Bay Area Restaurant Goes From Local Hangout To National Treasure

DALY CITY (KPIX 5) — Staying afloat in the dining industry is no easy feat these days.

But one Daly City restaurant is celebrating a century in business. But it’s taken a lot of passion, and a little help from the magic of television.

It’s the kind of place people go to their entire lives. And some people really have been going to Estrada’s their whole life.

David Canepa said, “I remember my Spanish teacher taking us here so we could learn Spanish and we had to order in Spanish from the Estrada’s restaurant.”

Jose Betances told KPIX 5, “We were actually here last night…we spent like 8 to 2 in the morning here last night and we are back over here.”

Last month, Estrada’s celebrated its 100-year anniversary, the secret to its longevity isn’t in a recipe or special cocktail.

Julio Mercedes bought Estrada’s restaurant 10 years ago. He is its sixth owner. He assumed a place considered a local institution would essentially run itself.

“I thought it would be a great idea to have a restaurant where I could just come in once a month, pick up the money and leave…and keep doing my music, which turned out to be the total opposite,” Mercedes said.

Two years into it, all hell broke loose and the United States was in one of the worst economic downturns.

“So I just keep going and going and going and putting more money into it…by the time I woke up, we were in tremendous debt,” he said.

Mercedes and his partner Bernadette were $400,000 in the red. He needed a miracle. And it came in the form of the hit Food Network show, Restaurant Impossible, a reality show that takes struggling restaurants and gives them a makeover.

“That was the shot in the arm that we needed at the time,” Mercedes said.

They revamped the menu and updated the décor.

But Julio insisted they leave some treasures from the past.

One of the signature dishes at Estrada’s restaurant is the sizzling salad and it is just that, it’s a sizzling salad.

Almost overnight, Estrada’s was back on track.

“We couldn’t buy the marketing that they did and all the promotion,” he said. “Out of nowhere we went from being a local restaurant to being a national restaurant.”

And Mercedes says business is brisk.

He admits he still has to work seven days a week to keep it going, but it’s a labor of love.

“Love, and I hate being a loser…I hate losing more than I like winning…I always feel like I am going to persevere and come out on top…” he said.

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