In Mexico, strangers are treated as family. That’s the atmosphere Francisco Valera wants to create at his restaurants, Vaqueros and Casa Mexico.

By Linda Jaquette. Photo by Archer Messenger.

Traditional food steeped in culture and tradition, as well as genuine hospitality, awaits you when you dine at Vaqueros in Columbia Falls or Casa Mexico in Kalispell. For over 13 years, both businesses have been providing some of the finest, authentic Mexican cuisine in Montana.

The reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Facebook all agree that if you’re looking for the best Mexican food in the Flathead, these are the places to go. The homemade salsa, delicious food, friendly service, and inviting atmosphere are themes from happy customers raving about their experience.

The owner of both these fine eateries is Francisco Valera. Francisco also serves as the manager of Casa Mexico in Kalispell. Omar Martinez is responsible for managing Vaqueros in Columbia Falls. 

Both Francisco and Omar grew up working in the restaurant industry. Francisco’s family came to settle in the Flathead Valley over 13 years ago after vacationing in the area. They decided this was the place they wanted to try opening their own restaurant.

But why stop at one? Ambitiously, the Valeras acquired the locations for Vaqueros and Casa Mexico around the same time. Vaqueros originally opened in Columbia Falls under the name “Los Caporales.” It was changed to Vaqueros when the restaurant was updated several years ago. Built in 1910, the building that houses Vaqueros has the distinction of being the only building left standing after the Columbia Falls fire in 1929. Casa Mexico sits towards the south end of Kalispell. It has since expanded and added a sports bar and casino to the restaurant, as well as patio seating out front.

Omar has been with Vaqueros for a little over two and a half years and has no intention of leaving. He loves his work and his employer, and says of Francisco, “He cares.” On a busy night, it’s not unusual to see either of them on the floor serving customers.

A dedicated, friendly staff, some of whom are family, add to the restaurants’ popularity. Staff turnover is minimal. They provide a level of service that is second to none. Omar says, “We take care of our staff and they take care of us.” Both management and employees are dedicated to hospitality and it shows. Every guest is welcomed with open arms and a friendly smile.

The Valeras pride themselves on offering truly authentic Mexican cuisine, striving to offer a little bit of Mexico with each dish they serve. The menu offers plenty of traditional choices, or for a hamburger take a look at their American menu. Beef, pork, chicken, seafood, vegetarian, or vegan options are all available.

Both establishments include casinos and full bars – so real margaritas! – separate from the restaurant. For the dancer in you, Casa Mexico occasionally hosts Salsa nights.  

According to both Francisco and Omar, the most rewarding aspect of the business is their customers. It’s happy customers that make the days worthwhile. Returning customers include travelers and locals alike.

They both agree that this is a special place with special people and are glad to be a part of it. “Nuestra casa es su casa” – our house is your house.

Vaqueros is located in Columbia Falls at 535 Nucleus Ave. and is open seven days a week. Visit, find them on Facebook, or call (406) 892-3501

Casa Mexico is in Kalispell at 1600 Highway 93 South. They’re open seven days a week. Visit, find them on Facebook, or call (406) 752-6700.

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