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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Storefront Report: Silver Lake’s El Conquistador vanquished by rent increase

By Sarah Dryden

One of Silver Lake’s oldest restaurants, El Conquistador, will be closing at the end of the year after facing a sharp increase in rent imposed by a new landlord that purchased a large chunk of the block.

General Manager Albert Curiel confirmed that El Conquistador will not be renewing its lease at the end of the year and will be shutting its doors in late December after four decades in business. When asked if there was any chance El Conquistador could remain open, Curiel was not optimistic. He explained that the owner of the Sunset Boulevard restaurant would need to undertake a costly renovation of  the kitchen. But even then, it would still be unlikely that El Conquistador would be able to afford the much higher rent.

It’s not clear how much rent the new landlord, identified as Sunset Triangle Partners, demanded. But at the end of last year, the eastern section of the block that includes El Conquistador and the adjacent Fandango Salon and the former Naya Indian restaurant sold for $4.8 million, according to online property tax records.

Curiel and others have heard various accounts and rumors about what the new land owners have in store for the property that faces Sunset Triangle Plaza, a small park and a pedestrian plaza. Meanwhile, on the west side of the same block, Silver Lake businesswoman Dana Hollister is planning to turn a former church into a boutique hotel.

Curiel said  El Conquistador’s owner, Jesse Pinto, is concerned about what the restaurant’s long-term employees are going to do. Many have worked at the restaurant as teenagers and are now middle-aged with families; some are even grandparents.

“How can you tell people who have been doing the same thing for so long to now go do something different?” Curiel said.

145 comments

    • Nooo is right! The greed continues! The Naya lost their liquor license in April and are now closed… sounds like a conspiracy of greed. I will boycott anything owned by the new owners.

  1. Wow. That is awful. It’s hard to imagine going down Sunset and not seeing this place.

  2. There are a bunch of for lease signs just south of the 101 – over on Beverly stretching from alvarado to virgil, just begging for such great restaurants to move in. Come on over!

    • You don’t get it. El Conquistador is a Sunset Junction institution. Even if it would open up again someplace else (and it won’t) the history that this restaurant embodies would still be gone forever.

  3. excellent.
    hopefully they’ll put a chipotle there.
    that chip dip is too spicy.

  4. The new owners intend on putting in a small park and a pedestrian plaza? Sign me on the YES side of this!

    • Jon Von Albertson

      No they said the properties face a small park and pedestrian plaza.

    • No, there is already a small park and pedestrian plaza there. You really think someone paid almost 5 million dollars to put in a park? In Silver Lake?

    • That’s a Bummer!

      • Oops, I didn’t mean that as a reply to your comment Lester… I’m just bummed to see El Conquistador being pushed out of the neighborhood.

        Also, the way I read the article, they’re just referencing the polka dot park, not planning to add more public space. But I am curious what these “rumored” plans are.

    • No Lester, the property faces a small park and pedestrian plaza. It’s unlikely that the new owners would ever build something that served the local residents.

      • @alleycat
        “It’s unlikely that the new owners would ever build something that served the local residents.”

        What are you talking about? They just INVESTED $5M in Silver Lake! You think they are not going to make that money work by leasing the space to businesses that serve they community? Really DUMB comment.

        Unless what you meant (which I’m MORE afraid of) is they spend 5M and turn it into a “community center” or some other waste of space…

        • Silver Lake resident

          Landlords like this who raise rents to astronomical prices to drive out local businesses will NOT bring in businesses that benefit the community. Rather, these “investors” generally bring in tenants who cater to a very elite group of the local population.

          Perhaps you don’t live near the Junction and haven’t noticed, but in the last 6 months, many businesses that served affordable food and many shops that didn’t charge $100 for a t-shirt have been driven out by greedy landlords. Please enlighten me on how you think a restaurant that serves $40 entrees will benefit this community that’s still predominantly working-class, Latino and young lower middle-class professionals?

          • The better question… Why are you complaining about something you have absolutely zero control? Gentrification is constant and casualties are part of this natural process.

            The only thing you CAN do is move along to a more down-trodden area and wait a few more years to start your complaining again.

  5. Bring those margaritas to Cypress Park. Lots of inexpensive spaces looking for tennants in our neck of the woods.

  6. I’d be saddened by the loss if it didn’t require four or five margaritas to make it through half a plate of the beige debris they shovel out of that kitchen. It’s like taco day at an elementary school in Wichita.

    • perhaps you should return to Wichita…we natives have appreciated El Conquistador for decades.

      • I should feel honored to be addressed by the esteemed and self-appointed representative of native Angelenos, but I’m not. Sorry pal, second generation here. Not all of us are tearfully reminiscent of the loss. El C was bad back in the day and it’s worse now. I’ll toss a rose on its casket, but won’t miss it. Remember the old phone booth that used to be outside El Coyote? The food was better there.

  7. NO!!!

    My wife and I love this place!

    We have been going at least two times a week for the last five years we have lived in LA. Best place ever and the best margaritas ever.

