GUADALUPE, Calif. - There is history here at La Simpatia. More than 70 years of it.
You see it on the walls adorned with photos going back to the 1940's, and the sign outside that says Spanish Food, apparently because that's what they called what we now know as Mexican food a long time ago.
"It's a lot of fun coming in here," Greg Welch said. "I've been coming here since I was a little kid. My grandma brought me here."
90-year-old Jose Alvarez has been a customer since the beginning
"Chile rellenos. That's the best," Alvarez said. "With rice and beans."
The family owned restaurant has worked hard to keep the same flavor for decades. Over the years they have added burgers and breakfast all day to the menu. All the food is cooked to order. With an open kitchen, customers can see all that goes in to making their meal.
"We're still doing the same thing my uncle did a long time ago," Rosa Quiroga said. "The restaurant will be 73 in November."
Quiroga grew up in the restaurant. Her dad made her start working there after high school, and she's been the owner since 1991.
"This is all I've ever done," she said. "It's been wonderful being here. It really has. I've met a lot of people."
Including the man who would become President of the United States. Then Governor George W. Bush stopped in for nachos on a presidential campaign swing through the Central Coast in 2000.
"It was so exciting," Quiroga said. "All the secret service. He was so nice. Very down to Earth."
The mayor happened to be having lunch the day we stopped in. He hears a lot about La Simpatia when he visits other cities, especially during the time it was closed for earthquake retrofitting.
"If I had a dollar for every person in Santa Maria or in meetings that I go to, 'Hey I heard it's open. When is it going to open?'" John Lizalde said.
La Simpatia came back from a massive seismic retrofit as strong as ever. Like all the old brick buildings in town, it had to upgrade things for safety. La Simpatia was closed for years before re-opening December 3rd of 2015. It's been non stop for Quiroga since then. She and her staff are taking two weeks off and will re-open May 29th.
The address is 827 Guadalupe Street, which also happens to be California Highway 1, a major thoroughfare that has brought thousands of people to the restaurant over the years.