Vermillion’s tradition still strong: Brownsville establishment nearly 100 years old

South Texas Flavor

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Pictured is a to-go order of fajita nachos from Vermillion Restaurant and Watering Hole in Brownsville. (Travis M. Whitehead | Valley Morning Star)

BROWNSVILLE — I hear the “Cheers” theme dance through my mind as I enter this restaurant so familiar to me and to so many.

“Where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came,” sings that popular jingle from the 1990s as I take a table at the Vermillion Restaurant and Watering Hole at 115 Paredes Line Road.

If the Vermillion could talk, it would tell you stories about the generations and the conversations and the periods of history it has witnessed.

Vermillion first made its appearance in the 1930s when Fred Vermillion and his wife bought land at what would become Boca Chica Road Boulevard and Paredes Line Road. There wasn’t much there at the time, and when the restaurant opened many customers would tie up their horses outside.

Since that time, the world around Vermillion has changed many times and speeded up, but inside Vermillion, little has changed.

The booths along the walls and the round tables down the middle are the same as I have always seen them. Black and white photos tell the history of the restaurant and the history of Brownsville through the decades.

We can surmise briefly that Vermillion is in a time warp but the continuous movement and the vitality cancels that idea. Vermillion certainly is not frozen in time, either.

Rather, Vermillion is a place of nostalgia and consistency and reliability, a place with a strong sense of responsibility to its enduring character and color and personality and the maintenance of memory.

I have taken a small square table near the entrance, and I can see well to the end of the dining room. The booth at the very end is where my friend Glynn and I had dinner some years ago. At the round table in front of me, my friends and I used to gather on Thursday afternoons for fajita nacho deluxe plates and joyful conversation.

A couple of friends of mine had dinner in the booth next to me and it has been my preferred table many times. I realize now I have not eaten at Vermillion in quite some time, so it is good to have this sort of reunion of memories.

Today on this busy Sunday afternoon, I am sitting at the only table available. It is good to see that still Vermillion is a popular and robust place where people know they can still get the same good food and the same quality of food they have always known.

The waitress brings me the menu and my eyes fall on the same listing: fajita nachos deluxe.

“House Favorite!” says the menu. But it’s not just the house favorite, it’s my favorite. I immediately close the menu and the waitress takes my order.

Meanwhile, at the booth to my right where I have eaten so many times before, so many years ago, two women talk amongst themselves over lunch. One woman has long white hair to her shoulders and she dips her fried shrimp in a sauce while her friend across the table works on small morsels of beef.

A waitress clears tables and a family fills a booth.

“Do you want to start with an appetizer?”

“Chicken fried chicken no gravy.”

“Gravy on the side.”

Still the same service, the same conversation, and … the same quality of food.

My fajita nachos arrive, a play filled with crunchy nachos with beef and quality, and a flavor familiar and fabulous. I need to come back soon.

Vermillion is open from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday.