Published : Friday, March 29, 2019 | 5:24 AM
Pasadena of 1995 is not the Pasadena of 2019, and the road has not been without challenges for restaurateur Abel Ramirez, so a quarter century in business is worthy of celebration and his El Portal will host two this Friday and Saturday night.
“Boy, are we doing something special!” said Ramirez who described Friday night as a Fiesta Mexicana dinner dance. The party is sponsored by Patron Tequila, which will offer a complimentary tequila bar and appetizers.
The featured entertainer is Angelito (Little Angel Boy), a contestant from the network program “America’s Got Talent.”
That will be followed on Friday by the appearance of Suave, whose ranks include several musicians from Cuba, “So we think it’s going to be a true dancing orchestra,” said Ramirez.
Evening two is sponsored by Cuervo Tequila, which, not to be outdone by Patron, will also offer a free tequila tasting bar and appetizers.
There will be raffles, party favors, and gifts made possible by both the evenings’ sponsors.
“I will take the stage to talk about 25 years of experiences, mostly great, and challenges, not so great,” said Ramirez.
“We have lasted 25 years,” he said. “We serve fresh food at competitive prices, our service creates a terrific ambiance for our returning guess. When I made the purchase it was risky and I was afraid, but just a few months later I started to gain confidence as customers got to know us and started coming back.”
Traditionally, El Portal has been involved in its community, helping many organizations with their needs. Ramirez serves on boards of directors for schools, the arts and senior citizens in the fashion of a traditional community pillar.
“I feel happy about donating my time and a little bit of my talent, if I have any,” he quipped.
Ramirez left Yucatan, Mexico in 1964 and came to Pasadena where he secured gainful employment at the Langham-Huntington (nee The Huntington Hotel).
He worked his way up the ladder over 14 years of toil. He became general manager of Caltech’s Athenaeum before striking out with the collaboration of his wife, Rosalia, and son, Armando, in 1995 with El Portal.
“I have been in Pasadena for the last 57 years beginning with Freeway 210 and many other changes I have seen in this area,” said Ramirez.
He recalled that, when he purchased El Portal, he became one of the Playhouse District Association’s founding members, along George Sheldon and Lisa Chambers and several others. The district, he said, has been a great success for the neighborhood, attracting both commerce and culture.
“I have seen Pasadena evolve tremendously,” said Ramirez. “Look at all these buildings of apartments coming up like mushrooms in the city. Wherever you turn there’s a new building and they’re probably all filled.”
Of course, the parties are special events, moments to pause and rejoice. But the rest of the time is more serious, he said. With growth, he opined, increased taxes and labor costs have come to Pasadena. The latter, he said, is a particular challenge.
“We look to be able and ready to give services at competitive prices,” said the restaurateur.”We don’t want to lose our customers because we have to raise prices or let employees go because of that.”
El Portal is located in the Arcade at 695 E Green St, Pasadena. Call (626) 795-8553.