50 years of Casa Vega

Countless family restaurants that opened in the postwar rush to suburbia have vanished. See the Gone But Not Forgottenpage for evidence of that. But Casa Vega, at Ventura and Fulton in Sherman Oaks, seems as popular and as hip now as when Marlon Brando and Cary Grant were regulars. It’s certainly harder to get in. Brent Hopkins in the Daily News took note of the phenomenonon Casa Vega’s fiftieth anniversary:

Twenty-two years old, confident and charming, Rafael Vega took his mom’s recipes and a small business loan and opened a restaurant that bore his name.This was 50 years ago today, back when Mexican food didn’t show up on every corner, before the average American knew words like enchilada and margarita. His dad had run a nightclub and he had some formal schooling, but Vega was basically a gutsy kid who lived in Burbank, gambling that people would enjoy the food he ate at home.

“My father was behind the bar, my mother was waiting tables and I was at the door,” Vega, now 72, remembered. “We just wanted a little family Mexican restaurant.

Vega candidly disagrees with customers who think the food is better than what you find in Mexico—and who like their margaritas with too much kick:

“From time to time, we’ve tried things like pozole or menudo, but our clientele doesn’t buy that,” he said. “It isn’t what I like, it’s what the customer likes. We go through 100 cases of tequila a month to make the margaritas. They’re not the way I’d make them, but the customers sure like them that way.”