Brewing Up a Success
Las Cruces' new De La Vega's Pecan Grill & Brewery resulted from a carefully crafted recipe for a winning restaurant.
By Peggy Platonos
"If you build it, they will come." That is the widely known, though slightly incorrect, version of the mystical mandate received by Kevin Costner in the 1989 movie Field of Dreams.
Owners Tom and Jeanine Springer in the
special wine room at De La Vega's
It was also the clear message received by Tom Springer and his wife, Jeanine, from an extensive marketing study they commissioned to determine the type of restaurant residents of Las Cruces would welcome. Upscale and casual was the answer, loud and clear.
"They described this restaurant," Tom says, seated in the lounge of the newly opened De La Vega's Pecan Grill & Brewery, which is located at the corner of Telshor and Lohman, in the building that Tom, a contractor and developer, originally built for Garduo's Restaurant nearly 10 years ago. After Garduo's failed, the building sat empty for several years.
Eventually, a potential tenant appeared, and Tom began renovating the building to his specifications. The tenant dropped out after the renovations were well underway, and it was at that point that Tom and Jeanine came up with the idea of creating a restaurant of their own in the building.
The Springers, who had never been involved in a restaurant venture before, assembled a talented team of employees and, with their help, followed the marketing mandate, incorporating the ideas gleaned from the marketing study, as well as creative suggestions from the experienced staff.
True to their word, people came. And they keep coming.
Almost from the moment the doors opened to the public on Dec. 7, with no advertising or fanfare, the 300 seats in the restaurant have been filled, both for lunch and for dinner, nearly every day, seven days a week. A simple banner announcing the opening draped along the patio railing and visible from Lohman was obviously all the advertising needed. "We didn't even have signs up until Jan. 1," Tom says.
"One of the things that excited all of us is that everything is unique," enthuses Stephanie Groves, whose official title at De La Vega's is Event Coordinator, but who has been serving as acting general manager. "We infuse our own liquors: vodka with Jolly Ranchers, tequila with pineapple and vanilla beans, bourbon with bacon. We offer Pecan Beer, which is brewed beer with natural pecan oil added."
Although De La Vega's does not brew its own beer, it does have a contract with Sierra Blanca Brewery to produce six customized beers for the restaurant. Samples of these beers can be purchased for $5 a "flight" — consisting of slightly oversized shots of each of the six specially crafted beers. The flight comes served on a wooden tray that features information about each of the different brews, visible when the iced mini-mug containing that particular beer is lifted from the tray.
The restaurant uses local produce whenever possible. Though the special meat-smoking equipment and the grill came from Oklahoma, the pecan wood pellets used in the smoking and grilling are produced locally.
"A lot of our foods and drinks are infused with pecans, and also with green chiles from Hatch," Tom says. "We serve green chile vodka and green chile beer. All the chiles are processed on site."
Whipped butter with green chiles is served with rolls at both lunch and dinner — just one of the special touches that delight diners. Others include cloth napkins, steamy hand-towels to accompany liberally sauced barbequed ribs, relish trays containing small cups of raw sugar, whipped cream and shaved chocolate to accompany cups of hot coffee, and the selection of flavored sugar syrups (pecan, ginger and mint) that accompanies tall glasses of iced tea.
Fun and whimsy are integral components of De La Vega's, helping to maintain the "casual" portion of the original "upscale and casual" mandate.
"One of the fun things we have is a Cotton Candy Martini. You have to see it to believe it," says Jeanine Springer.
"Also our Lava Burger," chimes in her husband. "It's got two kinds of cheese in the center with green chiles."
"You take a bite and it just kind of erupts," Jeanine laughs.
"Literally, as well as with flavor," Tom adds. "It's one of those things you really need a napkin handy when you eat it."
Tom and Jeanine Springer are very much like their new restaurant: classy and casual. The two grew up in Farmington and now live in Las Cruces. Their rodeo background obviously helps to keep them grounded. Tom, in his younger days, was a bull rider. Jeanine was, and continues to be, a barrel racer. Their son-in-law, Travis Briscoe, is currently a bull rider in the Professional Bull Riders Association (PBRA) and has been in the running for the World Championship every year for the past five years.
Future plans for De La Vega's include the creation of a separate outdoor section to be known as "D's Back Porch." According to Stephanie Groves, the section will be "more tailored to the college kids." It will have a gigantic Wii, along with a more casual menu and atmosphere. Target date for the opening of D's Back Porch is March 1.
De La Vega's will also be offering catering services in the future. "But we wanted to get the dining room and bar up and running first," Groves explains.
That mission appears to be going very well indeed.
De La Vega's is located at 500 S. Telshor Blvd. in Las Cruces.
Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The restaurant closes in the afternoon and reopens for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m.
The bar opens at 11 a.m. seven days a week. It closes at midnight Monday through Wednesday; at 2 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; and at 11 p.m. on Sunday.
For more information, visit De La Vega's website
at www.PecanGrill.com or call 521-1099.
Freelance writer Peggy Platonos is also a professional cook and has recently launched a business called Bread-Mates at Schadel's Bakery in Silver City. She produces food items there that either go with bread or are made out of bread, including soups, spreads and several different types of lasagna. She will be writing more restaurant reviews for Desert Exposure and welcomes tips about interesting, unusual and taste-tempting restaurants in our area. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 536-2997.