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Ron salisbury

We are El Cholo

LA's very first Mexican restaurant. Since first opening our doors in 1923, El Cholo has operated as a family-owned business and today, the restaurants are run by Ron Salisbury, grandson of the founders. Many of these stories below are direct from Ron and a remembrance to the time of surviving as a restaurant for almost a century. Our legacy at El Cholo lies in its commitment to quality ingredients, long family history, loyal employees (some with over 40 years) and our dear devoted clientele. Through prohibition, the LA Riots, true Hollywood glamour and into the the 2000's, El Cholo continues to bring back memories for our guests. Enjoy our stories, dive deep into our rich history and share your stories with us by emailing us at stories@elcholo.com!

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1920

1920s: NEW BEGINNINGS

Some early memories: My Dad and Mom opened in a storefront at 1106 Western Avenue. They had five wooden booths against the left wall when you ent...
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William and Lydia

This photo is of my grandparents, William and Lydia. They were married in the territory of Arizona. My grandfather, William died of lung disease....
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1923: Sonora Enchilada
1923: Sonora Enchilada

First enchilada served at El Cholo. This dish was a very typical dish from Sonora, Mexico.

1923: HARD WORKING COUPLE:

Young hard-working couple, Alejandro and Rosa Borquez, recognized the passion Rosa had for cooking.  She put care and attention to her recip...
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1923 OPENING DAY

This photo is of the opening day of George and Aurelia’s first restaurant across the street from the current Western location. Aurelia&rsqu...
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1925: WHY EL CHOLO?

A guest wandered in for dinner and while waiting, he draws a figure of a man (now the one you recognize from our menu).  He calls him &ldquo...
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1926: CHEESE!

Rosa’s dedication to using the best cheese around forced her and Alejandro to buy 60 pound cheese wheels and age them for at least a year.&...
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1927: Historical Information

Historical Information Charles Lindburgh crosses the Atlantic and Babe Ruth hits his 60th home run!

1926-1927: TWO GENERATIONS

George Salisbury (my father) was eating dinner at EL CHOLO and meets Aurelia Borquez, the daughter of Alejandro and Rosa. They court, decide to m...
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1927

George Salisbury at the cash register

George Salisbury at the cash register in 1927. George grew up in rural Arizona and had to quit school in the 5th Grade because his father, a mine...
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1930

1930s: NEVER DOUBT YOURSELF

In 1931 a California bungalow house across Western Avenue at 1121 became available.  Against the advice of almost everyone, my Dad bought it...
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1930

The three waiters

The three waiters pictured here were the main El Cholo waiters in the 1930s. The man on the left, Pedro, learned that his wife was flirting with ...
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1931: El Cholo moves

El Cholo moves across the street to it’s current location. After moving, George has to invest in a new mechanism to melt his cheese since t...
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1933: Third generation
1933: Third generation

Ron Salisbury was born

1933: Prohibition ends
1933: Prohibition ends

and beer and wine found their way on the menu

1938: Combination plates
1938: Combination plates

Combination plates appear on the menu for the first time

1932: THE EL CHOLO CHEF

Joe Reina was El Cholo's first chef, a job held for 54 years and is responsible for many of the recipes still used today.  Although he h...
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1939

Restaurant Icons

This photo is of George Salisbury (Far Right) standing with three of his close friends outside of the Western location. Pene (Far Left) owned the...
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1940
December 7th, 1941
December 7th, 1941

Pearl Harbor and the beginning of WWII

1943: Wartime
1943: Wartime

Wartime rations drastically limit food options so George closes the restaurant because he can't provide the same quality of food.

40s: SURVIVING TOUGH TIMES

The 1940’s was a difficult time. It started with World War II and first came rationing. To be “fair” to all of the restaurants ...
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George and Aurelia Salisbury having dinner

George and Aurelia Salisbury having dinner with their friends Randy and Esther Randini who were also restaurant owners in 1940s Los Angeles. They...
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1945

Cecilia and Lenore

Cecilia and Lenore sitting in one of the original El Cholo booths. The old booth style is visible in this photo. They had a panel on the outside ...
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Darlene and her Mom

As all old photos do, they bring us back in time to remember the people who meant so much to us. This image is Ron’s wife Darlene Salisbury...
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Jeannine

Ron’s sister Jeannine had her first job as a waitress at the age of 14. A guest tipped her at the start of the meal, which of course wasn&r...
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1950

50s: HOLLYWOOD

I remember El Cholo very fondly during this time. I graduated from BYU in 1954. I started to co-manage with my uncle Jimmy Salisbury while my Dad...
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1959: NACHOS!

It was the late 1950's and our vibrant and friendly waitress Carmen Rocha had a great deal of regulars at the establishment (Jack N...
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1960

60s: ADAPTING

The 60’s started bringing some changes.  Frozen food started to become a factor in supermarkets and Swansons TV dinners led the way.&n...
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1961

Mike Love (of Beach Boys fame)

Mike Love (of Beach Boys fame) would come in with his family from the time he was a young kid and grew up eating at El Cholo. Ron Salisbury got t...
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1962: Expansion!

We were lucky enough to purchase the current parking lot (which was once a former house) helping us to expand the Western location.

1962: Ice-making machine

El Cholo gets its first ice-making machine. This means that no longer does an ice delivery man come with a big block of ice that our waiters would have to use an ice pick on to make smaller cubes for drinks.

1962: THIRD GENERATION

Aurelia and George’s son, Ron, grew up in the restaurant industry.  He learned from a young age what it takes to run the operation and...
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1962

1962-El Cholo La Habra Opens!

