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Maria Rivera, founder of Maria’s Mexican Restaurant in Olmsted Village and Maria’s Brunch & More off N.C. 5, is opening Vaquera: a new spot with a nod to the past in the Pavilion at Morganton. Maria stepped away from the Olmsted restaurant in 2021, and later opened Maria’s Brunch and More, which is adjacent to and connected with Sandhills Bowling Center. The bowling center is now working to create its own bar and grill in that space.

“We knew we wanted to go back into what we know, what we like, what we enjoy — and when we received a call about this location, we felt like it was meant to be,” Maria says.

Maria’s family founded El Vaquero (“the cowboy”) in downtown Southern Pines, which over the years had a few locations, including Aberdeen and Pinebluff. Her new restaurant, which will have a “modern vibe, vibrant colors, fun cocktails and good music,” will be dubbed Vaquera — “the cowgirl.”

Maria has partnered with her daughter Biatris Maya, who’s been working at her side since she was a teenager. “We’ve seen people grow up,” Biatris says. “My mom isn’t good with names, but she’ll remember your face, your drink, what you like and don’t like. We want everyone to know that we miss them.”

Maria expects Vaquera to open in the last week of April.

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