Don Jose's circa 1950

(Courtesy of Jacqueline Reed Boehmke (Hoover ’58)
sister of Jani Reed Ellis ‘60)

Ruth's Salsa Recipe

2 Wax chiles
tomatoes
onions (minced fine)
scallions (minced fine)
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp oil
salt and peper to taste
pinch of oregano

(This seems rather random to me, but I'm not a cook.
Let me know if you have success -- JF)

Don Jose's Restaurant

The mention of Don Jose's Restaurant in a recent Fry Day email elicited fond memories as well as cries of "Don Jose's is gone? When did that happen?" Well, I don't rightly know. I have but a single memory of attending the place with my family as a child. I wasn't pleased with my iced tea and taco, probably because I was hoping for a root beer and a hot dog.
Where WAS Don Jose's? I checked my 1956 City Directory and found Don Jose's at 4247 El Cajon Blvd. I drove by and took the photo above. It sort of looked familiar, but I had it in my head that the restaurant was closer to Hoover High. On my next trip to the downtown library I checked the 1965 City Directory and found it at 4551 El Cajon -- just west of Hoover. I took the photo below. The proprietors were (if memory serves) Jose and Doris Ross. Does anyone have any Don Jose's memorabilia?

Don Jose's Menu

David Morgan '71 figured he had eaten at Don Jose's once a week for 40 years. One day, he thinks in 1996, he sensed something was a amiss and learned that it was the restaurant's last day. When he left he took the menu below.

Memories of Don Jose's

My brother Keith Christensen '68, was born August 9, 1950 -- shortly after my mother consumed a sour cream enchilada at the original Don Jose’s at 42nd and El Cajon. That is a young Don Jose Ross in the photo above, a friend for 40 years
-- Richard Christensen ‘63

I almost cried when I read about Don Jose's. My family ate there almost every Friday night starting at the little place across the street from Lloyd's furniture, then across from Hoover and finally in Kearny Mesa. Even after I married, my wife (Kathy Cuvala Dronenburg 63) and I were there weekly until we moved from the city. My family and I knew the Ross's well. They lived in Kensington until they sold the restaurant. When I was in Jr. High at Horace Mann, I went to a Job's Daughters dance with Lupe Ross, their daughter (my first big time dance). She was a sweetheart but I lived so far away on 54th St., while she lived all the way over by 41st and Adams Ave. Ruth the waitress was the best, but as good as the people were, and they did make a difference, the food was the very best. It was just so difficult to pick from the menu, for everything was sensational. I have eaten at thousands of Mexican restaurants since then and they all pale in comparison to my memories of DJ's food. Thanks, for the copy of the menu, my mouth watered as I read it again -- Ernie Dronenburg ‘61

In the early 70s Don Jose's relocated to Convoy Street in Kearny Mesa, then became a Chippendale's. What an ignominious end. I went to the original (only a counter and stools) with my parents as a toddler. Thanks for the memories. -- Gayle Wishnek Wise ‘62

Sadly -- very sadly -- it is no more. The original location was on El Cajon Boulevard one block west of the old Lloyds Furniture store. There is now a sewing machine store in the building. The new location opened early 1960s and was there until mid ‘80s. We went there to eat at least once a week -- more if we could con our mom into taking us. My favorite was the #3 combination plate with a taco, enchilada and a tostada. I would kill for just one more Don Jose's taco. Jose Ross and his wife passed away many years ago. They had a daughter named Lupe who often worked at the restaurant. Our classmate Richard Hurtado's mom worked there. You regulars will remember Ruth, who was a waitress for years and went in every day to make the salsa. The restaurant was closed every Tuesday and during Easter vacation and Christmas. It was a favorite place to go with a date after a movie or a dance. We started going there when my mom was pregnant with my brother James so I was about four. Does anyone remember the refried beans? I can still taste that food – well, not literally -- but what a memory. -- Donna Johnson ’62

I also remember going to the Don Jose's near Hoover High with my family. I particularly liked the sopapillas. There is a Don Jose's here in Laguna Woods/Laguna Hills. We go frequently and like it much better than the El Torito, which is just as close. I don't think they have sour cream enchiladas on the menu, but I make my own. My sons always request them when they come to visit. Tell your readers in San Diego they can drive an hour and fifteen minutes north and still have Don Jose's. They closed the one in Moreno Valley where I used to live so I'm happy there is one here. -- Liz Urick Heacock '69

I remember going to Don Jose's in the ‘50s. I loved their guacamole tacos -- the best I've ever eaten. There is a Don Jose's in Lake Elsinore off Interstate 15. I've tried the food. It's NOT the same. It's been there at least 15 years that I know of. I don't know if it is part of the original Don Jose's -- Mark Silver ‘69

We too lament the loss of Don Jose's. We are on a constant quest to find the best possible alternative. Alas, we have found nothing even close! If you find one please let us know. We are especially in search of an adequate chile relleno. -- Jeannie Governali Ray ‘72

I would die for a Don Jose’s taco ... Have never had a taco I liked better. I loved Don Jose's!!! If you get recipes, I'll send another $30 for them!! :) -- Debra Rogers Park ‘72

I REALLY miss Don Jose’s. As a native I was raised on his tacos, beans and salsa and loved going there to see our favorite waitresses Ruth (with the big hoop earrings) and lovely Luisa! Do you think anyone would know if the salsa recipe might be hanging around somewhere? The elegant Don Jose himself was my neighbor on Collwood Lane until his untimely passing. Always a gentleman, he was the restaurant’s Maitre ‘D. At Halloween he and his wife would invite all of the kids inside his home to choose from a wonderful array of treats! I would PAY for the salsa recipe!!!!!!!!! My sister, Tammy ‘78 was in town this week and we were talking about Don Jose’s just today.............I was talking about the SALSA!!!!!!!!!........God I miss the food.....the beans.........the sour creamm enchiladas............the tacos.......the quesadillas...the tostadas.......the near beer......the smell when you walked into the restaurant.........and the smell you wore home .........ahhhhhhhhh..........we need a resurrection ........I think we can make it happen if we can find out if anyone who ever worked there is still around..........let’s begin the MOVEMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! -- Linda Zweig ‘75

Your website is the only one I have found that references Don Jose’s restaurant. I have been craving their food for many years. Just tonight I searched for sour cream sauce enchiladas. No luck. I can still remember the taste of their salsa. Everything there was fantastic. I miss them so much. I sent the link to your website to my family members. They all remember Don Jose's restaurant. We talked for a long time about each menu item. It is as though we were transported back in time and could taste each item. The food was really that good. Even my son who was only 4 or 5 years old at the time can remember the bean & cheese sauce burritos. Has there ever been any luck in contacting anyone from the restaurant for current locations or menu recipes? -- Bill Morris '76


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