Popular Pasadena Mexican Restaurant Attracts Crowds for Two-Day 25th Anniversary Weekend Bash

Armando and Abel RamirezCong. Judy Chu, Abel Ramirez, Maria Tornek, Mayor Terry TornekAbel Ramirez, State Senator Anthony PortantinoThe patio at El Portal during the celebrationThe Ramirez FamilyArmando Ramirez, Nicole and David BiseThe Abel Ramirez Family and the Luis Ramirez FamilyCelebrating 25 years of service to the community

By ANDY VITALICIO | Photography by BRIAN BIERY

4:48 am | April 1, 2019


One of Pasadena’s favorite restaurants celebrated its 25th anniversary on Friday and Saturday. El Portal’s two-day birthday bash drew a crowd of appreciative fans,  with U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu, State Senator Anthony Portantino and Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek gracing the occasion Saturday evening.

The festivities kicked off with a Courtyard Fiesta on Friday, featuring a Mariachi band, tequila tasting, complimentary appetizers and a birthday cake, and America’s Got Talent contestant Angelito Garcia, the Singing Angel, as he is now fondly called.

Abel Ramirez, who founded the family-owned eatery in 1995, and his family members were key guests of honor.

Ramirez recalled how he started working as a dishwasher at the Huntington Hotel, now the Langham Huntington and went on to become the general manager at Caltech’s Athenaeum. After nearly 30 years of working in the hotel and restaurant business, he bought El Portal.

“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.”

Over the years, Ramirez and wife Rosalia eventually took over an antique shop and a tailor shop located in the same alley, and expanded the business to Vanessa’s, a specialty dessert and coffee shop, and Yahaira’s, a smaller diner for lighter take-out food servicing Pasadena’s business lunch district.

The Saturday part of the celebration featured a Dinner Dance, with the band Suave performing live music, as well as the usual tequila tasting, complimentary appetizers, the cake and giveaways.

The Saturday event was sponsored by 1800 Tequila and Maestro Doble.

Ramirez retired from actively running El Portal in 2015 and let his son Armando run the place. But at any given day, you’re sure to come across Abel Ramirez making sure guests are comfortable and enjoying the Mexican and Yucatan fare the restaurant is famous for.

Abel Ramirez turns 79 this summer.

For more information about El Portal, visit www.elportalrestaurant.com.