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El Adobe will close after 40 years

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el adobe 2Belly up to the bar and order a half-pitcher of El Adobe’s popular margaritas or snag a bowl of chips and salsa while you still can - the venerable restaurant will close its doors May 10, after 40 years serving Mexican cuisine on S. Tamiami Trail.

Owner Mary Keim moved to Sarasota to open the restaurant in 1974 with business partner Dorothy Mohl. They owned another El Adobe in Wheatonville, Illinois, and when Mull retired to the Sarasota area she convinced Keim to join her.

“I didn’t run the one up there,” said Keim, “but I’ve been at this one since it opened. Well, since before it opened, really.”

When asked if it was difficult to make the restaurant such a success, Keim brushed away the four decades of work.

“It started out really great,” she explained. “You know how it is, when a restaurant opens in Sarasota everyone goes to check it out.”

It slowed a bit after that, but El Adobe’s consistency has fostered a regular clientele that spans generations.

That also holds true with its employees.

Three generations of the Diaz family work at El Adobe Restaurant in Sarasota. Eustacio and Anita Diaz, left, stand with their son, Gustavo, center, and grandchildren Adrian and Brianna. (April 28, 2014) (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Dan Wagner)

Three generations of the Diaz family work at El Adobe Restaurant in Sarasota. Eustacio and Anita Diaz, left, stand with their son, Gustavo, center, and grandchildren Adrian and Brianna. (April 28, 2014) (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Dan Wagner)

“My father and mother cook the food,” said El Adobe Manager Gustavo Diaz. “They opened the place and have been here ever since.”

Eustacio Diaz, Gustavo’s father, was the chef at the El Adobe in Illinois and planned on staying in Sarasota just long enough to see the new restaurant on its feet, a few months at most.

“I guess the weather convinced him to stay,” laughed Diaz.

Diaz’s daughter, Brianna, and son, Adrien, both work at El Adobe while attending the University of South Florida, making that three generations of the family in the restaurant.

“I tell them, ‘Get a career or you’ll be doing this the rest of your life,’” Diaz said.

He should know. Diaz started working at El Adobe when he was 10 and stayed until 2004, when he opened a janitorial company. Four years ago, he came back to help out when the restaurant lost its manager and stayed, despite still owning his other company.

Diaz is glad he’s here for the end.

“It’s a little bit bittersweet — you always think you’ll be here forever — but the outpouring of customers we’ve had in the past few days has been amazing," he said.

Keim is in negotiations to sell the land that El Adobe sits on to a company in Tampa for an undisclosed amount. She said that the new owners plan to tear down the building, although she doesn’t know what they will put up in its place.
Keim plans to retire after El Adobe closes, but that wasn’t her primary motivation for the sale.

“The truth is, my chef has wanted to retire for a while now, so I figured it would be a good time,” she said.

She gets a little choked up when she discusses the reasons El Adobe will be open for the next two weeks, even though the sale will likely close on Thursday.

"We wanted to say goodbye to everybody,” Keim said. “We’ve had a lot of good employees and a lot of good customers over the years.”

Diaz already is planning a little vacation after May 10 — his last was over a year ago — but he also wants to make the most out of his time at El Adobe before it closes.

“It’s been a great run,” he said. “Two weeks left, then we’ll leave with our heads held high.”

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Brian Ries

Brian Ries is the editor of ticketsarasota.com.
Last modified: May 5, 2014
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