By Meghan Fitzpatrick
Mama Espinoza’s restaurant is the famous landmark that puts the small agricultural town of El Rosario on the map for tourists and travelers. Born in 1908, Mama Espinoza has been serving her famous lobster tacos and burritos to people passing through El Rosario since 1930.
Before 1973, the town of El Rosario was known as “the end of the line,” because, if you were driving south down the Baja peninsula, it was the last town with a paved road. After El Rosario, the roads were treacherous and the journey south could be perilous. However in 1973, the completion of Highway 1 (otherwise known as the Transpeninsular Highway, running the entire length of the Baja Peninsula) changed El Rosario’s identity and it soon became a popular place to stop off before continuing down the long and smoothly paved road south through Baja. The road has recently been upgraded, once again, and continues south to the next stop, Cataviñia, without a hitch.
In addition to the completion of Highway 1, in 1967 the main promoter of the NORRA off-road racing tournaments organized the first ever Baja 1000 – a race that is today infamous around the world. The Baja 1000 is an off-road race that spans the entire length of the Baja peninsula, 1,000 miles, hence the name “Baja 1,000”. On the map for the Baja 1000, Mama Espinoza’s restaurant was the very first checkpoint.
The drivers in the race were all blown away by Mama’s delicious lobster tacos and burritos (and her crab soup, shrimp dishes and breakfast machaca are no slackers, either). They went back to the US and into Baja and told everyone about Mama Espinoza’s delicious food and soon her place was legendary! Mama Espinoza’s was such a huge success that it has remained a key Baja 1000 checkpoint for over 40 years now. The inside of the restaurant is decorated with memorabilia from past races and drivers, making it almost like a museum of the Baja 1,000’s history.
Mama Espinoza, whose real name is Anita Grosse Peña, has lived a very charitable and admirable life. Kindness and generosity are two qualities she believes to be very important, and you can see this carry over in her restaurant. Mama Espinoza’s was founded under the pillars of honesty, respect and quality of service. These were all important to Mama Espinoza to ensure that people would return again and again and that her customers never had a bad experience.
When the restaurant first opened it was called “Espinoza’s House,” and it was run by Ana and her husband, Heraclio Espinoza. When the Baja 1,000 racers started to frequent her restaurant, the drivers of the off-road vehicles and motorcycles affectionately started to call Ana, Mama Espinoza. The name stuck and soon the name of the restaurant was changed from “Espinoza’s House” to “Mama Espinoza.”
Mama Espinoza is today 104 years old, and still enjoys coming into her restaurant to eat and enjoy a glass of wine – though she has retired from running the place. Today the restaurant is run by her daughter, Anita Elva Espinoza Grosso. Anita runs the restaurant upholding the same values that her mother believed to be so important – service of quality, honesty and respect for all of their customers. Mama Espinoza’s business has now expanded to include accommodation for travelers and a family museum next to the restaurant where visitors can learn more about the history of the restaurant and the Espinoza family.
Have you been to Mama Espinoza’s? Tell us about your experience and share any pictures you may have with us here.
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