    Always feel at home, and the best staff ever.

    • what about the chairs? are the chairs the best chairs ever?
      and the light bulbs? are the light bulbs the best light bulbs ever?

      sorry. couldn’t help myself.

  8. Bienvenida a Yupy-landia! Si no tiene un monton de dinero, vete ya!

  9. I agree with what others have said here — this place is amazing, best margaritas in Los Angeles — and I’m not sure what my husband and I will do without it. :(

    • Go down the street to El Chavo if you want great Margaritas and food.

      Go across the street from El Chavo to Acapulco if you want to match the quality of el conquistador…

  10. Nooo!!! Best margaritas I’ve ever had. I love the ever changing kitchy decorations and the great staff. El Conquistador is a fantastic restaurant for eating decent food and forgetting all your troubles.

  11. $20 bucks says they turn it into a Pottery Barn.

  12. it seems that all the things that made silver lake and echo park so great are slowly disappearing. pleeeease, not another overpriced restaurant.

  13. Nooo!!! We call those margarita’s the Marriage Menders. Sigh…

    • This is the BEST comment on here.
      “marriage menders”—:)
      I am in denial that this is happening. Just had a birthday dinner here last week and I agree that I always feel at home here. Always greeted with hugs and warmth. Plus the enchiladas rojas are my favorite. Anyone who can have more than 2 of their margaritas has the tolerance of a bull.
      Perhaps a wealthy patron will step up and help keep this sweet place.

  14. Noooo! No! I love their margaritas! So strong, so close. God damn it.

  15. Damn you hipsters! Find some other part of town to ruin. Haven’t you done enough damage here already?!

    • Right. Because “hipsters” hated eating there. Find someone else to scapegoat for your problems.

    • You’re thinking of yuppies. They have money. Hipsters are poor, that’s why they drink PBR and no longer live in Silver Lake.

      • True hipsters pretend to be poor by drinking PBR, and when they grow up they turn into yuppies.

        • Some hipsters become yuppies. Some yuppies were just never hip.

        • in my youth I was in a band, dressed accordingly and was very social; I lived in Silverlake while it was still run down and cheap. I was very interested in pop culture and new things. I was the definition of a “hipster.”

          I was also totally broke all the time; it goes with the territory. not a yuppie now (just an old dude with kids and a normal job). to become a yuppie, you have to be planning for your future, not hanging out in clubs.

  16. Come to Atwater… Word is the Acapolco space is up for lease!

  17. That would be a total loss! El Conquistador is a historical landmark. It’s one of the last gay places (that have been around forever) in Silverlake. That is so freakin sad!

  18. Sad that this icon of Silver Lake is being priced out of their location but they have enough of a following to make it a few blocks farther south or east. Try relocating to Beverly Blvd or Glendale Blvd or farther east on Sunset Blvd. Your regulars will follow you and parking will be easier…. and it’s a great opportunity for that new kitchen you say you need.

  19. So sad! Do you think they will demolish that whole block and try to put up parking for that Boutique Hotel?
    Are the other businesses (Fandango, that Sushi place) safe?

    • HaHa!!! Parking? No it’s going to be a place for a celebrity chef. They’re knocking down the wall between El Con and Naya.

  20. I’ve been going here for over ten years. It’s by far my favorite restaurant in town. The food is good, not the BEST in town (though their salsas are great!), the cadillac margarita is the best, but the people and environment is what makes it fantastic. I’ve NEVER had a bad time here. I always know that when we go to El Conquistador it’s going to be a fun time, this is so incredibly sad.

  21. Good riddance!

  22. It appears that the evils of ‘revitalization’ have found their way to the opposite corner of this city block.
    Revitalization…as if there was something to be desired in the community the first place.
    Might I remind these yuppie ‘developers’ that they are now destroying the elements of a community that made it attractive to them in the first place. Fools. Silver lake / Hollywood…soon there won’t be any definable difference in aesthetic or community. The ‘artists’ of the community have already been priced out. This is disappointing. After 30 years of waking up to the church bells at 8am in the morning will soon be the sounds of drunks spilling out into the streets from the pretentious ‘Astro pubs’. Good bye to the good old days.

  23. Gentrification just got real!

  24. This is a bummer, man. That’s, that’s a bummer.

    Memories.

  25. Whatever. That place was already a gentrified spot that catered to white hipster palates. The food is bland and overpriced ($14 for chile verde! $12 for chile rellenos!). There’s plenty of more authentic, better tasting, affordable options very close by. It’s silverlake/echo park for fucks sake. Why would anyone go there for good mexican food? The guero up above was right, a Chipotle would make sense. At least I could get an antibiotic-free burrito for 7 bucks.

    • Please jump in front of a #4 bus. Either direction.

      • Aww you mad Fallopia? You must like this terrible white hipster fake mexi spot. Don’t worry puta, it’ll be replaced by something even more hipster and bland and you can continue to swill those awesome margaritas.

        • El Conquistador has been a part of the neighborhood for over 40 years — and that’s long before the “hipsters” showed up. By the way, I don’t see just “hipsters” complaining about this; the whole community is upset.

