La Vaquera prepares to open at River Street Marketplace

A rendering of La Vaquera, which will anchor the River Street Marketplace opening in San Juan Capistrano.
A rendering of La Vaquera, which will anchor the River Street Marketplace opening in San Juan Capistrano this summer.
(Courtesy of Doug Washington Design / La Vaquera)

La Vaquera restaurant is putting the finishing touches on its location at River Street Marketplace in the historic Los Rios District of San Juan Capistrano. The eatery will join 19 other tenants at the 60,000-square-foot venue, anticipated to open this summer.

Acme Hospitality owns and operates restaurants and hotels that celebrate California’s heritage in places like Santa Barbara and Palm Springs. La Vaquera is the group’s latest endeavor. Inspired by the adventurous spirit of the cowgirl, La Vaquera will draw inspiration from California’s ranchero lifestyle in both its space and menu.

“La Vaquera celebrates the rich diversity of the farms and ranches of Orange County while honoring the time-tested culinary traditions of the original California rancheros,” said founder and managing partner for Acme Sherry Villanueva.


Designed by Doug Washington, whose firm is based in Berkeley, the space will seat 125, with touches like utilitarian ranch furniture and a lushly landscaped outdoor patio.

“Our aim was to create an oasis where patrons can unwind and indulge, whether seeking a casual bite or a memorable dining experience on the patio,” said Washington.

“La Vaquera is a place for everyone to gather around the table in a lively and convivial atmosphere,” Villanueva echoed.

The kitchen will be helmed by chef Aaron Zimmer, whose experience includes cooking for the Rosewood Hotel Group, Google‘s Mountain View campus and the Ritz Carlton in Buckhead, Ga. Zimmer’s interpretation of California ranchero-inspired cooking will include wood-fired dishes and an array of steakhouse-inspired plates that draw from locally sourced ingredients and elsewhere in the Golden State.

Guests can look forward to dishes like a Masami Ranch American wagyu New York strip, served with a house-made Barbacoa sauce and grilled Spanish octopus served with scarlet runner beans and charred spring onion.

River Street Marketplace is an outdoor retail and dining destination from real estate development firm Almquist. Its highly anticipated opening this summer will add to the vibrancy of downtown San Juan Capistrano, which is currently home to Orange County favorites like Mayfield Restaurant, Bloom Restaurant + Bar, Breezy Restaurant & Lounge and the expanding Heritage Barbecue.

Besides La Vaquera, River Street will welcome other dining options like McConnell’s Ice Cream, Fermentation Farm, Bred’s Hot Chicken, Mendocino Farms, Shootz Hawaiian and Finca, a burger joint. Retail shops joining the marketplace include Common Thread, Free People, Wildfire Mercantile, independent eyewear brand SALT and Laguna Beach surf apparel company Toes on the Nose.