Iconic Pasadena Mexican Restaurant Retains Old Charm, Delicious Cuisine As It Celebrates 103rd Anniversary

Published on Sep 21, 2023

[Photo courtesy: Mijares Mexican Restaurant]

Last week wasn’t just the start of Pasadena Latino Heritage Month. It also marked the start of the 104th birthday of a local Pasadena Mexican cuisine tradition: Mijares Mexican Restaurant started in 1920 and still running strong right here in the City of Roses. 

The restaurant, located at 145 Palmetto Drive in Pasadena, celebrated its 103rd birthday on Wednesday, Sept. 13, by hosting a Tequila Tasting event, complete with live music from the Mariachi Tequila band and Chef Specials. 

The family-owned restaurant is one of the oldest active restaurants in Southern California. It started as a small tortilla factory that Jesusita Mijares set up in her home in Pasadena after fleeing the Mexican Revolution to search for a new life for her family. 

The small tortilla factory quickly became known for Jesucita’s original recipes, tortillas, tamales and sauces made with her metate stone grinder that she carried from Mexico.

Today, Mijares Mexican Restaurant is known for its authentic regional and traditional cuisine, famous margaritas, and festive patio dining. Jesusita moved it to Palmetto drive in 1940; the restaurant  remains in the care of the Mijares family which has nurtured Jesucita’s motto, “Mi casa es su casa,” which translates to “My home is your home.”  

“That’s how she started, making her tamales and her tortillas and that good stuff,” 91-year-old Alice Mijares Recendez, Jesusita’s daughter, said in a KABC report. “She was a tremendous cook.”

Recalling the foundation of the restaurant during the interview, Recendez said: “It’s just so fast. I can’t believe we’ve been here 103 years… my God!”

Alica Recendez now shares ownership with her children R-lene de Lang, Tina Jimenez, and Tom Recendez.

The restaurant has operated in the same location on Palmetto Drive, and its ownership and management have been passed down through the generations. 

“Our grandmother purchased the property here, which were four houses,” Tom Recendez said in the KABC interview. “The largest of the houses on the property was the restaurant that burned in 1979, but the house that’s behind us, which is now our banquet room, was our grandmother’s original home where we lived.”

In September 2005, when the restaurant celebrated its 85th anniversary, U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff spoke during a session at the House of Representatives to honor he Mijares family.

“The Mijares family has made Mijares Mexican Restaurant both an enjoyable dining establishment and a business that gives back to the community,” Schiff said. 

Shiff added the family has been actively supporting a number of charities, among which are Women at Work, Child Care Information Services, P.E.O. Chapters, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, Villa Esperanza, NOW, Pasadena Polytechnic School, EI Centro de Accion Social, the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, Hospice of Pasadena, and the Girl Scouts of America.

After the 1979 fire destroyed the family restaurant, Alice Recendez was determined to continue what her mother had started, and she worked hard to rebuild the restaurant. 

During the rebuilding, to help her employees, many of whom were out of work, Recendez opened a second restaurant on Washington Blvd., which was later closed. 

Mijares Mexican Restaurant reopened in 1984 after the rebuild. 

Jesucita Mijares died in 1988, and Alice Recendez at that time became the family matriarch. 

When asked last year what was the secret that kept Mijares Mexican Restaurant thriving for over a century, Alice’s daughter Rlene de Lang, who’s now General Manager, said, “A lot of prayer, a lot of hard work, good food, treating people the way you would want to be treated of all colors.” 

“Our family realizes the importance of giving back to your community that has given us so much for over a hundred years,” de Lang continued. “So I think that’s another reason that people respect us, you know, besides the service and the food and great margaritas.”

The restaurant had to face some challenges again during the early stages of COVID-19 when dining inside restaurants was prohibited. They had to discover new ways to run the business differently, including having to raise menu prices when authorities started easing pandemic restrictions. 

R-lene de Lang believes everybody in the restaurant industry is still facing serious financial challenges. She also assured patrons that the restaurant will keep doing what it has been doing over the years.

“We’re not quitters,” she said earlier this month. “We’re just fighters and hard workers.”

Patrons will agree that over the years, the family has made only a few changes on the menu and may have added new drinks. 

Jesucita’s tradition of cooking, specifically the use of giant volcanic stones in grinding grains, has been preserved.

To learn more about Mijares Mexican Restaurant, visit www.mijaresrestaurant.com.

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