        • Everybody knows that this place pre dates hipsters. Even predates yuppies. This is not a fake establishment! Now please go jump in front of a number 2 bus instead… It will run you over much slower.

          • I love Fallopia Simns for making me laugh during this sad time in our community. Been here 30 years, haven’t seen this much change in such a short amount of time.

          • Boo hoo poor Fallopia and the hipsters and yuppies will need to find a new shitty restaurant that serves mediocre margaritas to catch your falling tears. It’s pure joy for me to watch you privileged assholes complain about gentrification of a neighborhood gentrified long ago, by you. You wouldn’t recognize gentrification if it bit you on the seat of your Urban Outfitters pants. Please continue to moan about it :D Bwahahaha!!!!

      • Or a #704 … It doesn’t make constant stops !

  26. It’s a shame that Pinto didn’t see the writing on the wall a long time ago and make the appropriate changes to his establishment to either weather the fast changing market or move into another part of time that could accommodate his price range and demographic.
    There is always room for comfort mexican food and “heroin margaritas” throughout LA.

    • Exactly. As a good business man, he could use that as an opportunity to find a better location and a new kitchen! After being in that space for 40 years, don’t tell me they did not have the opportunity once to buy the building at an attractive price!

  27. This is the next to last nail in our gay coffin. Rough Trade will surely be next. Gays and Latino families made this once-great neighborhood. Someone wealthy clearly hates us. We have lost everything. Soon the hideous hipsters and soccer moms will get rid of Rough Trade and at last we will have been totally erased from the Sunset Junction. Very, very, very sad.

    • Stupid rants are stupid. These so called hipsters your refer to don’t have the kind of money to do what you’re decrying and wouldn’t want to do this with it if they did.

    • Someone hates you because they bought land in your neighborhood? It’s a conspiracy against gays? Against Latinos? How can you possibly know this? Damon, it is business. There are gay latino businessmen right in Silver Lake. Their businesses are successful. To claim it is an anti-gay and anti-latino conspiracy of hatred is without any foundation whatsoever. Soccer moms have the right to live any where they want. You may shun them because what? They are breeders? So were your parents. So are the latinos. Are the only welcome mothers in the area latina? Their kids play soccer too if you haven’t noticed. And, the term “hipster” is really something else. Why is it that half of Silver Lake is “hipster” but no one wants to use that term for themselves?

    • Yep you’re right. Next on the block is Rough Trade but before RT, most likely Circus Of Books. Hipsters alone don’t or can’t do it but their presence speeds up the process. Soccer moms and white roosting win.

    • Silver Lake resident

      I’m probably one of those “hipsters” you’re bashing — but like others have said, us “hipsters” don’t have any money to go around booting businesses. I’m a poor-ass 25 year-old working a lame job on the Westside desperately clinging to my $800/mo Silver Lake apartment.

      I, for one, would not want to see Rough Trade forced out of the area. It’s as much a part of the neighborhood as El Conquistador to me. Blame the greedy developers and house flippers who are barreling through Silver Lake pricing out the hipsters, the artists, the gays and the Latinos. They’re the ones you should be attacking.

    • I hope you went to the Off Sunset festival and donated to support it. That’s the only new piece of gay commerce in the area I’ve seen in the past four years, during which El Conquistador, Le Barcito, and The Other Side all closed.

      Of course, there’s still plenty of gay people in the neighborhood, and it seems more are coming all the time. (At least, people I know in West Hollywood always seem to say that everyone’s moving to Silver Lake.)

  28. Oh no!!!! This is such terrible news!! I love this place and have been going there for years. The food, the service, the decor . . . everything about it is fabulous! This just can’t be!!

  29. I find statements like ““How can you tell people who have been doing the same thing for so long to now go do something different?” very odd, and even more, ignorant. Obviously, the building will be put to better use, something that brings in more revenue. That means more or better jobs and more contribution to the tax base. We cannot have social services without those two things. The owner has the right to demand the rent he can get. That is true of any landowner, whether it is you, your mom, your dad, your brother. No one demands less than they can get on the open market. If the restaurant can’t meet the rent, then it is time to go away. For those lamenting the changes of Silver Lake, folks, it has been happening for decades, and like all neighborhoods, will continue to change. Tatted and aging “hipsters” with little ability to rent in Silver Lake will have to find other digs. Maybe Maywood? Sylmar? Willowbrook? They and the leather crowd, or the biker crowd have no greater rights than any one else. Gentrification is very good for all of us, whether it is understood and appreciated or not.

    • You’re right. No one posting here would “donate” the true value of that property to keep El Conquistador in business. But I wouldn’t be so smug about it. Lots of people are hurt by gentrification, granted, all of them renters or employees. They lose jobs they’ve had for decades or must move from the neighborhoods they’ve known all their lives. To tell them to bug off to Willowbrook is a bit gross and insensitive, don’t you think?

  30. goodbyenormajean

    Will they be selling tickets for the showdown between Sunset Triangle Partners and Michael McKinley’s more-product-than-produce “farmer’s market”?

