La Piñata brings 90-year history of authentic recipes, decor

You don't get to stick around for nearly 90 years without doing a lot of things right. La Piñata, Old Town's oldest restaurant, has all the key ingredients for longevity: charming style and service, delicious dishes from authentic recipes and margaritas that come as close to perfection as possible.

Since it started as Ramona's Kitchen in 1928, La Piñata has been San Diego favorite.

"Legend has it that Ramona started serving meals out of her kitchen to migrant workers who were building the city," said current General Manager Erik Berkley.

La Piñata's new owners have been running the restaurant for only two months, but they are proud to continue the tradition.

"We want our valued, long-time guests to rest assured that we will keep the essence of La Piñata intact," said Berkley.

Part of La Piñata's essence is its authentic Mexican recipes that have been developed over the years, dating back to Ramona in her original kitchen. Enchiladas, burritos and tacos make up the bulk of the menu along with classic favorites such as Chile Colorado and Chile Verde. Many swear by the albondigas soup and, of course, the margaritas.

While these favorites aren't going anywhere, Berkley noted that they're developing some new items that will have a more modern twist, including blackened mahi mahi tacos, ahi tacos and al pastor.

Beyond the food, the décor and service make La Piñata stand out.

"The bright colors make you feel as if you were in Mexico itself during a grand fiesta," said Berkley.

Photographs of Mexico and traditional artwork, sugar skulls, colorful tile mosaics and piñatas fill the restaurant and its outdoor patio, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. There are plans to expand and add a larger patio, full bar and a banquet space for large parties, but again, Berkley stressed that the overall feel of the restaurant will remain the same.

And as for the margaritas (which are buy one, get one half off on Mondays), the secret, according to Berkley "is the ingredients that complement the tequila. You have to start with premium ingredients, for example, our Cadillac Margarita contains Sauza Hornitos tequila, Stirrings triple sec and then we use a house-made sour mix featuring fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juice, simple syrup and a hint of fresh mint."

Sounds like a recipe for an authentic Mexican experience.

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