Agnes Guevara, the owner, founder, and matriarch of the Rose Café on Haley Street — Santa Barbara’s oldest traditional Mexican restaurant — died Wednesday evening at the age of 97. In the 70 years since Guevara owned the Rose, it’s been closed only four times. Thursday marked the fourth. Low key, unassuming, but warmly inviting, the Rose is a definitive local haunt. Guevara kept an active hand in the operation until recently, when old age caught up with her.
Originally, the Rose Café was an Italian restaurant and was located elsewhere. But shortly after moving to Haley Street, it began serving Mexican food. There, Guevara worked as dishwasher as a young woman before taking it over in 1945. The Rose was as much a space and a place as it ever was a restaurant, understated, unpretentious, and comfortable. Guevara died of natural causes.