Brother and sister Michael Vogt and Maria Gilmore know a lot about Mexican restaurants. After all, they grew up working in their mother’s.
When Gloria Santacruz Vogt opened Santacruz in Jefferson City in 1988, Michael Vogt had no idea that 10 years later he would buy the family restaurant from her and later, along with his sister, expand that business to Columbia. But that’s just what happened.
Vogt along with his wife, Jennie, and Gilmore, along with her husband, Tony, purchased the former Los Bandidos restaurant at 220 S. Eighth St. After eight months of working to improve the place, they opened for business Jan. 2.
“It’s the same shape and room but all different,” Jennie Vogt said. “We put in a completely new floor, new ceiling and new bar. We painted the walls and got different decorations.”
Those decorations are from Michael and Tony’s trip to Mexico. Santacruz family photos eventually will adorn the walls giving the restaurant a family touch.
“We are adding black and white photos of the Santacruz family as we gather them from relatives,” Vogt said.
They also added outdoor seating.
“It seats like 20 to 40 people,” Vogt said. “We have an outside bar on Thursday nights and weekends, and we serve a full menu out there.”
With the large number of Mexican restaurants lining the streets of Columbia, authentic Mexican food is a must for Santacruz. Family recipes make this possible.
“Everything is made from scratch,” Vogt said. “My mother-in-law’s family was from Mexico and we use family recipes.”
Vogt also said the quality of meat sets the restaurant apart.
“We buy all of our meat and steam cook it ourselves,” she said. “We drain all the grease off our meat before adding ingredients to it. Our meat is really flavorful.”
As with any restaurant, good service is a key to success. At Santacruz, trust in the workers makes this possible. “Our employees are friends and friends of friends,” Vogt said. “Everyone is tied in with mutual friends, but we consider them all family.”
This family atmosphere gives Santacruz a casual, cozy dining atmosphere.
Santacruz is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.