Their son "wanted a nice sit-down place.”
  • Their son "wanted a nice sit-down place.”
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Some Leucadia residents have been wondering for years, what’s up with the Fulano’s Restaurant. The restaurant appears never to be open. But a look through the windows shows a clean, well kept, and comfortable establishment.

Speedy Taco. “We wanted a fast-food place with a homemade taste.”

Speedy Taco. “We wanted a fast-food place with a homemade taste.”

Most recently, on Facebook, numerous postings on an Encinitas page questioned the operation of the 30-seat restaurant at 114 Leucadia Boulevard. Critics say it has to be a front for money laundering, a tax dodge.

“I’ve just never seen a business stay in business so long not doing any business,” posted Dan Prinling. “Cartel hours,” added Chris Kelly-Cochran.

With the recent negative posts, the matriarch of the restaurant, 79-year-old Elizabeth “Betty” Portilla, reached out to me. “I’m getting older and want to lay these things to rest,” she said.

When she and her husband first bought the property in the early 70s, they gave a 10-year lease to the El Rancho Taco Shop. “Yes,” said Portilla, “We heard that unscrupulous things were going on there.” When the lease came up, the Portillas decide not to renew. “They left it in shambles,” said Portilla of the leaseholders.

The Portilla family then operated their own restaurant at the site, Speedy Taco. “We wanted a fast-food place with a homemade taste,” said Portilla.

Portilla, upon retirement, gave the restaurant to her son John. He eventually converted it to Fulano’s, a “gourmet Mexican” restaurant. “He wanted a nice sit-down place,” said Portilla. The restaurant carries a coveted Type 47 ABC license, allowing them to have full alcohol service, not just beer and wine.

Can the rumors from 35 years ago last that long? Of the Facebook posts, “The older residents were very positive in their comments. The newer people were negative,” said Portilla.

Portilla admits part of the problem may be that the restaurant isn’t open until the evening hours, 5:00 – 9:00 p.m. There are no posted hours, other than a “Closed on Monday” sign, and a sign that reads, “CASH ONLY.” She said lot of negativity and speculation occurred when they had to limit their hours when the 2008 recession hit. The restaurant keeps it simple with only two long-time employees.

Portilla laughs at the rumors and speculation. The Portillas have a long history in the community. Betty graduated from the local high school. Her husband was closely related to Tony, of Solana Beach’s Tony’s Jacal restaurant. “What some don’t know is our family is also law enforcement,” she said. He other son, James, is a CHP commander in Sacramento.

“I’ve had a successful life. I really haven’t paid any attention [to the rumors]. But, as I get older, it's started to bother me,” said Portilla. Toward the end of string of Facebook postings, she posted a thank you to everyone for their comments, positive or negative, and wished them peace.

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Visduh May 11, 2018 @ 7:42 p.m.

Working in Encinitas in the early 80's, I visited that restaurant a time or two, and found it to be good. Can't remember what it was called then, but it wasn't either of the taco joint names mentioned. But it seems to me that in the late 80's it closed for a time and then got a new name. And at that time, I don't recall it being open for lunch.

So, now the story is that they had to reduce their hours due to the 2008 recession. Besides the fact that the recession had relatively little effect on Leucadia or the No County coast, have they not noticed that the recession is over? The economy right now is booming, yet they keep the operation to four hours a day, six days a week. Cash only? Ya' gotta be kidding! 'Splain that to me. With the current dearth of sit-down Mexican restaurants that actually care about their food, that place should do a booming business.

Well, if they own it, they can do as they darned well please. I think I'll try it out during that tight 5 to 9 pm schedule. I'd like to find a good Mexican restaurant like those we used to take for granted. Enough with the hole-in-the-wall taco joints!


AlexClarke May 12, 2018 @ 7:01 a.m.

There was a restaurant like this one in the San Francisco Bay area. It was family owned and they opened only for dinner. They cooked as one would for a large family. When they were out of something that was it. Everything was made fresh every day. The family owned the building and had for generations. This seems to be the case here. If they rented the space they would not be able to open just for dinner.


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