Dana Point business profile
“We had too many people waiting outside, so we needed something bigger,” Jorge Olamendi said. After only two years, the couple moved Olamendi’s to Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point at what had been another Mexican establishment.
Olamendi’s Mexican Restaurant
Address: 34664 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Jorge Olamendi remembers how every now and then someone would call the San Clemente restaurant with a big take-out order. He eventually found out it was for then-President Richard Nixon. Olamendi’s catered at Nixon’s “Western White House” in San Clemente for a party for Apollo astronauts who went to the moon.
It wasn’t long after opening the new Olamendi’s in Dana Point that several Secret Service agents were in the kitchen checking it out. Soon, Nixon, then the former president, was asking for a combination plate. He would continue to visit until he left Southern California for New York in 1980.
“He always had a really good appetite,” Maria Olamendi said. “The last time he came in, he had the No. 15, which was a taco, a chile relleno, tamale with rice and beans and a quesadilla and then a Raquelita for dessert.”
The Olamendis say their goal has always been to bring the best of traditional Mexican cooking to American diners. At their Dana Point location they have more than 100 items on the menu, all made from scratch every day as they need them.
“We set the standard for Mexican cuisine here in Southern California,” Jorge Olamendi said. “We are always trying out and inventing new things. People come in to copy us, and we think it’s flattering.”
Olamendi says the menu is inspired by his mother and grandmother. “People come here because they know what to expect – quality Mexican food served hot,” he said.
“We’ve had Clint Eastwood, George Lucas, Courteney Cox … I can’t remember them all,” Maria Olamendi said.
In May, Rosa Olamendi, Jorge’s sister, retired to her farm in Oregon and turned over her Olamendi’s restaurant in Laguna Beach to Jorge and Maria. Rosa had opened her restaurant in 1993 with her brother Carlos. After two years, Carlos left to open his own Olamendi’s in Mission Viejo.
Jorge has begun importing his own brand of certified organic tequila from Mexico. Olamendi’s uses it in margaritas and other drinks, and it can be ordered by the shot. It can be found at several area liquor stores, including John’s Liquor in Dana Point and Coast Liquor in Laguna Beach.
Jorge says he traveled often to Mexico in the past two decades to find the perfect tequila.
“It’s been a lot of hard work trying out tequila every day for the last 20 years,” he said.
Q&A WITH CO-OWNER JORGE OLAMENDI
Q. What is the best thing about owning your business?
A. I am happy working; it’s my passion. I like having a business because you are always with people and things are going on; there is movement.
Q. What is the most challenging aspect?
A. The economy has been difficult and we have suffered a lot. But then, we are all a family, so the difficulty has brought us closer together in the end. We were working together before, but now we are really close. There is always a benefit, even in the bad things. We are thankful.
Q. What advice do you have for anyone opening a business?
A. You have to be sure that you like what you are going to do, and then you have to try it out and see if it’s worth it.