El Indio celebrates 75 years

El Indio Mexican Restaurant & Catering is a time-honored San Diego tradition where patrons have been enjoying authentic Mexican specialties since 1940.

On Saturday, Aug. 15, El Indio will be celebrating its 75th anniversary with mariachi, folkloric dancers, margaritas, snow cones, a bounce house, street tacos, taquitos and a prize raffle where a lucky winner will receive a catered event from El Indio. The anniversary event goes from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 3695 India St.

Founded by Ralph Pesqueira Sr., El Indio began as a tortilla factory at the corner of India and Grape streets, where fresh corn tortillas were made by hand.

The restaurant still serves homemade tortillas prepared fresh daily with the same love and tradition as 75 years ago.

In the 1940s, customers from surrounding businesses began requesting ready-to-eat lunch items from the tortilla factory, and that is when Pesqueira invented the famous taquito, meaning little taco, now known worldwide.

With the new-found demand, Pesqueira made the first tortilla machine in San Diego in his basement. After World War II, his tortilla machine made it possible for El Indio to go from 30 dozen handmade tortillas per day to 30 dozen per hour, even supplying local restaurants.

In 1947, the restaurant moved to its current location at 3695 India St., where recipes were honed and perfected, many of which are still being served today. Customers can still feel the rich history and enjoy the fresh and delicious food.

Popular menu items include Sonora-style Mexican food and the popular “Mordidtas,” a scrumptious taquito cut into bite-size pieces and topped with nacho cheese.

The restaurant also offers catering.

Ralph Pesqueira Jr., “Sonny,” grew up behind the counter of El Indio and prides himself on keeping up with the family tradition and serving the recipes passed on from his parents and grandparents.

Today, El Indio is known around the world. The restaurant has provided care packages to soldiers in Vietnam and Desert Storm and is even well known by many politicians; El Indio care packages have been sent to Washington, D.C., and enjoyed by past presidents. El Indio also catered the first inauguration of Gov. Pete Wilson, the former mayor of San Diego.

The restaurant has received many accolades, including being named in the San Diego Editor’s City Search “Top 10 for Mexican Food”; the California Restaurant Association’s “Best Mexican Casual Dining”; Zagat-rated Excellent for Food in the Best Buy and Good Value categories; AOL City’s Best Top Ten; and was named as a Best Restaurant by San Diego Magazine.

El Indio has also been featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” the Travel Channel’s “Mexican Food Paradise” and KPBS-TV San Diego’s “Wonderland.”

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Source: DiscoverSD