In 1922, Ron Salisbury’s grandfather, Alejandro Borquez, who had recently moved to the dusty town of Los Angeles with his young bride, Rosa, pushed back from the dinner table one night, and based on her culinary talents, decided to open a Mexican restaurant.
In 1923 – the same year the Hollywoodland sign was erected and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was unveiled – the couple opened one of L.A.’s first restaurants, the two-room Sonora Cafe near the Coliseum, at what was Broadway and Santa Barbara Avenue.
As the story goes, two years later, a guest wandered into the cafe and, while waiting for dinner, doodled the figure of a man on the menu and captioned it “El Cholo,” the name given to field hands of the Spanish settlers in California at the time. Cafe owner Borquez loved the man’s scribble and changed the name of his restaurant. By 1927 the family had expanded to an old Craftsman bungalow at 11th Street and Western Avenue, and the rest is Los Angeles history.
Salisbury will celebrate his 90th birthday next year, as well as the centennial of his family’s restaurant – and the party is already getting started.
From Monday, Oct. 24 through Thursday, Oct. 27, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., El Cholo will be celebrating its 99th Anniversary by offering its legendary Carmen’s Original Nachos for 99 cents. The special promotion will be available for dine-in customers only, along with a dinner purchase.
Future festivities include:
Starting on Jan. 1, people who are 100 years old or older will be able to eat for free, throughout the 2023 calendar year. Also starting on Jan. 1, El Cholo will be serving a special $100 Margarita, served in a hand-blown, collectible glass, throughout the 2023 calendar year.
A series of special food Items will be offered, including: “A Taste of History” Plate, served on a commemorative plate (available for separate purchase.) Several classic signature dishes will return as special features, including the Spanish omelet, enchiladas with fried egg, tostada compuesta, sopa de Fideo and chicken mole enchiladas.
An official 100th anniversary red carpet gala celebration will take place during October 2023 at the Western Avenue location, which is undergoing a significant expansion that includes a new outdoor patio.
El Cholo remains a family owned business, with six restaurants currently operating in Southern California – the original site on Western Avenue, Downtown Los Angeles, Anaheim Hills, Corona del Mar, La Habra, and Santa Monica, all owned by Salisbury and his family, through their company, Restaurant Business, Inc. A new outpost is coming to Salt Lake City, Utah.
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