Eat at Sal’s

Sal's Mexican InnThis is Sal’s Mexican Inn, a restaurant in Oxnard I’ve been hearing about for years, but have never visited.

This afternoon, my wife announced that I was taking her to lunch and I was taking her to Sal’s.

The story of Sal’s dates back to 1947 when Mary Lopez, the 20-year-old wife of Sal Lopez opened a restaurant in Oxnard. Sal was working in LA, but within a week, business was booming and Sal was working in the restaurant full time to help out.

In the early 1950s, a larger location on Oxnard Boulevard became available, but Sal didn’t have enough cash on hand for the down payment. In walked Mary and her secret savings account. The Mexican Inn was born. The Lopez’s have added on two more dining rooms since they first opened, and one of the cooks (they now employee 55 people), has been working there since the Mexican Inn first opened. He started at 14 as a dishwasher (this whole history is printed on the menu … I didn’t actually interview anybody to get this story!).  Sal died in 2000, and one of his daughters runs the restaurant (the rest of the children are spread out across America as small business owners or successful professionals).

Sal’s is the kind of place where you sit in brown wooden booths, with a framed picture of the entire family in white gowns and tuxedos hanging on one wall (we guess this picture was the Lopez’s 50th wedding anniversary photo), and on the other wall is a HUGE picture of downtown Oxnard from 1969. There’s also a “We won’t forget 9/11” sign by the front door.

The food is your standard Mexican fair — tacos, enchiladas, tacitos, burritos, with rice and beans. The salsa is perfection, the chips overly crisp and hard, but the meal was quite good. We had a Mexican BBQ dish we’d never seen before. It was good, but I wished I had ordered the cheese enchiladas. The tortilla’s were homemade and delicious. I love slathing tortillas in butter, sprinkling a fine layer of salt on and dipping them in enchilada sauce.  The tortilla’s were good enough that when I go back, that’s what I’ll order.

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