Upon meeting Josie Padilla-Reyes, it doesn’t take long to realize that you are in the presence of one of the Mission District’s beloved, longtime residents. It’s also clear that SanJalisco restaurant, around over a quarter century, is beloved by Josie’s family and the community.
The true strengths of any business venture are longevity and ties to the community. SanJalisco has both covered. These roots run deep.
A look around the restaurant at lunchtime yesterday revealed mostly return customers, all lingering over heaping plates of the comfort food of Mexico, with dishes ranging from platanos and carnitas to flautas and an array of traditional goat dishes.
“Some of these customers sat on the table as babies,” states a bemused Josie (photo, center). “We have customers from Mexico, Central America and South America. We also get tourists who have read about us, plus many of the neighborhood newcomers. We pride ourselves on serving the entire Mission community.”
Another look around SanJalisco showcased family members in abundance, for this is a restaurant that has been touched by multiple generations of the Padilla-Reyes clan.
There’s Josie’s sister. Josie’s children. In-laws. Nieces and nephews. Even grandchildren, a fourth generation being brought into the fold. The feeling is that it’s Sunday dinner in the warmth of someone’s dining room.
Josie has also hired Mission residents to complement her family members on staff. This is her way of giving back to the community.
The restaurant’s name, SanJalisco, is a hybrid of San Francisco and Jalisco, the state in Mexico where Josie’s grandmother ran an eatery. The recipes served today are an homage to the foods of this grandmother and her homeland, with everything made from scratch. No canned goods allowed here.
Josie inherited her passion for being a restaurant owner from her father, who opened his first restaurant, the New Central Café, way back in 1953. Josie and her eight siblings knew little outside of the walls of this business. Once old enough, they chipped in and helped run the restaurant. It got in Josie’s blood. She took over the business upon her father’s passing away.
An increasingly commonplace issue in the Mission today, the landlord eventually wanted to raise the rent threefold, so Josie was forced to close New Central Café and open her eatery in its current location in 1988 on South Van Ness and 20th—the heart of the Mission.
Not wanting to ever face the same issue of escalating rent, Josie and her children, who were now in the business, came to MEDA’s free Business Development program for assistance. At MEDA, the family was finally able to purchase the building. “We wouldn’t be in this location today if we didn’t own this building,” succinctly explains Josie.
Now a 63-year-old, but still exuding youthful enthusiasm, Josie looks forward to fully passing the business on to the next generations. While claiming that it would be great to have some time off—after all, anyone would be tired after running a seven-days-a-week business of any sort—it’s hard to imagine SanJalisco without Josie at the helm. She is definitely grateful for what this business has provided her family.
“We’re not rich. It’s day to day, but I did pay for my kids to go to college at Berkeley and Columbia. I’ve paid my debts for 50 years, so I must be doing something right,” sums up Josie, the sweet smile of success crossing her face.
901 S. Van Ness Ave. @ 20th
San Francisco, CA 94110