HARLINGEN — The iconic Brownsville eatery, the Vermillion Restaurant and Watering Hole, is heading north.
The popular restaurant will open a second location here, replacing Pico de Gallo Cocina Tex-Mex at 1601 W. Harrison Ave.
“I’m nervous and I’m scared,” Vermillion owner George Perez said yesterday. “This is the first time Vermillion is going to do it — we have never opened another location — but it’s time.”
Vermillion opened its original Brownsville location in 1934, and for years Harlingen residents have driven south to dine at “the V.”
So it’s already familiar to a lot of Harlingen residents, right?
“Yeah, that’s a big plus,” Perez said. “You’re relieving my tension right now by saying that.”
Perez said he has leased the property from Pico de Gallo’s owners and that restaurant would be closing soon.
He said he expects to finalize the lease within the next week and take occupancy by Feb. 13. After that, he said he intends to make the décor “a little fresher.”
He said Vermillion No. 2 will open in about two months following the renovation work.
“We thought about it real good, but Harlingen has a lot to give and it’s growing, so we said let’s try it there,” Perez said.
The original Brownsville restaurant was built by Fred Vermillion at Boca Chica Boulevard and Paredes Line Road in 1934, a small ramshackle affair which was replaced and upgraded by subsequent owner G.L. “Gib” Davidson.
Davidson bought the Vermillion in 1953, and it remained in the family until it was sold to Perez last year.
Perez certainly knows the restaurant well — it’s the only place he’s ever worked, starting in high school as a dishwasher, then salad prep, assistant cook, cook, busboy, waiter, assistant manager and manager.
Perez, a Brownsville native, said his plans are to incorporate historic Harlingen into the new restaurant’s décor, just as Vermillion has in Brownsville. He hopes to obtain old photos of his new city to put on the walls.
“I hope Harlingen will receive us well, and hopefully we’ll be there for many years to come, like we have been here,” he said.