Main content starts here, tab to start navigating

Tracy Vaught


In 1983, geologist-turned-restaurateur Tracy decided to forsake the plotting of America’s geothermal energy fields for a more people-oriented profession when she opened her first restaurant, Backstreet Cafe, with her uncle in an old house on the edge of Houston’s River Oaks. It was the turning point of her career and life. She met and married Hugo Ortega, whom she hired to work at Backstreet Cafe, and together they have opened Hugo’s (2002), Caracol (2013) and Xochi (2017), and published two cookbooks: Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico (2012) and Backstreet Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes from Our Neighborhood Cafe (2013). The Houston native has been recognized for her accomplishments by the Houston Business Journal and The Wine Enthusiast, is a two-time semi-finalist for Outstanding Restaurateur for the James Beard Foundation Awards, was named Outstanding Restaurateur of the Year by the Texas Restaurant Association and Restaurateur of the Year at the Houston Culinary Awards. She also recently was selected to serve on a special three-person “She Means Business” panel event sponsored by Facebook.  Tracy is currently a board member of the Texas Restaurant Association.  Tracy is also co-operator of Third Coast Restaurant and conference center, located in the Texas Medical Center, and part owner of Prego restaurant in Rice Village and Origen restaurant in Oaxaca, Mexico.  Tracy and Hugo were approached by celebrity chef Michael Mina in 2017 to do a “pop-up” concept at his Mina Test Kitchen in San Francisco, and Mi Almita was born.  The concept will become a brick and mortar restaurant in Los Angles in early 2019.  They and their team also created the menu for Hugo’s Cocina which is located in Terminal C at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.