Rudy’s Mexican Restaurants

Rudy Alvaro, Sr., with one of the popular Mexican chicken-avocado taco salads served at Rudy’s in Buellton. He opened his first Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant in Santa Barbara in 1976.

Rudy Alvaro, Sr., with one of the popular Mexican chicken-avocado taco salads served at Rudy’s in Buellton. He opened his first Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant in Santa Barbara in 1976.

Living a classic American success story, the Alvaro family is reaping the rewards of over thirty-three years of long hours and hard work.
In 1976, Rudy Alvaro, Sr., founded the first of his Rudy’s Mexican Restaurants, and today the family operates six of the popular eateries, all renowned for fast, friendly service and savory dishes made from scratch.
Rudy Sr. his son, Rudy Jr. and his two daughters, Claudia and Andrea, run the string of family restaurants that stretches from Carpinteria to Buellton. His wife, Alma, juggles details behind the scenes, keeping the books and helping out when it comes time to test new recipes.                 Andrea oversees the downtown Santa Barbara store, located in Paseo Nuevo, while Claudia and her husband, Joaquin, manage the original Rudy’s on Montecito Street, also in Santa Barbara.
“I taught Joaquin how to cook,” Rudy Sr. laughs, “and now he’s one of the best. He’s better than the teacher!”
Father and son keep things humming in the Carpenteria, Goleta and Buellton kitchens, with Rudy Sr. often lending a hand at the Paseo Nuevo location.
“I go to four of the restaurants at least twice a week,” Rudy, Sr. says, “because I need to taste the food, make sure the beans are seasoned right, that kind of thing.
“I supervise and help out,” he adds. “If they need to make chile rellenos, I’ll roast the chiles. In Buellton, you’ll see me making tortillas, because we don’t have a hired lady to make them there.”
The family’s Buellton restaurant, located in the Albertson’s Shopping Center, showcases the same menu that made the Rudy’s name famous.         Tempting items include veggie burritos, chiles rellenos and crispy tacos made from freshly charbroiled chicken or beef, as well as house specials, such as sopes, flautitas verdes and chicken taco salad.
The menu also features juicy hamburgers brushed with homemade 1000 Island dressing. “Our hamburgers are very popular and never greasy,” says Rudy Sr. “We grind our own beef and it makes a big difference.
“Our Rudy’s Hamburger has bacon, guacamole, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, all that good stuff,” he adds. “People love it, especially with a side of taquitos.”
Insisting that his food doesn’t represent any particular region, Rudy, Sr. describes it simply as Californian cuisine with a Mexican touch. He prides himself on using real avocado for the guacamole, fresh veggies for the fajitas and authentic, handmade tamales.
“My food is made to everyone’s taste,” he explains. “American people love it because it’s not too spicy and Mexican people love it because it’s fresh.”
Rudy Sr. came to Santa Barbara from Michoacan, Mexico with his parents in 1961, just before his 15th birthday. By the age of 16, he was working as a busboy at the Montecito Country Club, which led to a series of food industry jobs, first at the old Harbor Restaurant and then at Café del Sol.
From dishwasher to waiter to cook to manager, Rudy Sr. worked his way up the food service ladder. By the time he turned 30, he was ready to launch his own business.
“I started with a very small restaurant and my mom helped me,” he remembers. “The customers were inventing their own burritos, asking for beef, guacamole and tomato, or vegetables and sour cream, and that’s how we put together the menu.
“Now, we all enjoy cooking and the family gets together at home,” he continues. “We just came up with a recipe for shrimp tacos and we’ll say ‘it has too much garlic’ or ‘let’s try this or that.’ Then we try it out in the restaurant and if the customers like it, great, it’s on the menu.”
When asked the key to his success, Rudy Sr. quickly replies, “The freshness, the cleanness and you have to give good service. We’re focused on those three things.
“It’s been very tough,” he says, “but it’s been fun, too. I’m 61 and still at it. The restaurant business is all I know how to do and I love it.”

Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant, in Buellton, is located at 234 E. Highway 246, in Albertson’s Center. For more information call 686-5268 or visit www.rudysrestaurants.com.

Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant, in Buellton, is located at 234 E. Highway 246, in Albertson’s Center. For more information call 686-5268 or visit www.rudysrestaurants.com.