When El Juan Café first opened its doors in 1946, the United Nations had just formed after the end of World War II; Naval Base San Diego was expanding with a post-war mission of repairing ships; and the U.S. had just determined the exact distance between Earth and the moon.
Some 66 years later, El Juan Café in National City will serve its last chile relleno combo plate and shutter its doors on Saturday, March 30, 2013.
"Very sad day," said patron Joelene Mullins, who drove down from Ventura to eat one last time at the South County landmark eatery on Saturday.
Owner Pat Santos has been operating the restaurant for the last 17 years. She said the restaurant is closing because of the economy. An upswing in business hoped for with recent economic recovery did not come fast enough.
"Since we announced the closing we've been packed every single day," Santos said. "People have been waiting outside like they did 66 years ago."
Mayor Ron Morrison said residents really enjoyed the food and atmosphere over the years, seeing it as a staple in the small South County city, and a gathering place on the morning after big events.
"Gosh, an establishment that dates back to even before my time, that's amazing," he joked Saturday.
"I'm really, really going to miss their chile rellenos, though," he added much more seriously.
The South Bay restaurant is rich in history, and family-oriented - one of its servers is the great-grandson of former waitress Annie Orndorff, who worked at the restaurant for 57 years until her 80th birthday, according to The Star-News.
"It was the only Mexican food restaurant between Tijuana and San Diego, and now, it's the only one remaining," said Santos, referring to the claim that El Juan is the oldest continuously operating Mexican food restaurant in San Diego County.
"Sometimes good things come to an end," she added.
El Juan Café is located at 2316 Highland Ave. in National City.