WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Over the years, a lot of successful restaurants have set up shops in Wichita Falls. But, if you’re looking for a delicious meal that’s completely unique, that’s been raved about for generations… There’s only one place to go.
In the heart of Downtown Wichita Falls, on 8th Street, past the intersection with Ohio, you’ll find a local diner that’s stood the test of time.
The Original Casa Mañana, home of the famous Red Taco, celebrates 75 years in business in 2022. The restaurant was started by a World War 2 veteran, Nick Karr, who spent four years as a prisoner of war, and his father, back in 1947.
“Of course, he was a cook,” Larry Karr, son of Nick Karr said. “Story was, he kept quite a few of the prisoners alive.”
Larry and his wife Vicki Karr are the current owners of Casa Mañana, which has stood in the heart of downtown Wichita Falls for 75 years now.
“People come here and, ya know, they walk in and it’s been here so long, it’s like their home,” Vicki Karr said.
Larry and Vicki are the third generations of Karr to own Casa Mañana. It’s been family owned and operated since it opened, and that family feeling extends to its customers.
“They’re part of the family,” Vicki Karr said. “That’s what’s important and I think that’s what’s probably the main deal is, they’re part of our family and they come back in here and feel like family.”
Of course, there’s a reason people come back year after year… Those famous red tacos.
“For one thing, nobody has a red taco. We’re known for the red taco,” Vicki Karr said. “Somebody asked me one time, ‘Why a red taco?’ And I said, ‘Why not?'”
So, where did the idea actually come from?
“Actually my uncle went down to Mexico and picked up on a red taco down in that area,” Larry Karr said. “Once we got the process down, then we went crazy.”
After seven and a half decades, they still make them the same way.
“We cook the corn, grind it, and make our own masa, and that’s what makes the red tacos and the chips,” Vicki Karr said.
Vicki Karr said they make about 1200 tacos a week, and Larry Karr commented they typically make more.
After 75 years in business, Larry and Vicki said they’ve seen their fair share of challenges along the way, from wars with Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan, to economic recessions, from a mass exodus of business from downtown Wichita Falls to the more recent COVID-19 pandemic.
All the while, they’ve kept on going.
“We’ve just kind of dug our heels in and done whatever it takes to, ya know, keep going,” Vicki said.
Vicki said they had customers during COVID-19 lockdowns that would order to-go plates just to try and help keep them in business.
Vicki said they couldn’t have made it 75 years without their incredible patrons.
“We had five generations in here one night,” Vicki said. “They come in, and we know their entire family, the grandparents, the parents, kids, and grandkids.”
And Larry said they plan to keep on going as long as they can, with the next generation of Karr’s already planning on taking the baton.
“Our granddaughter is going to college right now,” Larry Karr said, “And she plans to come back and hopefully go another 75 years”.
According to Vicki, Casa Mañana has multiple customers who have been coming for over 50 years, regularly.
“One lady told me a while ago, she said, ‘I’ve been coming here for 60 years, and the mother said, ‘I know, I was pregnant [with you] when she came,” Vicki said.
Vicki said everyone’s welcome, and if you’ve never tried one of their famous red tacos…
“As Joe Tom White, my brother-in-law used to say, come on down to Casa Manana, and don’t you dare miss it!”