Highland Park’s El Arco Iris plans to close after 50 years in business

HIGHLAND PARK —  More than 50 years ago Gustavo and Irene Montes opened a small Mexican restaurant in the 5600 block of York Boulevard. The restaurant moved to larger storefronts on the same block as it expanded and became a neighborhood institution serving up classic Mexican-American cuisine and Margaritas in a dark interior. But now, the family-owned El Arco Iris is preparing to close its doors for good.

The restaurant and property have been sold to a real estate investment firm, said Jesse Gomez, who owns El Arco Iris with his mother, Angie Montes.  The restaurant is expected to close when escrow is completed, he said.

Gomez said his mother, who manages the Highland Park restaurant, was looking to retire and take care of her mother after spending most of her adult life working at El Arco Iris. That’s why he approached Coda Equities about buying the property and business.

“It was a hard decision,” said Gomez, who co-owns Yxta and Mercado restaurants. “But we felt it was the right one.”

Jonah Garb, co-owner of Coda Equities, said the firm will be looking for a new tenant once the deal is completed. He said he does not know if any new development will take place on the site.

“We are sensitive to the neighborhood and the wants of the community,” Garb said.

What does Highland Park need or want in a new restaurant?  Sushi seems to be missing, said Gomez. But whatever replaces El Arco Iris should continue to be a welcoming, neighborhood place, he said. “I would like it to be something that the neighborhood wants, enjoys and needs.

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  1. You know what’s missing in Highland Park? A GOOD full-service Mexican restaurant. We have plenty of great taco stands, but curiously lack in the restaurant department, in my very humble opinion.

    • Agreed! That is definitely missing. I really like Cacao in Eagle Rock, and Senor Fish is not bad — but having a full-service Mexican restaurant in the area would be fantastic.

      Which is why I liked going to El Arco Iris, you could sit down and they would bring you a real margarita. Even if the food wasn’t amazing, it was convenient and the staff was always super nice. They will be missed.

      Here’s hoping someone tries another Mexican, full service restaurant in their place.

      • Are you serious? Their dishes are amazingly authentic Mexican food. No other Mexican restaurant near by compares to El Arco Iris. I’m really going to miss this place.

        • Just go to Barragans in Glendale! Mexican Dishes are super authentic. Great portions, great prices, great atmosphere. ??

          • But no one comes close to as good a caldode res. And their rice! Gonna Jeff to go there a lot while I can. I go to Barragan’s too and Don Cuco’s but they’re not the same.

    • 100%!! I really wish El Compadre would open in the spot. 🙂

    • Via Sombrero down the street is full-service but I wouldn’t classify it as “all caps” GOOD. It’s just OK. Some of the menu items are better than Arco Iris and the margaritas are dangerous. The little La Fuente on monte vista is really good but they do not have a liquor license. Just beer and wine.

    • For good Mexican food, I just go to my Moms and when I take her out to eat, the last place she wants to go is a Mexican restaurant (she somehow likes Alcapucos though -go figure). Not sure what should take its place, but I think there are enough good Mexican restaurants around, and even more great Mexican cooks in the neighborhood.

  2. We hope the gentrifiers will poison no more wells.

    • What appalling comments. El Arco Iris is an institution. What a bunch of whining foofers. No one makes a California burrito like theirs. Besides,no one has the great booths like them. And,they allow the community to use their back room for events and planning.

    • Let’s get this right instead of trying to place blame. Gomez was the one to seek out broker to buy his business. On top of that, the owner’s mom gets to retire and will most likely live a comfortable life. This wasn’t some outside market force closing down their business. Plain and simple, they made a smart business decision for their own wellbeing.

      Nice try.

  3. This is sad but i think its going on everywhere. But i think its going to be build up of white neighborhood that is all that is be gaining to show in highland park. Yes a Mexican Restaurant true is need since this place is closing. But Good Luck in all you do.

  4. Have to agree with skeeter, we could use a nice full service spot in HLP.
    Does anyone know what happened to Antojitos Guerrero? Was such a good and, unfortunately, underrated restaurant. Closed very quietly a few months ago.