  31. Greedy land owners.
    Sad. We’ve been going to that place for 18 years.
    I lost count on how many margaritas I’ve had.
    We’ve gotten to address each one of the waiters by name and viceversa. No matter how late and crowded the restaurant was there is a table avail for us.
    Food is not the greatest thing on earth but the atmosphere and great margaritas and lets not talk about the super hot chip & salsa made a world of difference!
    I’m gonna miss one of my fav Hang out spots!

  32. Terrible news! I LOVE this place. The food is pretty average but the service is always top-notch and friendly. The host there is my fav…where else can you go and be seated by a guy in pearls and spats? AND the decor is amazing and ever-changing. Boo–there goes the neighborhood getting all overly trendy and mainstream!

  33. UGH. NO. This is such a shame and will be such a loss to the local community. El Conquistador is an institution. As evidenced by all the comments here, it should be clear I’m not the only one who feels this way.

    Shame on this greedy landlord for driving out this longstanding, well-loved restaurant. Who wants to take bets on what’ll be put in El Conquistador’s place? Will it be an overpriced “boutique” that sells dumb little necklaces with bird charms? Or an expensive see-and-be-seen brunch place that serves your coffee in dumb mason jars? (Because we TOTALLY need more of those businesses, right guys??!!)

  34. Will someone please think of the gay latino soccer playing hipster mother’s who drive vans ? SOMEONE?! ANYONE???

  35. Don’t blame greedy landlords, don’t blame hipsters, don’t blame anybody. It is the continued, inexorable, very aggressive, gentrification of Silver Lake. There are winners and losers—and where you stand on that point depends on where you sit.

  36. “Gentrification is very good for all of us, whether it is understood and appreciated or not.”

    Which translates to: you never, ever want to live next to Steve M.

    Le Barcito…. El Conquistador…. this is the gradual and systematic erasure of Silver Lake’s queer Latino presence. All for what? More generic gastropubs hawking $ 14 hamburgers and restos that might last 3 years.

    Is gentrification good for the “lower” class, Steve? For the poor? If they can’t afford a meal at Stella and $ 20 a day in slow pour, over-explained coffee to go, then fuck ‘em, right? I mean, you might as well just park your Prius on top of them to render them that much more invisible.

    No, the food at El Conquistador has never been the best, but you know what, MOST of the Mexican food in Los Angeles is mediocre when compared to the food in Mexico.

    But going to El Conquistador wasn’t really about its ranking on Yelp or Chowhound, was it? It was about going to a place that’s actually staved off (until now) LA’s odious phobia of history, having a memory erasing margarita and decent food amongst people who may have been dining there for 30 – 40 years with stories to tell.

    Despite all the gelato and children’s stores and pretentious retail bullshit, Silver Lake has endured some pretty gnarly waves in recent history. It was an epicenter of men, many of them poor and brown, who contracted HIV and died of AIDS. It once had a stellar and influential garage and indie music scene, a scene ravaged by heroin addiction and frequent deaths by overdose.

    So, yes, places like El Conquistador matter in ways far beyond their day to day role as restaurants — because they serve as critical social spaces that archive the highs and lows of the neighborhood’s history. And unlike Steve M, owner Jesse cares about the have-nots and recognizes that they, too, have a place in the neighborhood and in the world, with a documented history of helping out those in need.

    P.S. Stop using the word “hipster,” as it doesn’t mean anything. It only reveals that you have a weak vocabulary and even weaker self-esteem.

    • Dear JG, for the record: I’ve never claimed to be a hipster. I don’t drive a Prius. My car is heavy and uses gasoline. I don’t do drugs, and have no silly tattoos of barbed wire around my upper arms. Although if I did, 47% of Silver Lake might actually think I’m deep just because of that.

      Gentrification is indeed a good thing, yes even for the “poor.” Not all hispanics in the area are poor. Take a look at the private schools in the area. Lots of non-whites there JG. Walk into a bank in the area. Notice the non-white managers? I do. Brown people do not need your sympathy just because you’re white (I presume.) Many, many non-whites are homeowners in Echo Park and Silver Lake. You don’t think they enjoy the increase in home values? The better jobs? The better neighbors? I see 40-50 year old rockers in the area who clearly are poor. They seem to want the area to themselves, but it is not theirs. They rent as long as they can afford it there. They are the greedy ones. They want others to subsidize their living in an area they can’t afford. The open market is our system, JG. Artists, rockers, junkies, will have to find marketable skills so they can afford to live the life they want. Otherwise they are a drain on the rest of us. It is THEY who are the greedy ones by wanting to use other’s property at less than market rate.
      You seem to enjoy the years of social decay. Graffiti, HIV, heroin? Those were the good old days? Are you enjoying the current meth craze there in Silver Lake? People would rather live next to me and that “soccer mom” than a junkie or a gang member, that I know. Why disparage mothers who are active in their kids’ lives? Jeez dude, lighten up. And your associating urban decay with indie music is simply wrong, although I know that others seem to think that too. It is a cliché and a dangerous myth.

