Everything You Need To Know About Rosa's Café & Tortilla Factory

Tex-Mex is a colorful culinary blend that has become one of America's favorite regional cuisines. Restaurants serving enchiladas, tacos, nachos, and fajitas, sided with an array of filling side dishes, all paired with refreshing boozy margaritas, are ubiquitous in the American Southwest. Despite often being shunned as a low-quality creation that lacks authenticity and only mimics authentic Mexican flavors, Tex-Mex has slowly risen above the prejudice, earning the respect of many as a charming contemporary fusion deeply rooted in Texan, Mexican, and Native American culture. Though it still doesn't receive all the respect it deserves, Tex-Mex gets a lot of customer love. Naturally, Texas is king in Tex-Mex cuisine, and Rosa's Café is one of its local institutions.

Rosa's story started in 1983 with a single diner, but it turned into a small food empire with more than 50 locations that now cross the state lines. Although Rosa's is little known outside Texas, fans mention its specials, affordability, and consistency as its strongest points. If for some strange reason, there is no Rosa's nearby, some loyal fans have gone so far as to petition for the chain to bring at least one of its stores to the area. If you've ever wondered what's the true story behind Rosa's and how it became a staple on the Tex-Mex map –- here's the story of this colorful franchise.

Rosa's Café has its roots in West Texas

Rosa's — officially called Rosa's Café and the Tortilla Factory — was first opened in 1983 in San Angelo, a city in West Texas famous for its rodeo heritage. It started with one store, and by 1995 the restaurant had spread to five different locations. At that time, perhaps realizing the restaurant's potential, Rosa's was bought by a multiple-brand business owned by Bobby D. Cox, who transformed the brand into a state-wide franchise known for its fast and efficient service, affordable prices, and food that is always freshly prepared. All these features made Rosa's stand out among the fast-food competitors and similar Tex-Mex joints of the time.

The extensive menu at Rosa's is also an homage to its Tex-Mex heritage. The restaurant names beef and chicken fajitas as its signature dish, but offerings include tacos, tamales, burritos, fresh (and free) salsas, Mexican dinner plates, and a full Mexican breakfast. To stay faithful to its Texan roots, Rosa's locations also serve sweet tea and a true Texas classic -– frozen margaritas.

You can find only a couple of Rosa's Café locations outside Texas

For most of its history, Rosa's restaurants were limited to Texas, and it remained a thoroughly Texan thing, with locations dispersed throughout the state. Luckily, it didn't stay that way, and the situation looks slightly different today, and yes, the good news is that you can find Rosa's locations outside its home state, albeit only two. Rosa's operates in Temecula, California as an independently operated restaurant. Based on reviews and online ratings on Tripadvisor and Restaurant Guru, it's one of the favorite Mexican restaurants in the area.

Another out-of-state venture didn't move too far from its Texan roots. Around 2016, Rosa's Café was opened in Hobbs, a small community in New Mexico located right next to the Texas border (via Midland Reporter-Telegram). Both locations have a standard menu and the familiar Rosa's perks, including the family value meals, Rosa's breakfast, catering service, and the famous Taco Tuesday special.

Rosa's Café is owned by a multi-concept company

Today's customers may know Rosa's as a successful restaurant franchise with stores all over Texas and two sites outside the state, but it originated as a one-store business that had a decent run until 1995, when the brand counted five stores in total. Rosa's fortune turned for the best when the brand and all of its stores became a part of Bobby Cox Companies, a conglomerate run by entrepreneur Bobby D. Cox, who started his business journey in the 1960s with a single coffee shop in Odessa. Along with Rosa's Café, the company runs Taco Villa and Texas Burger chains, which all started as regional West Texan businesses (via FoodLogiQ).

Bobby Cox Companies is not restricted to one business sector, however, the restaurant industry is its primary focus. All Bobby Cox's restaurants, including Rosa's Cafe, specialize in fast-casual dining, meaning that all three brands rely on quality but side it with fast service and a relaxed atmosphere. Currently, the business has more than 70 stores throughout the Southwest.

