Monday, February 16, 2009

Sunday Brunch Nixon Style

It seems Richard Nixon is all the rage again, what with the fascinating film Frost/Nixon having been nominated for five Academy Awards (and deservedly so). So when we were looking for something to do yesterday morning, we decided to have brunch at one of Richard Nixon's favorite restaurants, El Adobe, in historic downtown San Juan Capistrano.

Nixon's favorite restaurant: El Adobe. (02/15/2009)
Nixon's favorite restaurant: El Adobe. (02/15/2009)

You don't have to search very far in Southern California to find Nixon history. Nixon was born and raised on the family lemon farm in Yorba Linda, where his birthplace, burial spot and presidential library now sit. He served as a congressman and U.S. senator representing California. Nixon even ran for California governor in 1962 (the loss was said to be the end of his political career).

But Nixon's fondness for El Adobe wouldn't come until 1969 when the newly-elected president purchased La Casa Pacifica in nearby San Clemente (just 10 miles away from the restaurant). The home, which became known as the Western White house, became his presidential getaway during his one-and-a-half terms. The Nixons lived there full time after his 1974 resignation until moving to New York in 1980.

A framed photo of President Nixon leaving El Adobe restaurant. (02/15/2009)
A framed photo of President Nixon leaving El Adobe restaurant. (02/15/2009)

The history of the restaurant goes further back than that, however. The building it currently occupies was built in 1797 as a private home. In 1812 a courthouse and jail was built next door. In 1910, a local purchased both properties, combining them into a single structure. In 1948 the building changed hands again and became El Adobe restaurant.

Upon entering, you realize that this is one of those great, old-school Mexican restaurants, with thick terra cotta tile floors, heavy wooden chairs and wrought iron decor. And just in case you didn't know already that the restaurant was a favorite of Richard Nixon, you'll know when you see the Nixon-autographed menu on the wall, flanked by several 1970s photos of Nixon arriving there.

Inside Nixon's favorite restaurant, El Adobe. (02/15/2009)
Inside Nixon's favorite restaurant, El Adobe. (02/15/2009)

Within moments of sitting down, the wait staff had already brought us a basket of chips and a bowl of freshly-prepared salsa to enjoy while we poured over the menu selections. When I saw "The President's Choice" on the menu, I knew instantly what I was having.

The plate includes a chile relleno, a chicken enchilada, a shredded beef taco, beans and rice. According to the menu, "President and Mrs. Nixon's favorite [was] served on countless occasions at El Adobe & the Western White House."

The President's Choice on the menu. (02/15/2009)
The President's Choice on the menu. (02/15/2009)

It didn't take long for our food to arrive. The first thing I noticed was the sheer volume of food. My God it was enormous! I'm telling you, there's no way that Pat Nixon ever finished her plate. Lord knows I know how to pack it down, but even I still had to take the chicken enchilada, rice and beans home with me.

But the food itself was delicious. Normally I think chile relleno is just okay, something I'd eat if you made it for me in your home, but not something I'd ordinarily order at a restaurant. But this one was very well done ... not too eggy like some I've had before.

President's Nixon's favorite dish. (02/15/2009)
President's Nixon's favorite dish. (02/15/2009)

And the taco? Pure bliss! A crunchy deep fried outer shell stuffed to the gills with perfectly-cooked shredded beef, crisp lettuce and fresh grated cheese.

I didn't get to experience the enchilada until this afternoon, and that too was fantastic, even after sitting in the fridge for a day. The chicken was still juicy, yet still shredded apart easily with your fork. I can definitely see why the Nixons enjoyed it so much.

The bar inside Nixon's favorite restaurant, El Adobe. (02/15/2009)
The bar inside Nixon's favorite restaurant, El Adobe. (02/15/2009)

So if you're in for some great Mexican food, and some presidential history to boot, definitely check out El Adobe. Located at 31891 Camino Capistrano, in downtown San Juan Capistrano. (949) 493-1163. Open 7 days a week. For more pics, click here.

3 comments:

Loren said...

Okay...that's a fairly scary thought that Nixon could be "all the rage again." :)

Looks good! We'll have to go some time.

Doris said...

Wow that meal looks so good! I want to go there next time we come see you as part of our new Presidential visits. :-)

beastandbean said...

Oh, man...that food looks amazing! And as far as Pat Nixon's portions go, I'm sure the old time waiters there have plenty of stories of Tricky Dick telling them exactly when to bring a doggie bag for Pat.

Four words was all it took: "Mrs. Nixon is finished!" :)