Built In 1797, El Adobe de Capistrano Is A Longtime Icon In Small Town San Juan Capistrano, Southern California
San Juan Capistrano is a rare part of California’s past, a community that was founded by the state’s earliest inhabitants. In this historically important small town in Southern California is a historic restaurant that has served the community for decades, in a building that has existed almost as long as the town itself.
El Adobe de Capistrano has a long history in this small town. It is located two blocks from Mission San Juan Capistrano and was built just a few years after the founding of the mission.
Originally two separate structures, the building that now houses a popular restaurant is recognized as a historical landmark. The oldest section, the adobe, was built as a residential home in 1797. The newer section, built in 1812, was a Juzgado, or a court and jail.
Interestingly, the Juzgado served many purposes over the years, including a store, post office, and stagecoach depot. The original dungeon-like jail cell is now the restaurant's wine cellar.
The structure of El Adobe has gone through some additions and changes throughout its history. In 1910, new owners combined the older and newer sections and added a wing to each.
It was in 1948 that Clarence Brown, a farmer from nearby Rancho Mission Viejo, purchased the building and established the El Adobe restaurant.
The restaurant was remodeled in 2003, updating some elements such as the kitchen, and adding newer furnishings, decor, and hand-selected antiques, all chosen to reflect the history and ambiance of the building.
Much of the adobe's history can be appreciated from the outdoor Garden patio, from the architectural design of the property to the beautiful stained glass in the quaint chapel.
The patio is one of the spaces offered as an event space and the restaurant recommends a mesquite barbecue buffet.
Originally, El Adobe served menu of Continental fare, but changed to serving authentic Mexican food. The change came about during Richard Nixon's time in office. Nixon had a home in nearby San Clemente, known as "The Western White House," and was served a specially-created menu of Mexican dishes by El Adobe's chef. Nixon enjoyed and commented on these dishes which got public attention and, as they say, the rest is history.
The menu at El Adobe de Capistrano is filled with authentic and historic Mexican-American specialties. You will also see "The President's Choice" in a feature box on the menu, which is a combination of chile relleno, chicken enchilada, beef taco, rice and beans. The menu states that this meal was "The President and Mrs. Nixon's favorite entree, served on countless occasions at El Adobe de Capistrano and The Western White House."
In addition to the regular, Sunday brunch, Happy Hour, and children's menus, the restaurant also has banquet and catering menus that feature steaks, seafood, and, of course, their regular menu of Mexican-American dishes. They even offer to create a customized menu for individual events.
This history-filled restaurant, with its garden chapel and various rooms with their own unique style, makes for an elegant wedding venue. It opened with a prominent wedding and reception in 1948, and the tradition is carried on with hundreds of weddings here each year.
Have you ever been to this historic restaurant in Southern California? Tell us about your experience in the comments. Learn more about the restaurant and its history on the
El Adobe website. Take a look at some of SoCal’s other small towns with fantastic restaurants.
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Address: 31891 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675, USA