Rosa's recipes are based on family tradition and authentic flavors

"Authenticity is our special ingredient" is Rosa's slogan that sums up the principles and the concept of the franchise. Rosa's is not your classic fast-food joint that offers bland, mediocre, and unenticing food but instead opts to provide fresh ingredients and make dishes packed with authentic flavors. Apart from that, the plates have a more intimate, personal history, and as explained by the marketing specialist Craig Van Amburgh, everything at Rosa's is made according to "authentic, family recipes." Van Ambrugh believes this is the key to Rosa's success and the secret that attracts new customers and keeps the old loyal fans returning for one more dose of those taco specials (via My San Antonio).

Traditional recipes used for some of the dishes at Rosa's are precious family heritage belonging to Carlos Hernandez. His mother generously shared her family's culinary specials, and Carlos then implemented them to create some of the dishes at Rosa's. This gives a whole new perspective on the idea of authenticity and proves that family tradition can be kept alive even in a franchise.

Rosa's Café has trademarked the name of its Taco Tuesday special

Rosa's Café might be known for its fresh ingredients, in-house made tortillas, and mesquite grill, but the Taco Tuesday special takes the cake as Rosa's most attractive asset and an absolute customer favorite — at least according to most comments on Reddit. Rosa's Taco Tuesday special includes three beef or chicken tacos with rice or beans on the side. You can choose between crisp or soft tacos, and the entire combo comes to $5.49. It's a deal that's really hard to beat, so it's not surprising that it became a signature special at Rosa's.

It seems that the campaign was so successful that the franchise decided to protect its slogan. According to Open Corporates, the slogan "Tuesdays were meant for tacos at Rosa's." was registered as a trademark in 2006 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Protecting the Taco Tuesday slogan is not unheard of, as it was first done by Taco John's, a franchise that protected "Taco Tuesday" as its trademark.

Rosa's tortillas are made fresh

Though Rosa's Cafés market beef and chicken fajitas as the star dish at its restaurants, the true winner and the shiniest star at Rosa's must be the in-house-made tortillas, which are also the reason for the Tortilla Factory moniker. Rosa's tortillas are made on the spot and served warm — an asset almost impossible to beat by other fast-food chains or Tex-Mex diners. Some stores equipped with a glass wall will even let you watch the process and inspect the tortilla machine that whips out puffed, golden, and slightly charred tortillas that are immediately ready to be smothered in salsas and dips or used in Rosa's burritos and fajitas.

In the unlikely case that you have too many of those fresh tortillas left, try the advice given by one of the customers on TripAdvisor and go for Rosa's honey that is kept on the counter. Douse your tortillas in it and end your meal at Rosa's with an effortless sweet combo.

All Rosa's locations use mesquite wood for grilling

Mesquite is a type of wood best known as an excellent option for grilling. At Masterclass, mesquite is called the "smokiest" of common smoking and grilling woods, implying that it imparts a strong and distinctive smoky flavor to food. Mesquite woods are found throughout American Southwest and are plentiful in Texas; hence, why it is also the standard for grilling. The qualities of mesquite wood are hard to beat, as it will provide smoky and earthy flavors and great color.

As Rosa's prides on staying true to its Texan roots and being an authentic Tex-Mex joint, the franchise opts to use mesquite wood for grilling. According to Rosa's website, beef and chicken used in Rosa's famed fajitas are grilled over "real West Texan mesquite wood," resulting in grilled delicacies packed with intense smoky flavors and aromas that are unmistakably associated with Texas. Carlos Hernandez, vice president of operations credits this use of mesquite for the success of the skirt steak used in restaurant's fajitas (via Midland Reporter-Telegram). 

There are no freezers at Rosa's

Along with authentic flavors, one of Rosa's main selling points is freshness. This doesn't only refer to those warm, freshly made tortillas but it includes all Rosa's produce. The company seems genuinely dedicated to serving only the freshest products and doesn't merely use it as a catchphrase or a clever marketing strategy. This is best seen in the fact that Rosa's Cafés don't have freezers.

As Carlos Hernandez, vice president of operations at Rosa's explained to the Midland Reporter-Telegram, nothing is frozen at Rosa's. Instead, all of the produce is delivered fresh every morning and processed at a location. Also, cooked dishes like beans and rice specials are all made at Rosa's restaurants. Even nacho chips are made fresh every day. As a fast-casual restaurant, Rosa's Café aims to use higher quality ingredients but having everything delivered fresh and produced at the spot definitely sets it apart from other Tex-Mex chains.

