This is my 46th year of gobbling everything edible Fiesta has to
offer, and the memories come flooding back like an avalanche of
salsa. But if I had to narrow them down to 10, this is what my
taste buds remember best:
1. Evening enchiladas under garden umbrellas at the old La
Paloma (now the Paradise) on Anacapa Street, as mariachis sang sad
laments of love.
2. El Paseo restaurant jammed to the rafters after the parade.
You dipped into the buffet, dodging the heels of women dancing on
3. Juicy goat tacos in De la Guerra Plaza in 2004 at the
Hispanic Chamber of Commerce booth.
4. The Castro Family Party at Santa Barbara and De la Guerra
streets, where Flora Rose Cota Castro worked the kitchen for 26
years. Her mother-in-law, Belen Castro, began the tradition. The
family also had a float entry put together just days before the
parade, as officials fretted.
5. The late Sam D’Andrea’s chorizo. While his Boy Scout
volunteers worked at the regular Downtown Kiwanis Club’s Saturday
Fiesta Pancake Breakfast, Sam cooked up his famed chorizo on the
side, where those in the know stopped by.
6. Back when it was the Mayor’s Party (now Celebración de los
Dignatarios), I recall strolling the grassy knoll at the zoo,
munching and relishing the view over the Santa Barbara Channel.
7. Nothing seemed more authentic than chowing down in what was
then the cheapest Mexican eatery downtown, the Casablanca. There
were always mariachis playing. Alas, the Casablanca is history.
8. Before new bars and restaurants opened downtown, the Acapulco
in La Arcada Court was swamped with merrymakers. Tipsy girls waded
in the fountain.
9. A meal in a roll: Tortas in De la Guerra Plaza, followed by a
long, sweet churro.
10. German sausages in Mercado del Norte. True, un-Fiesta-ish,
but wonderfully good. But the bratwurst and Polish sausages have
not been seen there in recent years.