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When Ray Vega opened the doors to his festive, family-owned restaurant in 1956, Casa Vega was one of the few places to bring authentic Mexican cuisine beyond Olvera Street, all the way to Ventura Boulevard. Thanks to the Vega family’s traditional recipes, proximity to film studios, and garnet-colored booths arranged perfectly for conversation, Casa Vega quickly became a Hollywood hotspot, welcoming stars like Cary Grant (who had a house account), Jane Fonda and Marlon Brando (the latter always had a quesadilla at table two).
“I think they just found a family. We were just a family from Mexico that loved our food and loved our heritage and loved you,” owner Christy Vega tells THR.
In celebration of its 65th anniversary, Casa Vega is rolling back its menu — which has remained largely unchanged since its genesis — to 1956 opening prices on Nov. 15.
“The same things on the menu since 1956 have been the house combo, the flautas rancheros, the enchiladas rancheros, and obviously our Casa Vega margaritas. So, it’s kind of neat that the same items we offered in 1956 for like $1.80, I think, we’re going to offer for the anniversary [at that price],” Vega says. “We respect our recipes because they’re all our family’s comfort food recipes, so those don’t change. I will add things to the menu to make it more relevant, but we don’t subtract.”
Ray Vega died of COVID-19 in January, but Christy, his daughter, has been operating the restaurant in his stead for the past decade. One of the biggest challenges, she says, has been bridging the gap between Casa Vega’s Old Hollywood legacy and keeping it fresh for newer guests and entertainers (Ciara and Russell Wilson, Dave Grohl, The Chainsmokers, Sandra Bullock, the Kardashians and many other famous faces are regular patrons).
That involves “maintaining that fine line of honoring and keeping what has made it so famous for all these years and then polishing up the edges and bringing it up to date so it’s still relevant,” Christy says, adding: “And not just the older people, but young people. That’s when I know that we’re doing things right at Casa Vega, is when the young and the old are still coming in.”
Regular patrons include Dakota Fanning, who teamed up with the restaurant in June on a limited-run special margarita; profits from the sale of the cocktail benefited No Us Without You LA, a nonprofit that helps undocumented back-of-house restaurant workers maintain food security.
Says Fanning of her love of the restaurant, “Casa Vega has become a home away from home for me. The familiar atmosphere, faces and, most of all, the food, are so comforting. Christy is simply the best, and is continuing her dad’s legacy and making him so proud.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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