El Portal restaurant will celebrate its 25th anniversary this weekend with two Silver Fiestas.
The events kick off with a courtyard fiesta from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 29, at El Portal, 695 E. Green St., Pasadena.
“We have enjoyed meeting and serving so many acquaintances, friends in our community, the actual 25 years went faster than what we expected,” said El Portal owner Abel Ramirez.
The event will include appetizers, tequila tastings, giveaways and chef dinner specials. A birthday cake will be cut between 8 and 9 p.m.
The festivities will continue from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 30, with a dinner dance.
Ramirez purchased El Portal in 1994 with his wife Rosalie and son Armando. He had previously worked as a dishwasher at the Huntington Hotel, where he learned the business before becoming a general manager at Athenaeum at Caltech.
In 2009, former Pasadena Weekly dining reviewer Dan O’Heron raved about El Portal, which was his favorite local restaurant.
According to that article, Abel and his wife were born and raised in the Yucatan. Abel was brought up in a village with a big family. He and his brothers would daily ride on horseback to their father’s ranch on the other side of a mountain. At night, O’Heron explained, they’d return with saddlebags brimming with fresh milk, fruit and vegetables, including avocados, as Ramirez described them, “the size of cantaloupes, so sweet and tempting, they often didn’t make it to guacamole.”
But the whole family made it to the barbecue pit for dinner. Beyond teaching Abel the value of family and fresh food, his environment helped instill in him a nature tuned toward fun and fiesta. “Dad raised fighting bulls, but they were only used for caping demonstrations at various village celebrations,” he told O’Heron.
After their success at El Portal the family purchased an antique shop and a tailor located in the same arcade to expand the business to Vanessa’s, a specialty dessert and coffee shop, and Yahaira’s, a smaller diner for lighter take-out food servicing the business lunch district.
“Although we feel fortunate, I’d say more than a matter of luck, it’s our passion, dedication, location and a chef.” said Abel when asked for his secret to success while other restaurants were folding during the Great Recession.
El Portal is located at 695 E. Green St., Pasadena. For dinner reservations, call (626) 795-8553.