      • Problem is, if you charge a lot, people want it tidy. When all the rough edges get sanded off, it’s not as interesting any more. You can’t take the same chances.

        That’s what people are sad and angry about, and your economic analysis does not make that go away.

        Fundamentally, it is an error to equate “better use” with “makes more money” — as you did in your comment. Money is not the measure of all things.

        • What’s all this crap about places being tidy not being interesting or edgy? Unkempt dirty places are just that. I guess if you’re into the nasty edge, then go hang out on skid row. Not tidy there. You’ll be very interested. For me, I’d prefer a place like Harajuku in Japan.. neat, tidy, orderly, yet very edgy and extremely interesting.
          Tidy and edgy are not mutually exclusive… well, in some cultures.

          • You’re being obtuse. Nobody here is talking about Skid Row. I’m talking about this kind of place:

            “Once the galleries left, there remained yet another patch of Manhattan that only the rich could afford, one less place where a young artist without sharklike career instincts could hole up for twenty years and develop something genuinely interesting. On the other hand, now we have Starbucks and very little breaking and entering, and a lot of people who thought they could never leave Manhattan have discovered the joys of Brooklyn living. What does it matter, really, what you say about a passing scene?”

            From the beautiful essay by Gary Indiana on the East Village art scene of the 1980s: http://www.societyofcontrol.com/pmwiki/compstudies/compstudies.php?n=Main.GaryIndiana

            I’m not saying that I object to change in a neighborhood. I don’t. I’m pushing back against the idea, in the post above, that higher rent is necessarily an indicator of better uses.

      • Yeah, Steve M, renters are evil and suck money out of your pocket and your pocket only, as renters don’t pay taxes.

        And your use of the word “hispanics” rather than “Latinos” speaks volumes.

        • Your nitpicking- word police nature speaks volumes too.

          • Yes, Beanteam, it speaks not only of schooling, e.g. “You’re nitpicking,” but an Angeleno who used the identifier “Hispanic” instead of “Latino” represents a very specific relationship to the Other, on an ethnic, social and community level. They’re not the same thing.

          • Huh? Are you speaking of your lack of schooling? You’re = “you are” where as “your” is possessive…

            No they are not EXACTLY the same but pretty darn close. It seems as though you were inferring that somehow using one versus the other is somehow pejorative. It isn’t. So maybe the “speaking volumes” isn’t as voluminous as you thought…

        • JG, you are silly claiming that “Hispanic” is not a word which should be used. Please school all of us on why. Be sure to send a link. We need to rise to the level of your standard for ethnic sensitivity if you are indeed right.

        • I never called renters evil or money suckers JG.

          Renters do pay property taxes indirectly because it is factored into the rent.

          Someone needs an education on economics and anger management JG because you seem very hostile toward people who have some degree of success, measured by you by the fact they simply own land. Hey, get a load of this, from the Eastsider itself:

          More than 55% have annual household incomes exceeding $75,000. More than 57% own a home. http://www.theeastsiderla.com/advertising/

      • I think you missed the point Steve M. JG’s references of AIDS and the drug and gang riddled history of Silverlake were not mentioned to glamourize Silverlake, he referenced them to remind people like you (who were obviously not here) that there are remnants of this community that are symbolic to a history and legacy of survival and triumph through the worst of times. El Conquistador and it’s long standing history in our commuinty has cultural value. You, on the other hand, replace that with monetary value, and that makes minds like yours part of what is robbing our cultural history and small architectural treasures. Soon they will erect some steril 3 story living/shopping place that will have absolutely no significance to the community in 40 years.

        • I’ve been living in Hollywood for decades actually. Pretty close to Silver Lake. Yes I remember the old Silver Lake. (It is two words, not one). Neighborhoods change. They just do. So has West Hollywood. So has Hollywood. So has the Valley. My biggest point is that those who want to hold onto memories can do that all they want, but not if it has to be subsidized by owners of property. If the restaurant can’t make it, then, just like everywhere else in a free market, it must go. I remember places I liked going to. But many are out of business. That’s life. I am not criticizing the lamenting of the memories one had there at the restaurant, but I will criticize the posters here hurling insults to 1) owners of property who don’t want to subsidize others, 2) Soccer moms, and 3) non-Hispanic parents who want their children to grow up well, etc.

          • Steve M. I don’t think you are aware of how insensitive you come across:
            “3) non-Hispanic parents who want their children to grow up well, etc.”

            Are you suggesting that Hispanic parents (Latino families) care less about the community and how they raise families in Silver Lake?

            unbelievable..there really is nothing left for you to say.
            Evan (a PROUD LATINO)

          • Steve M. I don’t think you are aware of how insensitive you come across:
            “3) non-Hispanic parents who want their children to grow up well, etc.”

