For what seems like 100 years now, Mijares Mexican Restaurant has meant relaxing weekday dinners, enjoyable workday lunches, and special occasion celebrations to thousands of Pasadena and Southern California families. Now the 100 years is official, and the family-owned restaurant will be doing some celebrating of its own all weekend this weekend.
“It’s been tumultuous, of course,” said owner Arlene Mijares DeLang Friday, “And kind of anti-climatic because of all the COVID and everything we’ve had to do, but in spite of it all, we still have to celebrate and September is our celebration time.”
The restaurant will hold a special celebration on Sunday, September 20.
“We’re going to have a little music and family will be there,” said DeLang. The family will be asking guests to sign its autograph wall and in the true pandemic spirit, will be giving an anniversary mask to the first 200 people guests.
The restaurant will feature its standard brunch menu as well as a handful of “Centennial Specials.”
Miajres will also be featuring a tequila that De Lang, her brother, Tom Recendez, and niece, Mary Alice Recendez, found a year ago at a distillery in Mexico
As De Lang explained, “We went to a Soltol distillery and we did single barrel tastings and we chose ‘barrel 75.’
“And when it’s gone, it’s gone,” she continued. We just have so many bottles.” And De Lang added, “My mom personally has autographed each bottle. The first bottle is in fact, a hundred years old, and is being sold for $100.”
Said De Lang, “The three of us chose it and people seem to really like it. The restaurant actually held a ‘Half Century Club’ celebration in early February customers who had been coming to Mijares for 50 or more years and they got to taste it, but,” De Lang revealed, the very first person that got to taste it was Al Roker of NBC’s “Today Show,” who came in December for her mom’s birthday party.”
Still as De Lang notes, the restaurant is fortunate to still even be operating during the pandemic, let alone 100 years.
“We still, we still feel very fortunate to be open,” said De Lang, “especially since so many small restaurants have closed. And the pandemic has brought us to the point of having to say goodbye to some of our employees and to downsize.
“But on the other hand,” she said, “we’re very fortunate because we actually have five outdoor patios. So although we can’t use the banquet room and we’re not doing banquets and other things that we did in the past, we now have a lot of open space and our staff has been doing a really great job of keeping within the covid guidelines and our customers are coming back.”
And after 100 years, there are currently three generations of Mijares working at the restaurant.
Meanwhile, De Lang ran down a brief history of the restaurant and its enviable success and longevity.
De Lang’s grandmother, Jesucita, was raised in Jalisco, Mexico, and was known for her chicken mole recipe. It was De Lang’s mother’s favorite dish growing up, served for her on every birthday, January 1. Delang’s mother also had an uncle who was a baker. So she naturally had the most beautiful cake. Years later, her parents would tell her that Pasadena’s Rose Parade was her other birthday gift.
Eventually De Lang’s grandmother, Jesucita, and her husband, Juan Benevides, crossed the border through the Southern Pacific Railroad ( “A long story,” says De Lang) up to Northern California to work on the railroad.
When Benevidez passed away, De Lang’s mother made her way to Los Angeles with three little children.
And De Lang picked up the story:
“Her two sisters encouraged her to come to Los Angeles and one of them said, ‘Oh, Pasadena is this beautiful area.’ My grandmother was always known as the cook in her family. She was a school teacher in her little village. And then she really loved food. And she loved Pasadena.”
Eventually, Jesucita owned a tortilla factory and a tamale factory, in her very large home.
But it was the 1930s during the depression, and she also had boarders during the Depression.
The family eventually bought an acre of land on property over on Palmetto Drive, and the small rooms begat more rooms and more rooms to house hungry boarders. The rooms and small houses would eventually house a Mexicatessen, and the aforementioned tortilla factory.
That tortilla factory, once remodeled and reconfigured, would become the popular restaurant that those thousands of guests (your correspondent included) have regularly visited on every birthday celebration. And will perhaps for a hundred more years.
Mijares is at 145 Palmetto Drive, Pasadena, CA. (626) 792-2763.