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Haute Spot: Juan’s Flaming Fajitas

Juan’s Flaming Fajitas & Cantina 
Aly Wagonseller

Capitalizing on the popularity of his wildly successful westside location, Juan Vazquez, owner of Juan’s Flaming Fajitas & Cantina, has expanded to Downtown Henderson, transporting his homegrown brand of hospitality, great Mexican food and lively atmosphere to our side of the city.  Located at 16 So. Water Street, the restaurant is part of the DTH revitalization, having been built and designed from the ground up by its namesake proprietor, resulting in a hip, industrial space that, based on the crowds, is clearly making a name for itself.

Juan and a handful of staff, including the original chef who now resides at the new location, all originated from the iconic Viva Mercado’s Mexican Restaurant before taking the plunge to start something new six years ago. Their experience paid off quickly, resulting in an establishment that functioned much like a well-oiled machine, yet maintained the kind of friendly service and personal touches that catapult a neighborhood spot above its corporate competition. This new location is no different; in fact, I’d venture to say they’ve not only kept the same consistency in food and service that made their flagship location such a success, but improved upon the experience with a larger bar area and more modern aesthetic, lending itself to both family or date night dining.

You won’t find Nuevo cuisine ala Border Grill on the menu, but that in no way means that the classic fare Juan’s is dishing out doesn’t compare. It starts with sauces that are incredibly complex in flavor; for me, the reason why this place is so noteworthy. The kind of red chili sauce so earthy and robust it transforms a simple cheese enchilada into a masterful bite you just can’t stop thinking about. Verde sauce that’s tart without being abrasive, balanced with just the right amount of heat to accentuate ingredients like the tender chunks of pork found in their exceedingly flavorful pork chili verde. And, because these sauces are the backbone of pretty much every burrito, enchilada or tamale on the menu, I doubt you’ll go wrong with anything you order; they’re really that good. 

Still, as the name implies, fajitas are Flaming’s big draw, and when they say flaming, it’s literal.  Huge (translation: plenty of leftovers) portions of well executed chicken, steak, pork or shrimp come to the table in an iron vessel designed to keep things hot. Unlike most restaurants, where the requisite fajita Pavlov dog-like reaction is set in motion by way of the sizzling sound of meat as it makes its way through the dining room,  Juan’s flambés your entrée at the table; a detail that, while entertainingly showy, albeit a bit smoky, actually serves a purpose to render off  grease, sear the meat and produce a tasty rendition of this simple staple.  Paired with any one of several margarita, beer or mixed drink options (happy hour specials run from 3-7 daily) and you’ve got a memorable meal that’s worth the drive.

I love a local success story, and with the heart and work ethic that Juan Vazquez brings to the Flaming Fajita, it’s no surprise this second location is a big hit. And, despite what may be a bit of a wait for your table, it delivers the perfect excuse for checking out some other homegrown places, including the Lovelady Micro-Brewery located just next door. It’s a small town feel that’s a welcome change from the big city.  For reservations (closed on Mondays) or more information, call 702-476-4647.

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