            Are you suggesting that Hispanic parents (Latino families) care less about the community and how they raise families in Silver Lake?

            unbelievable..there really is nothing left for you to say.
            Evan (a PROUD LATINO)

          • Hollywood isn’t Silver Lake. Your Thomas Guide can tell you that. And as a resident of Hollywood for decades, you weren’t a resident of Silver Lake, but merely a tourist. Looking at Hollywood’s lack of interest in maintaining or sustaining a history of any kind of community, your comments are starting to make more sense, at least the big shoulder shrug about a 40 year old restaurant having to close because the building owner is cash hungry. Your position on people, however, is all on you.

          • Steve,

            your free-market-ideology is rather idiotic. Instead of real individuals making ethical, humane choices, you talk only of abstract, agent-free notions of “neighborhoods change,” as if greed and corporate-real-estate interests aren’t the active, unethical forces involved. Sorry, but the change you describe is not some natural, inevitable force, but capitalist greed that can and should be resisted. You make it sound like you have sacrificed so much when businesses you liked were forced to submit to these supposed inevitable free market forces, but this does not in the slightest account for the damage done to those who actually worked, or work presently, in such businesses. Sleep tight tonight, but don’t think your consumer sacrifice makes up for the real losses of others. And your whole argument about “subsidizing” renters is absolutely ridiculous – the owners of this real estate are already making an excessive amount of money. If they can make an even more absurd amount of money because of gentrification and increases in real estate prices, so I think this hardly qualified as a “subsidy” to the community. To adopt your narrow-minded economy mentality, the landlords are obviously benefiting from “externalities” (the cultural cache of the area) which they in no way paid for, and therefore their economic benefit is in no way justified. Obviously your free-market-ideology seems to be comforting you, but don’t for a second think that you are acting at all ethical towards the rest of the community. But curl up next to your Adam Smith so you can sleep tight.

        • Evan: You misread my post and then criticize it because you misread it.
          JG: I’m a tourist in Silver Lake because I live in Hollywood? Why, because you say so? Am I a tourist when I go to Studio City as well? Canoga Park? Maybe you and Evan should meet and keep telling yourselves how important you are because you two are Silver Lake originals and the rest of us should worship the aura that you exude. The aura that no one in any other district of Los Angeles could begin to appreciate.

          When I have to endure people like you two (who think they are automatically so deep and so cool just because they decided to take an address in Silver Lake), I see people who sit around and remind each other how cool they think they are. What bores.

  37. Face it kids, old Silverlake is gone. I have my memories and photos though.

  38. Long time patron

    Well this is what happens when you R-E-N-T. I am shocked that they have been there so long and never purchased the building!!!!!!!! They have got to be making a boatload of money on the margaritas alone….which are THE best..evah!! They made a very bad business decision in never buying this place. I am positive that at some point in 40 years, with all the money they are making, they could have done it. Sad, stupid and well, thats life. Live with your choices. adios, El Conquistador. This is not the new owners fault as much as it is yours.

    • Long time patron

      …..and actually El Conquistador – I am kind of pissed that you did this to us!! Why didn’t you put the money back not business by buying place. Where in the hell did all those 40 years of profits go???****Arrrrrrgggggh***

    • Boys and girls, few restaurants are ever able to buy the property in which they operate.

  39. Just to clear things up, I’m not sure who the other Steve M is.

  40. It will be missed. No, it was not the best Mexican food on the planet, but I always had a good meal here.

    The staff may have been the best in Silver Lake. They were all so friendly and helpful. I will miss the enchiladas, the great soups, the margaritas, the front room with the tree growing through it, the valentines day decorations that stayed up too long, and our dapper host with his flower in his lapel and his white spats on his shoes.

    This was indeed a Silver Lake institution. I ate there the first week I moved in 18 years ago and have been a regular ever since. I wonder how many more trips I can make there before they leave…..

  41. I just hope a good restaurant goes in there instead of some obnoxiously loud faux restaurant nightclub bs.

    • That terrible indian place tried it’s hand at being a faux restaurant nightclub. Didn’t work out too well.

      I could smell the cologne all the way up the hill.

  42. I am saddened to see Silver Lake change so much, but I suppose it’s inevitable, as change comes in time to all things, all people, and all places. To the folks at El Conquistador, I remember my birthday dinner at your restaurant, in the early 2000s. When it came time to close the doors for the evening, the staff let everybody leave but kept our party in the restaurant and took us to the bar upstairs and started pouring tequila shots, gratis. They toasted us and we all had a convivial celebration for the next hour or so.

    We left when we felt it was time, not before and the staff were happy to let us stay as we liked.

    I shall always remember El Conquistador. The food isn’t the main draw, the staff and decor are what make it worthwhile.

    I’m leaving Silver Lake in a few months myself anyway, I can’t afford it anymore either, after being there since the late nineties. There comes a point where you weigh the cost/benefit and see that you can’t/shouldn’t keep pace.

    I wish everybody peace, love and respect.

  43. anonymous objector

    Just one question here not aimed at anyone directly but to those that fit the description: How the hell does living in a post-gentrified neighborhood not make you the culprit of what has happened to El Conquistador and businesses like it?

