The Herrera family’s presence in the restaurant industry began when patriarch David moved to the U.S. from El Salvador in 1979 at age 18. Since then, David has enlisted the help of his wife, Alicia, and three sons—Marvin, Ubaldo and Dario—to build a small culinary empire in the Greater Houston area.

After beginning his culinary career as a bus boy, David held various positions working for esteemed restaurateur Tony Vallone from 1987 to 2002. Now, under the name Groupo Herrera, David and his family have six of their own establishments: four Alicia’s Mexican Grille locations as well as a steakhouse and an Italian restaurant. Each is named after a family member, Ubaldo said.

“[Working for Vallone] was pretty much my college [experience],” David said. “That’s where I learned all this stuff, and I decided to implement all the ideas I learned from them [into my] own business, and it became successful.”

Three of the Herreras’ restaurants are in Cypress, where they opened their first Alicia’s in 2006 and have lived for almost 11 years. However, the family has also added Alicia’s restaurants in Spring, Houston and, most recently, Katy—a location that opened in June 2012 off I-10 near Katy Mills.

David said the Alicia’s eatery in Katy is modeled after the original Alicia’s in Cypress as its location is on a major thoroughfare in a rapidly growing area off Hwy. 290. Maintaining consistency across all locations with regard to family recipes, decor and an upscale dining experience is important  to the restaurant’s brand, he said. For example, both David and Ubaldo said Alicia’s is best known throughout the Greater Houston area for its authentic fajitas and margaritas.

“Our margaritas, they’re like [a] drug,” David said. “Once you taste it, you get addicted, and it gets into your blood and you cannot get rid of it.”

David described Alicia’s cuisine as “continental,” meaning the menu extends beyond traditional Tex-Mex and incorporates dishes atypical of many Mexican restaurants, including chicken, steak and seafood items—like Hawaiian sand fish—that encompass several different cultures, he said.

Ubaldo said key aspects of food preparation—such as using certified Angus beef and making tortillas from scratch—set Alicia’s apart from many of its competitors. The restaurant also prides itself on making its food to-order, even if it means going off-menu.

“We give our chefs liberty to play around,” Ubaldo said. “If a customer comes and wants something, if it’s not on the menu, we’ll do it.”

Alicia’s offers a full bar and a patio as well as takeout, delivery and catering. The establishment has three party rooms for special events, and the family intends to begin serving brunch in the near future.

According to Ubaldo, the restaurant began partnering with the philanthropic Ballard House in October to donate proceeds and food to those in need. Continued charity efforts and the opening of new concepts—including a French bakery and a seafood restaurant—are among the future endeavors of Groupo Herrera, he said.