Street in Orange. “We were told that the building there might be torn down, and we needed a bit more space, plus I wanted to be settled,” said Abarca. “So we moved here about a year ago and have been pretty busy since.” Senor Toro’s is right alongside busy Interstate 10 and popular 16th Street in Orange and can easily be seen from the freeway, plus there are several motels at that intersection as well.
One of the things he attributes his success to are the monthly specials and his fortunate selection of good help. “Our people are taught to be kind to every customer, and to pay attention to each table, to see that they do not have needs that are not met.” A large board just inside the doorway lets guests know what the special of the day is, from fajita beef salad to big burritos and a steak ranch.
On a busy Monday night at Senor Toro’s, a couple from Newton, Marvin and Marilyn Gooch, were visiting a daughter in the area and returning a visiting grandchild. Marvin is a retired electrician and served as a union organizer for some time. “Oh, we eat here every time we visit our daughter,” he said, “and we alwaymozs enjoy our meals here. The food is good, service is excellent, people are nice, and it is price competitive.” Marilyn added that Marvin had chosen tacos on this visit and she had enjoyed an enchilada.
Server Lacey Davis from Deweyville says she knows she is blessed to have a good job and one that is dependable. She is also fortunate to have full-time work and says the restaurant is a good place to make a living. Senor Toro’s employs 22 to 24 individuals in the area.
The street address for Senor Toro’s is 2308 Lutcher, which is the access road alongside I-10 near 16th Street in Orange. They are open seven days a week and also do a good bit of take-out business and offer catering for school, church and other groups. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, but stays open until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings. Call (409) 883-2443.
Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.