  5. Ohhh, nooo! Been here many, many times for always satisfying weekend breakfast. What a loss.

  6. This restaurant was horrible, little did they know they were sitting on a gold mine if they had just ran it right. To have a full liquor license parking and the square footage they have, with the help of a re-fi ,they could have updated and made a shit ton of cash. It seems the women in charge was a control freak as she was there every night running that thing into the ground. We gave it so many tries and there was always something bad wether it was the food, service, or drinks. Their yelp page is riddled with stories like this.
    Now there are going to be salutations to this place and laments on it leaving and false reports of being pushed out. It really just continues the narrative of people “cashing out’; not being forced , coerced or marched out of the neighborhood like protesters would love you to believe.
    Heres hoping they got a lot from Coda Equities because it sounds like they will now be the very problem everyone decries,” going to the highest bidder”, which sadly will be someone from outside the neighborhood.

    • It’s the Ernie’s Jr. Taco House effect. People ate that Mexish style food, including my family for decades. It was what it was, not stellar but good and hot. That gringo style, I’m Mex, isn’t fashionable anymore. Mexican food isn’t exotic, and the restaurants that were slinging old school combo plates needed to up their game, or cash out. I’ll miss Arco Iris for just being there, and the memories, but not the dark dining room, or the weak drinks.

  7. First of all, congrats to them for running a successful business and deciding on their own to close up shop. They were not pushed out. It was their decision to close.

    Now, looking ahead, more sit down nice restaurants please! We are desperately in need of
    – Quality Chinese
    – Other Asian like Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai.
    – Healthy and vegetarian friendly like Sage

    No more basic low quality cheap places please.

    • I was saying the same thing above in another comment. Good luck trying to get this point across though. People are going to be salty about this decision and blame “hipsters & gentrifiers.” Their team made an intelligent business decision on all accounts! I hope they made out well with their sale.

  8. This one really tears at my heart, I have been going to this place since the 70s and it’s our “regular”
    We have see lots of changes, different wait staff etc, but the food was alway’s good.

    We will miss Jesse’s Extra Special Burrito for sure.

    I wish they could keep the place open, but $$$ on property sale probably gave them a great retirement.

    So sorry to see you go.

  9. Cadillac Margarita…

  10. I grew up on El Arco Iris as a kid and one of the reasons I come back to revisit HP. Why can’t the new owners simply keep running the restaurant if that’s what the community wants? Hate to see it go away!

  11. Such a bummer. 🙁 I guess we can still visit Mercado in SM if we feel like taking a day trip.

  12. Oh boy. I’m going to really miss this place. The wait staff was amazing, like family and it was a warm and welcoming place where everyone fit in. I wish them luck and thank the family for all their years of being a positive force in the community!!!

  13. I will have to go to El Arco for one last burrito and margarita! Sad to see it go.
    But it’s nice that they will be able to retire, and with the increase in land values, it should work out well for the family. All good things must come to an end, and I’d say this is a happy ending for the family.

  14. They used to let us throw punk shows back in the early 90’s. Sad to see it go but it looks like the family was ready to retire the business. I’m surprised the son didn’t want to open another Mercado in its place.

  15. I have been going there since I was in a car seat! I’m gonna be 20 years old now. I’m literally in tears ?

  16. Petty Cash concept would CRUSH in Highland Park.

  17. Bummer that this institution is closing but exciting for what could come! We need Indian (samosa house?) or Japanese. I agree Sage would be a welcome addition as well. Or how about a sandwich place in the vein of Mendocino Farms–tasty sandwiches and deli options with both meat and veg variations.

  18. Been going here with my family on weekly basis for the better part of the last 45 years. We be dearly missed. No restaurant is perfect but they were very family friendly and a good bargain.

  19. My Taco on York in a strip mall isn’t fancy, you order at the counter but it’s real food and they have barbacoa de Borrego (lamb) which I really enjoy. The prices aren’t high, the people friendly and in the summer I love the choices of agua frescas they have. I will miss El Arco but since I’d go by myself and drive I couldn’t enjoy a margarita…
    While I will be sorry to see it go I support the family in their choice. How many restaurants have we seen close when illness or death means it stops making money…or other reasons? The owners invested time and money, now they get their retirement (well, some of them) and their investment repaid.
    If you’ve never owned a business, don’t judge actions by those that do.

