EL Cholo


1974 brought yet again, another major remodel of Western Avenue.  This time the restaurant was expanded to utilize the the reminder of the former parking lot and now a full bar and a beautiful patio were added.  A feature of the bar was a large salt water aquarium.  This was in keeping with a set of common features that would become something each of our family of restaurants would have, a fireplace, an aquarium and a patio. The restaurant now accommodated 280 guests, double the size of the original bungalow!

The end of the 70’s brought a lot of changes and growth.  After purchasing the large vacant lot to the west of the La Habra El Cholo (it took 7 years of buying individual pieces as we couldn’t afford it any other way) a series of 6 retail stores were built connected to El Cholo by a large arch to the new parking lot in back.  A new patio was added to El Cholo and, at the other end of the stores, a fine dining restaurant site was developed. When we couldn’t find anyone who was interested in leasing the space it was suggested we open it ourselves. Although the business currently is a set of Mexican restaurants, it did not mean we couldn't run a fine dining establishment.

A dear friend (who was perhaps one of the best) Hans Prager volunteered to help.  Hans owned The Ritz in Newport Beach. The Cat and The Custard Cup (patterned after a old English Inn) was then born in 1979 and North Orange County had its first fine dining establishment.  Growth however was slow.  Local residents ate out only on weekends and very rarely later than 7:30 PM.  Plans were also started for two more restaurants to be opened in 1980.

It was in the 1970’s that I remember Baby Tielens became the youngest patron to ever to dine with us......he was just four hours old!

This was the decade that brought us the famous quote from Gourmet Magazine.  Writer Caroline Bates wrote: “I cannot imagine Los Angeles without El Cholo” - it was quite an honor to 

Louie Zamperini wrote us a letter in which he states “One thing that kept me mentally strong in Japanese prison camp was wanting to come home and enjoy a #1 at El Cholo”.

The Sullivan family hosted 5 generations raised dining at El Cholo and reserved the Western Avenue patio for their great grandmother’s birthday party.