Santa Maria Sun / Eats
Casa Manana celebrates its golden anniversary, serving Mexican food to multiple generations in Santa Maria
BY WENDY THIES SELL
It’s a rare business that survives 50 years, run by the same family, in the same location, no less. And when it happens, it’s worthy of acknowledgment.
This month, Santa Maria restaurant Casa Mañana is quietly celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Casa Mañana’s founders, Robert Ontiveros, now 84 years old, and his wife Lydia, 81, opened the restaurant in September 1964 on South Broadway in what used to be the California Highway Patrol office, back when Highway 101 went through Santa Maria’s business district.
Robert’s son, Anthony Ontiveros, recalls that the town’s restaurant landscape was also very different at the time.
“I remember, as a kid, when we first started, there were only three Mexican restaurants in Santa Maria,” Anthony said.
Five decades later, the Ontiveros family still owns and operates Casa Mañana in the same location, and the patriarch of the family still comes into the restaurant twice a week.
“He works on Tuesday and Sunday; he cooks and manages the place,” said Anthony, who has also spent most of his life working at his parents’ restaurant.
Anthony started washing dishes there in the mid ’60s, and by the time he was a teen, he was training in the kitchen, where he’s been cooking ever since. His brothers John and Jason also work at Casa Mañana, as does the next generation.
“My daughters all did their tour of duty,” Anthony said.
The restaurant’s recipes came from Robert’s parents, natives of Chihuahua, Mexico, who were Santa Maria restaurateurs long ago and owned a restaurant on West Main Street.
“We’ve been using [those family recipes] for the last 50 years,” Anthony said. “We really haven’t changed anything. That’s not our policy to change. If anything, we’ll add. We’ll add, but not change what we have.”
Almost everything at Casa Mañana is homemade, and Anthony added, “We don’t use any MSG [mono-sodium glutamate].”
The menu is enormous, with everything you’d expect from an authentic Mexican restaurant—tacos, tamales, chile verde, enchiladas, carnitas, tostadas, and much more. The shredded beef is probably the most popular item among longtime locals.
During a recent lunchtime visit, two ladies came in and sat in the orange booth next to me. Anthony greeted the regular customers and warmly said, “You don’t need menus do you?”
They smiled and replied, “Nope! We know what we want”—one order of beef tacos and another order of beef enchiladas.
What’s Anthony’s favorite dish on the menu?
“That’s a hard thing,” he replied. “I like the huevos rancheros, that’s one of my favorites. And the combinations—I like the No. 6, which is beans and rice, a chile relleno, and a beef enchilada. I like the omelets. I like the machaca. The whole menu’s good!
“Customers really like the beans because they’re actually re-fried,” he added.
I asked Anthony what he credits for Casa Mañana’s five-decade-long success.
“I would say it’s the consistency of the food that we prepare. It’s the same recipes and same cooks. I think location has a lot to do with it. We were fortunate to get this place at the particular time. I think that’s what helped us to remain here, because we’ve been able to have loyal customers since then. We’re having their third generation of children come in here,” Anthony said.
Some faithful customers have been coming to eat at Casa Mañana all 50 years.
“Even those who’ve moved out of town, when they come to Santa Maria, they have to stop here,” Anthony said.
The Ontiveros family hopes that the younger generation continues with the family business and serves Santa Maria for another 50 years.
“We appreciate the Santa Maria residents, especially those who’ve been regular customers for us here, and sustained us, and we hope to see more customers come in,” he said.
Casa Mañana is open daily for lunch and dinner and is located at 1640 S. Broadway, Santa Maria. The phone number is 925-8519. The restaurant only accepts cash or checks.
Sun wine and food columnist Wendy Thies Sell can be contacted at email@example.com.