  20. I will miss,this Amazing restaurant in Highland Park. Angie and her son Jesse did an awesome job feeding the community with kindness and I will MISS THE EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE!

  21. I’ve been living in that neighborhood since the early 70’s. The food is good & staff is excellent. I & my family will miss it, we’ve had sevreal family gatherings there. It’s too bad they decided to sell, but, the owners know what’s best. Another Yxta would have been nice. So, I say thank you for all good times & I wish everyone involved good luck in there new endeavors.

  22. What we need in the neighborhood is a restaurant like El Arco Iris. A comfortable Mexican restaurant with good food where all are welcome. We are really going to miss this place.

  23. kathleen goldstein

    I’ve been eating regularly at El Arco since I was a child. Born and raised in Highland Park and still in the hood, I hate to see this institution dye like ElsasBakery soon to be another overpeiced fufu restaraunt. I pray someone buys the business and continues as usual. Shame on th Montes es for not seeking a local to carry on their legacy!

    • kathleen goldstein

      Oh an yes. I love the family and am grateful for their years of service. I wish this lovely family all the best.

  24. The change to the neighborhood is fine but what I dont like is establishments who have been here for decades get pushed out for higher rents and trendier clientele. And guess what? None of these new stores last acouple of years and now we have empty store fronts. And you can see the effect as both Elsa Bakery and Ba sit there unused due to high rents when some 8 years ago the original bakery was still chugging as it had been forever. Even the newest places such as Recess barely lasted the year. I love Antojitos for more than a decade and suddenly they told us the owner did not want to renew the lease and they had to go just like that our local spot vanished. Will the new spot last as long? Doubt it

    • Antojitos Guerrero didn’t leave because the owner’s raised the rent. There’s NO truth to that. It’s sad that a false “Alternative” is being stated….LIES!!!

      • Never said that. They said the owner didnt want to renew. That means they didnt even give the option of rising rent just a date to leave.

        • There’s NO truth to what you are saying! I heard it from all parties involved. since I’ve been a customer of both for years. And, I couldn’t believe what played out.

          And considering all….Antojitos Guerrero landed on their feet in ELA.

  25. First restaurant we took our baby daughter to (and many other family meals). Sad to hear but happy for the family to enjoy their retirement. Have to go back for one last meal…and Cadillac Margarita…

  26. Ah super bummed! I ate there so many times while pregnant because all I craved was burritos. I definitely need to send them a thank you letter for all the good times I’ve had there. They will be missed.

  27. Before my wife and I moved to Oceanside 10 years ago, I used to go to El Arco Iris and really enjoyed the place and the food. As I lived in the SGV area, and before I worked until 1968 close to Highland Park, it was a great place to get great Mexican Food. For the El Arco Iris friend, Lo mejor suerte a ustedes en su futuras. Muchas Gracias para su comida autentico y muy delicioso!

  28. I am very thankful for the the Montes family, especially to one Armando ” Mondo ” Montes, who sadly doesn’t get any due credit anywhere in these stories of El Arco, he was a great man to me, he was the father of a dear friend/band member of mine, and in hard times Mondo spoke with my parents and offered to put me through school at no-cost but only to see me flourish, I turned him down because I was still young and dumb, but I did accept a job at el Arco as a dish washer for about a year and was also taught how to cook, Mondo ran the kitchen side of el Arco and after his departure the taste/ingredients/recipes really changed, and I cannot honestly say for the better based on my own tongue and also word of mouth….though still I continued to frequent el Arco because of the atmosphere and Pico de Gallo and because this is where my wife and I had our first date, years later I would bring my 3 year old son on my day off from work…. him and I would share a plate of enchiladas, now fast forward 10 years and the 4 of us now (mom, dad, and 2 son’s ) just ate here a few days ago which I’m sure was our last meal to be had there, I’m grateful for the many memories, and the kitchen experience as well as personally knowing some of this great family behind the scenes…..I wish you all the best in these fast moving times of life!!

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