All Rosa's locations have a complimentary salsa bar

Salsa has many versatile roles in the food world. The word literally means "sauce," but it is also enjoyed as a condiment and sometimes even as a side dish, but regardless of how you categorize it, in Tex-Mex cuisine, it is the acidic, herbal, juicy element that perfectly complements any Tex-Mex dish. Of course, the best part of every taco is the salsa, and the greatest part of Rosa's restaurants is that the salsa bar is free of charge!

Rosa's locations have a salsa bar that you can use without additional payment. The bar features different types of bright salsas made fresh every morning and afternoon. It includes a variety of salsas made with different seasonings, fresh pico de gallo, slices of lemon and lime, cilantro, and mild and hot sauces. You can use the bar with any dishes at Rosa's to amp up those bright and fresh Tex-Mex flavors (via Midland Reporter-Telegram).

All locations feature a colorful Mexican-inspired décor

Tex-Mex cuisine is packed with bright flavors, and almost every plate features a vibrant color combination, so it is only natural to enjoy these exciting dishes in an equally colorful environment. Beige and bland don't go well with a culture where the food is served hot and many dishes incorporate spicey flavors. The outside of Rosa's restaurant is easily distinguished by the bright neon fixture of its name, decorated with the signature red rose. To the inexperienced, from the outside, it may seem as if Rosa's Café is a quaint place without much spice, but those are in for a surprise.

With the interior, the designers went all out. The place is packed with massive colorful furniture, and every nook is filled with details that ooze its Tex-Mex heritage. From the tiled tables to the colorful plants, all these details provide a perfect background for the traditional Tex-Mex specials that come out of Rosa's kitchen.

Rosa's restaurants give back to community

Rosa's Café is a Texan thing. The brand was founded in Texas, and for most of its history, it remained only a Texas establishment. Unsurprisingly, in the almost 40 years that it has been in business, Rosa's Café has built a strong relationship with local communities. Just as many locals feel that Rosa's restaurants are an essential component, the franchise must have realized that giving back to the community that supported it is the way things should be done. To prove its commitment, the official Rosa's website has a convenient donation request form, where anyone can ask for a contribution, food donation, or gift card.

Rosa's Café also participates in fundraisers organized by local communities and charities. In 2017, Rosa's Cafe and the entire Bobby Cox Companies hosted and fed around 2,000 children and spouses of fallen soldiers following the annual Snowball Express event. It was the second time the company participated in this worthy cause, showing how much it values the sacrifice and appreciates the community.

Rosa's employees have a chance to become part owners

Apart from the community, the management at Rosa's doesn't turn a blind eye to its employees. In an interview with Midland Reporter-Telegram, Carlos Hernandez explained how the numerous benefits the franchise ensures had created a devoted and reliable staff -– with some staying with the company for decades. He explained that some reasons for company loyalty relate to offering higher wages than competitors and the family-like atmosphere at Rosa's restaurants, but also to bonuses and an excellent reimbursement program that gives long-term personnel the chance to be part owners of Rosa's Café.

Including employers as partners is not unheard of, but it is also not a common practice, especially in the fast-food industry and when dealing with the franchise structure. There are numerous benefits for both sides when it comes to employee ownership. The system will usually increase employees' income and provide more flexibility, while the company will perform better, both in sales and in productivity, meaning that both sides win with this organizational scheme.

Rosa's Café restaurants have a pet friendly policy for outdoor dining

The good news for all the pet owners who can't resist warm tortillas, smoky fajitas, or Rosa's icy margaritas is that you can bring your dog to Rosa's if your local store has an outdoor seating area. According to the review on Pet Instead and Bring Fido, referring to locations in Midland and Watauga (though the policy may not include all locations), Rosa's patio is a dog-friendly area where you can snack on your fresh stack of tacos while keeping your loyal pet safe at your side. Keep in mind that you can't take pets inside, and as there is no table service, your dog will have to wait for you outside.

As one fan on TripAdvisor stated, the fact that they can bring their dogs and the patio offers plenty of shade is part of the appeal of Rosa's Cafe and a reason they keep coming back to the Tex-Mex chain.