    I’m amazed that some of you newbies are actually playing the victim role, using terms like “scapegoated” and phrases like “Hipsters don’t have money, that’s why they drink pbr.” Are you even hearing what you’re saying? If you were really poor, would you even care so much about which beers represented how impoverished you were? Talk about lame.

    • Laughing at “not aimed at anyone directly” with “you newbies” to follow. Smooth.

    • This neighborhood is nothing close to post-gentrified. This neighborhood (as are many others) is in a state of change, with more money coming in. There are just as many neighborhoods in a state of decline.

      Do you not think that restaurants like El Conquistador changed the fabric of the neighborhood from what it was before they opened their doors? Stop being so shortsighted. Your version of the past isn’t everyones version of the past. And someone, someday may very well have just as strong an attachment to whatever restaurant is going into the vacated El Compadre/terrible horrible indian restaurant space. It won’t have meaning for you, but it will for someone else.

      Change happens. If you don’t like it, move to Cuba.

      • anonymous objector

        @Johan Johanson “Do you not think that restaurants like El Conquistador changed the fabric of the neighborhood from what it was before they opened their doors?”

        I don’t see the connection your trying to make between a small business run by a family for over 40 years that symbolizes survival through the years of being in the neighborhood in it’s more tougher pre-gentrification era and the Sunset Triangle Partners purchasing the building it’s housed in, raising the rent, and destroying smaller businesses like El Conquistador in it’s path, just like in a Baby Huey cartoon.

        “Stop being so shortsighted. Your version of the past isn’t everyones version of the past. And someone, someday may very well have just as strong an attachment to whatever restaurant is going into the vacated El Compadre/terrible horrible indian restaurant space. It won’t have meaning for you, but it will for someone else.”

        Okay Mother Theresa well then how are these new patrons you speak of not being shortsighted if they don’t recognize what came before it and you claiming they don’t have to huh? How are you not being shortsighted by basically adopting this attitude of who cares what came before these pseudo bohemian chic businesses took over? And anyone who doesn’t accept the change should just move to another country?

        You’re the one that lacks scope in your vision of the neighborhood. And I’m glad my past isn’t your past bro. Judging by some of these comments from people excited about the change, we seem to be headed towards some pretty exclusionary and shallow times.

        I’m glad I’m not a part of this new Silver Lake you speak of because I’ll definitely be taking my business elsewhere to people who actually need my patronage instead of some bloated conglomerate catering to the new Silver Lake elite.

        • Bro,

          Did the owners of El Conquistador build the building they’re now in? Or did they move in to the space? Was anybody else there before them?

          People on this blog can blame their amorphous PBR drinking trust-fund poor yuppie fixed-gear Range Rover Prius skinny-jeaned craft-beer boogie man all they want. There is no conspiracy designed to push out established silver lake businesses or residents. These very same businesses and residents first came to silver lake because the cost of doing so made sense. And if they’re leaving, it’s because the cost no longer makes sense.

          All neighborhoods are in a state of flux. The market determined whether El Conquistador succeeded or failed, and it will determine whether the new restaurant will succeed or fail. The new owners could be making a mistake by pushing out El Conquistador. But it’s now their mistake to make. They are interested in making money just as the old owners of the building were.

          Your version of the perfect silver lake was formed by displacing someone else’s version. El Conquistador wasn’t here since the dawn of time. It’s arrival un-doubtably changed the area by bringing more people into the neighborhood or catering to those who were able to afford their overpriced food. In no small part, El Conquistador is a part of the cycle of gentrification that is now putting it out of business.

          By the way, I’m not happy about this. For whatever it is, El Conquistador is awesome. I go there despite its flaws and I will really miss it. But it’s demise is inevitable. I mean my god, how many restaurants get to stick around for 10 years, let alone 40?

          And it is going to be tough for their employees who have been there for decades. I feel for them. But at the same time, no one guaranteed them a job for life. It’s tough to say, but it’s true.

          All that being said, I’m going to make a point to go there more frequently and tip much more. And when it closes, I’ll check out whatever takes its place.

  44. Three words of consolation to everyone who is mourning El Conquistador’s demise: Casita Del Campo.

  45. The saddest part is that El Conquistador’s food – never great – had spiralled down in quality over the last few years. We were just there last week, and the guacamole was puréed and actually gray … and tasted like poo. The soup was still good, and you can’t screw fajitas up too much, but everything else we ordered was awful. All of us were just sad at how awful the place had become. The margaritas were still OK – and that’s probably why people kept coming.

    But everything changes, so we’ll all find new cheap and cheerful places to eat. I’m not sad to see the place go – it left the building years ago.

  46. They do not make new locations of national chains to pick up local customers. They hardly pay much. They are gunning for tourist dollars, money from folks that are just passing through town. The landowner bills by exposure. The closer they are to high traffic roads, parks, and other attractions, the higher the retail land is worth. Too expensive for mom and pop operations that order supplies to be delivered, or truck their own supplies in. It can only be a national chain with an economical logistics program.

