When Amy Vasquez sums up her family’s half-century of growth and success serving customers at their Poncho’s and Someburros restaurants, it all comes down to the Three Cs: Cuisine, Culture and Community.

Amy Vasquez, one of the family owners of Someburros, shows off a Rod Burro in at their restaurant on 7th Street near Missouri Avenue (photo by Darryl Webb, special for North Central News).

Cuisine — classic Sonoran favorites — forms the foundation. The extended family has been serving up grandmother Isabel Vasquez’s recipes since 1972. (Don’t miss the pollo fundido.)

Culture — respect and care for familia, which includes the founding family, employees and customers, along with warm hospitality, permeates every aspect of the company, Vasquez said.

Community — a tradition of service to their internal community of employees as well as the extended communities they serve has long been a focus of her family business, she added.

It began in 1972, when Poncho’s opened for business in the family home on Central Avenue and Baseline Road.

“My Nana Isabel and great-aunt Collin were fantastic cooks,” Vasquez said. “Their family is from Magdalena, Sonora, and their recipes are very authentic Sonoran-style. Every day, Nana Isabel would make tacos and red and green chile beef and a little pot of beans, and my dad and my uncle would have friends over.

“It was her dream to open a restaurant.”

Vasquez’s father, George, was a baseball player signed to play in the minor leagues for the Brewers and the Astros.

“He used a portion of his signing bonus to help his mom and dad (Isabel and her husband Eusevio “Poncho” Vasquez) open up Poncho’s Mexican Food,” Vasquez said.

George’s brother Ralph Vasquez also was part of the founding group.

Someburros showcases their Pollo fundido, two tacos plate, upper left, Poncho Villa burrito, middle back, at their restaurant on 7th Street near Missouri Avenue (photo by Darryl Webb, special for North Central News).

The word spread, and the lines got longer every day. Pretty soon the family moved out of the house and turned the whole place into a take-out and dine-in restaurant.

The original restaurant still serves a faithful clientele that has included then-President Bill Clinton. (He famously wolfed down an entire appetizer platter one notable day.)

Fast-forward to 1986, when Vasquez, her brother Tim and sister Jennilyn were in school, active in Little League, Pop Warner, cheer and Girl Scouts. Like many other families, they spent a lot of time on the road, with stops for fast food meals.

“My mom and dad said why not open a place where we could sell quality Mexican food but quickly,” she said.

They created Someburros on Mill Avenue and Baseline in Tempe.

“Our concept was fast casual,” Vasquez added. “A meal on the go, with fresh ingredients and good recipes.”

The name is a play on a blend of sombreros and burros — the food and the animal. A cartoon burro, “Nacho,” is the mascot.

To draw in customers, Amy, Tim and Jennilyn stood on the corner of Mill and Baseline — Tim dressed up like a burro, and the girls in sombreros, ponchos and embroidered tops and skirts – waving to customers.

“It was fun, but it could get a little toasty out there sometimes,” she recalled.

Someburros’ two tacos plate (photo by Darryl Webb, special for North Central News).

Today there are 13 Someburros locations, including the original, and they’re set to open three more this year, including one in Peoria. Customers can order quick pick-up or choose to dine in.

“It didn’t happen quickly,” Vasquez said. “It was about 16 years after that first location until we opened the second Someburros, in Gilbert.”

The young siblings worked part-time in the restaurant, and after graduating from college, began full-time work in earnest.

“We started working in the kitchen from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day,” Vasquez said. “We had to learn every aspect of the business, while really being connected with the employees and gaining their respect. I’m so grateful that we were given that opportunity.

“Our employees are like family to us,” she added. “There’s a mutual respect, and that’s why we’ve been able to hold on to people for as long as we have.”

Today, the company has close to 500 employees. Tim serves as president. Jennilyn has stepped back from active management to focus on her young family.

“For 17 years, I’ve worked in every position, including general manager and catering,” Vasquez said. “I went to Poncho’s to do their remodel (when the dining room was closed during COVID) and helping them with their operations.”

Now she focuses on those other “Cs” — customer experience, company culture and community relations.

“Those are the parts that are the most near and dear to my heart,” she said.

“I’m really proud of the life and environment our company has provided for our employees. One of our employees started with us in 1986. Her two kids have been managers. Many of our employees have kids who work here as well.”

Another thing that makes Vasquez proud is community service.

“That is something my parents instilled in us at an early age,” she said. “It’s being involved, not just in terms of finances, but being a contributor by supporting organizations and schools, being a good neighbor, being good to people around you.

“My whole family is grateful that we’ve had the opportunity and ability to give back to the community and be a place where people can go do and make these memories with their families.

“I’m so happy we could provide that over the last 50 years.”

Someburros has 13 Valley locations, including the North Central Phoenix restaurant, 5115 N. 7th St. Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. For more information, including catering services, call 602-584-8226 or visit www.someburros.com.


  • Marjorie Rice

    Marjorie Rice is an award-winning journalist, newspaper food editor, travel editor and cookbook editor with more than three decades' experience writing about the culinary industry.

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