A Unique Tex-Mex Favorite Restaurant Returns to Omaha

Tex-Mex, a distinctly American cuisine rooted in the Tejano (Texans of Mexican descent) culture of Texas, has been around since the early Mission days on land that is now occupied by the state of Texas. Inspired by Spanish, Native American, and Mexican cuisines, the unique combination of flavorful ingredients such as cumin, chile peppers, beef, and cheese still delights diners today.

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Julio’s has been serving tasty Tex-Mex dishes such as nachos, enchiladas, and fajitas in eastern Nebraska since 1977, but regular fans of the consistently delicious dishes mourned when the sole remaining location in Omaha announced its closure in 2020.

Shortly after this closure, restaurant owner Brett Clure (Tavern 180, Tanner’s, Capri) decided to purchase the establishment, including original recipes, and reopen in two locations in Omaha. Once the news went public, eager loyal customers awaited the reopening.

Mark Pogge, general manager of the 192nd and Q location, spent over 16 years in the hospitality business, starting as a barback in his early 20s. A graduate of the culinary program at Metropolitan Community College, Pogge always loved cooking, but his career path took him on more front-of-house gigs.

Working for and learning from instructors and local chefs such as John Horvatinovich (Salt 88) taught him that a great manager leads by example, pitches in to help in every position, and treats staff fairly and with compassion. True to his tenets, Pogge logs hours on the kitchen line when warranted, though he joked, “I can always tell when I haven’t cooked in a while; all the hair is still on my arms.”

The freshly minted space is clean, cool, and modern with thoughtful touches such as the back-lit bottles lining bar shelves—an homage to the colors found in both the Mexican and American flags. Orange booths and dark wood tables, along with an expansive patio, provide ample seating.

Nick Katis, kitchen manager with over 25 years of back-of-house experience, started at Julio’s in 1999 and stayed with the establishment until the 120th Street location closed. Given the veteran chef’s tenure, it was kismet when he decided to come out of retirement to run the kitchen at the Q Street location. Katis’s recipe knowledge is extensive, which shines through in the food coming out of the kitchen, garnering high praise from regulars who marvel that the food “tastes exactly the same.”

The menu features the most popular dishes served at Julio’s over the years, though occasionally the team fields a request for a nostalgic dish not yet found on the menu. According to server Carolyn Folsom, the kitchen will endeavor to accommodate most any request, provided the ingredients are available in-house.

All diners are welcomed with complimentary chips and salsa while they peruse the extensive drink menu, which features a curated collection of beers, wines, and cocktails. Classic Mexican beers are joined by a handful of local brews including Keg Creek Más, Kinkaider, and Kros Strain Fairy Nectar.

Can’t decide if you want a strawberry, lime, or mango margarita? Julio’s has “The Answer” – a layered trio of the three blended margarita flavors served in a tall pilsner glass. Specials such as the Chipotle Mango Margarita appeal to those with a more adventurous palate and the sangria swirl of the Santo Julio serves as a sweet counterpoint to the spicier menu offerings.

Flavorful food options abound, from the flour nachos decked in salsa, seasoned ground beef, black olives, guacamole, sour cream, and diced tomatoes to a sizzling platter of fajitas with all the fixings. Lighter options include the fajita salad, a pile of crisp greens topped with plump, juicy steak and drizzled with a zingy avocado/cilantro dressing, or the refreshing shrimp tacos topped with a mango pico de gallo.

The award-winning Cowboy Enchilada, stuffed with smoked brisket, pepper jack, and cream cheese and topped with green chili cream sauce is decadent and rich. Equally delectable (and perfect with a local brew) is the Smokehouse Burger featuring a wagyu patty topped with smoked brisket, cheddar cheese, and jalapeno bacon.

Marketing manager Dave Shillinglaw shared, “Part of our philosophy is to give back to the community—to those who support us.” The team’s community involvement includes sponsoring youth sports teams or charitable nights, where a percentage of sales are donated to designated groups or charities.

Cooperative staff efforts enable diners to get in and out for a quick meal or take time to linger over an evening out with friends. Visit julios.com for the latest drink and food menus, and to register for the birthday club—patrons celebrating a birthday will receive a free dessert featuring ice cream from the adjacent Grant and Emmy’s shop.

More stories like this one can be found at Our Food.

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