TAKE TWO CONTRACTORS. Add the ruins of a century-old, 10,000-square-foot brick-and-timber building. Combine with a handful of repurposed bits. Dream up a dynamite menu and work the mixture for a few years as finances and pandemic restrictions allow. Serve to hundreds—and toast to success.
That’s the formula Carlos and Patricia Lopez and Dennis and Annette Lucero used to bring Buffalo Hall Bar and Cowboy Café BBQ to Las Vegas, New Mexico. Situated in the railroad district and within blocks of the historic Castañeda and El Fidel hotels, the 600-person event hall, bar, and barbeque joint draws lovers of smoked and grilled meats, concert goers, wedding guests, and billiards and cornhole players to its lofty, rustic space.
Built in the early 1900s, the Buffalo Hall building has served as a B.F. Goodrich tire store, a car dealership, a bowling alley, and an auto parts and repair shop. “At some point the front brick facade fell,” says Carlos Lopez, who also owns a local contractor supply company. “When we bought it, in 2019, all we had was a pile of rubble and an empty shell.”
Some of that brick rubble went into constructing the horseshoe bar and pillars that hold up the exposed, rough-hewn roof trusses. Perched atop the beer cooler is a lone bowling pin, rescued from the old Maloof beer distributorship nearby, where it was discovered tucked in the ceiling.
Lopez and Dennis Lucero, an electrician, both worked on the renovation of the neighboring Castañeda Hotel. In fact, that’s where Cowboy Café’s barbeque smoker comes from, the pair having repurposed the hotel’s original steam tank to cook turkey, brisket, pulled pork, pork and beef ribs, chicken, and sausage links.
If the meats (available only Thursday through Saturday) sell out, there are usually burnt ends available on Sunday to go with menudo and posole. Burgers, “sammiches,” salads, and the usual bar snacks can be had Wednesday through Sunday. (Try the calabacitas—its sweet, mild heat complements the meats.)
“Part of doing the renovation was to keep history in mind,” says Lopez. “We tried to make everything look rustic and old, including the new facade, which we rebuilt to look like the Buffalo Hall and the Exchange Hotel on the Las Vegas Plaza from the mid-1800s.”
Vintage sepia-toned photos, on loan from the Rough Rider collection of the City of Las Vegas Museum, which is down the street, remind diners that this was a hub for rodeo and cowboy events in the early 1900s. A trio of elk mounts and an impressive buffalo head watch over the hall, too.
A wood-fired stove from the Moonlite Welding building evokes an earlier era. “I remembered that stove as a kid. It will be great in the wintertime,” says Lopez. “The historic infrastructure in Las Vegas is second to none, and we need to take care of that.”