    • Does anyone know what is moving in? Can we be sure it’s a national chain? Someone mentioned a “celebrity chef” and knocking out the wall between El Conquistador and the indian joint. Do we know this to be a fact?

      It’s hard for me to picture a chain setting up there, but I guess Intelligentsia is technically a chain.

      Hopefully the lack of parking will scare away Applebees.

      • Intelligentsia is far from a chain and highly doubt this area would attract the likes of a major chain restaurant or retailer given the demographics of the area. Since it’s already zoned for food service and the new owners will most likely retain the existing liquor licenses, I highly doubt it will be anything other than upper scale eatery and/or bar. Putting in retail space would be bizarre considering the grip of money they’d look to make off of liquor sales 7 nights a week.

        El Pollo Loco and McDonalds are the only two major chain restaurants along Sunset, from Fountain till you’re east of Glendale Blvd. Even then it is spotty with it being mostly your standard fast food such as the aforementioned. Hell, I think it’s pretty remarkable that I can count on one hand the amount of Starbucks store fronts from Los Feliz to Angelino Heights on one hand!

        The changing demographics of the area just don’t call for it which you can see case in point as the entire Ralph’s plaza being restructured.

  47. TED The Speculator

    Congratulations to those property owners living in the hills of Silverlake and EP. All this retail and condo development along Sunset is going to make your 5,000sqft parcel worth a fortune.

  48. Had many a good time there, esp ducking in during sunset junctions past. BUT last time I was there I saw a roach crawling up the wall. The waiter killed it. A minute later a found another one- crawling up my neck. I am not kidding. It was very traumatic for me, we ran out of there and went to Casita del Campo. Kept checking my clothes all night, needed a few Gingeritas….

  49. I heard that there is going to be a private restaurant only for wizards, and they want to build a stable for mythical beasts, but the city is being super weird about giving out the permits.

  50. Jesse had health benefits for his workers, which is a big reason they were lifers working for him. My wife and I were greeted with, “Welcome to your home,” when we’d go there. We used to go a couple times a week, it was the closest and coziest good time when we lived in Silver Lake before we had kids and had to move from the 900 sq ft bungalow I had lived in for 12 years. El Conquistador represents something very special and I hope the staff can move on. Sad for that family to pull apart.

  51. I came back to this comment section because i saw 138 comments registered expecting substance. But this content is all crap! What are you people doing? Blah blah the food is crap blah blah the margaritas were ok blah blah roaches! WTF!

  52. So I want to move from portland to LA for te diversity and culture. You’re telling me that it will basically look the same as portland in a few years?? Portland sucks man! Full if racist yuppie-hipsters! OBAMA is Fraud! Portland is going to lay off firefighters.. Meanwhile, the stupid Libtards are throwing money for more bike friendly roads, transportation upgrades that are unnecessary! And the police department has been on a hiring freeze for years! LA is soon the same BS! Trying to accommodate more bike friendly road in highland park while LA is facing budget issues. I’m telling ya, this gentrification isn’t really economic friendly!

    • Portland is diverse. L.A. remains diverse. Yuppies are part of that. So are “hipsters” (a term no one wants to apply to themselves, but only to others. So funny and absurd…). So are Republicans, Democrats, “witches”, vegetarians, people in Hancock Park, Echo Park, white or black or hispanic, and so are mothers who take their kids to soccer games, and so are two men raising a child, and so are a mom and dad raising kids, whether they are brown, asian, or whatever. So are people with inked-out skin, and so are people with no ink. So are John Tesh fans, and so are Iggy Pop fans.

      L.A. is probably the most diverse city in the history of the world, despite the irrational and self righteous claims of fright and fear that the Silver Lake exclusionist “originals” proclaim.

  53. A lot of people who are commenting on here (and in general on these articles, truthfully) seem to have a hard time understanding many things, including how businesses work, and why people who have chosen to live in a certain neighborhood for years get upset when said chosen neighborhood changes in ways they don’t like. Many people in this neighborhood have pleasant memories of good ties at El Conquistador, as well as many other places that have gone out of business or are changing hands at a rapid pace. There is a reason that people moved here from other parts of Los Angeles, or other parts of the country, and now the neighborhood is not what it used to be, and that it upsetting to many people. Whether or not you liked the restaurant, some understanding of why it means so much to people would be logical, correct?

  54. A petition to defend El Conquistador by pledging to boycott any business that moves into the space after them:
    http://www.change.org/petitions/los-angeles-residents-boycott-any-business-that-moves-into-the-current-el-conquistador-location

    • I hope this works out well for you. Seriously. You’re not wasting your time at all.

    • I have boycotted Carl’s Jr. for years due to Carl Karcher’s support of right-wing causes, and I boycott Coors products for the same reason. I boycott Unocal 76 for their role in the Yadana Gas Pipeline project, during which the repressive Myanmar regime reportedly committed human rights abuses of the people along the pipeline route. I will not boycott a restaurant for what amounts to a business dispute between two one-percenters (the restaurant owner and the property owner). Seems trivial to me, but to each his/her own.

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