In 1962 this space in La Habra started as an El Cholo take-out location. After a year the men’s store next door moved out and we expande...

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1963: HERE’S JOHNNY

Before Jack Nicholson was a major Hollywood Star, he was just a struggling actor. Back then Jack and a bunch of his friends would frequently stop...
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1967: Chimichangas
1967: Chimichangas

Chimichangas appear on the menu!

1969: Apollo II lands on the moon

Ron brought his own black and white TV to the restaurant in the lobby as the broadcast happens the entire restaurant, staff and guests filter into the lobby to watch the historic event.

1969: Major remodel
1969: Major remodel

A major remodel moved the kitchen to its current position at the western location adding more space for tables and our bar!

1967: THE MARGARITA!

Original El Cholo owner, George, was not a fan of selling hard liquer.  Remember he came from the days of prohibition and it was heresay to ...
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1970

70s: CHANGE AND GROWTH

1974 brought yet again, another major remodel of Western Avenue.  This time the restaurant was expanded to utilize the the reminder of the f...
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1979
1979

El Cholo's Award-Winning Catering is Founded

1977: The Burrito Comes to El Cholo!

Inspired by East LA’s Famous El Tepeyac, Ron heard of this popular menu item: the burrito. Regulars from El Cholo weren’t showing up ...
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1980
1984: Fajitas
1984: Fajitas

A unique Tex-Mex dish bursts onto the Mexican food scene - Fajitas. Like the nachos that came before them, this sizzling dish made its way to the menu with roots from Texas.

1986: Sonora Cafe
1986: Sonora Cafe

The original name of El Cholo is built in Downtown Los Angeles as a new restaurant concept.

The Fabulous 80s

The 1980’s started with the opening of El Cholo in Orange in an old Spanish style building in the Town and Country shopping center. It was ...
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Chef Felix

Felix Salcedo first came to work as a young dishwasher for my close friend, Hans Prager at the Ritz in Newport Beach. We were lucky to have moved...
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Legendary Player

The Ryans (Nolan and Ruth) are some of the nicest people you’d ever meet. Nolan had a record 27 year run and was a legendary major league b...
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1990
1992: The L.A. Riots
1992: The Rodney King Riots

The L.A. Riots engulf Los Angeles with countless buildings and businesses burned and looted. Miraculously, and by some sort of fate, El Cholo is spared despite buildings on the same block being burned down. Ron guarded the building all day.

1992: Annie’s Enchilada

In honor of the legendary waitress Ann Howe “Annie’s Enchilada” is added to the menu

1994: The El Cholo reading program

The El Cholo reading program is established offering a monetary reward to students who read a book from a list provided and wrote a report on it.

90's: ONE MILLION TORTILLAS

1997 an old Cadillac agency in Santa Monica on Wilshire Blvd. (that conveniently formerly housed a Mexican restaurant) became available.  We...
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1996: The Taste of History was created

Using the four main core items off the menu: enchilada, taco, tamale and relleno, The Taste of History was created to provide a dish where a gues...
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1999: El Cholo Irvine opens
1999: El Cholo Irvine opens

El Cholo Irvine opens (and after 15 years it was moved to Corona Del Mar)

1997: HELLO SANTA MONICA!

We had been looking to expand to Santa Monica since the 80’s but the space that truly felt right to us never came.  In the late 90&rsq...
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2000
2002: The Cannery opens
2002: The Cannery opens

The Cannery opens in Newport Beach in the first commercial fish cannery from 1921.

2007: Guacamole
2007: Guacamole

Nothing beats guacamole freshly made so Table-side Guacamole is introduced to all 6 locations, bringing the freshest, custom guacamole right to the table!

2009: Rachel Ray Show
2009: Rachel Ray Show

El Cholo wins best taco on the Rachel Ray Show using a special private recipe with filet mignon tacos!

2000s: THE CANNERY

After literally a handshake deal and with extremely generous help from Jack Croul (along with changing architects and plans after 11 months into ...
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56 years of service

Our lovely server Beatriz Valenzuela. This photo is in our fireplace room in our original Western location. She started with us in 1946 and retir...
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2010
2010: The Los Angeles Lakers championship
2010: The Los Angeles Lakers championship

The Los Angeles Lakers earn their 11th championship ring and celebrations erupt all around the newly opened Downtown El Cholo location.

2013
2013

ANAHEIM HILLS: In 2013 a wonderful Mexican-style building came our way in Anaheim Hills.  At first sight it truly felt like a great EL CHOLO. It had all three features we love in our restaurants: a fireplace, an aquarium and a patio.

2010: DTLA!

For years we had sought a downtown Los Angeles location but everything seemed to be high rise office buildings (which was not the EL CHOLO vibe w...
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2015: CDM EL CHOLO

With our lease in Irvine ending, we were ready to move our location somewhere within Orange County and always loved Corona Del Mar.  In a sm...
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2019: Louie's by the Bay opens

Louie's by the Bay opens in beautiful Newport Harbor. I named this restaurant to honor my babysitter, WWII veteran and longtime friend, Louis...
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2020

2020: COVID inspiration story

As someone whose first memories of the restaurant business date back to 1933 (yes, among those “first” snapshot memories I fondly inc...
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ONEROOT Foundation Gives Back

The David A. Pyle family presented the 1923 Restaurant Group Newport Beach / Corona Del Mar restaurant employees with VISA gift cards in the amou...
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