August 8, 2003

Consuelo Puente Miller’s Vision Continuous in Old Town

Since 1971, Consuelo Puente Miller’s vision as a restaurant owner has been to provide quality food and service and to combine it with a warm, relaxed atmosphere that visitors to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park could enjoy. The California Department of Parks and Recreation recently informed her that it has accepted her application for a 10-year renewal of her concession contract to continue operating El Fandango Restaurant in Old Town.

“I’m proud and honored that the State of California continues to have faith in how I do business in Old Town and treat my customers,” said Puente Miller. “We have expansion plans for El Fandango that include incorporating a Mexican brick oven for baked goods and pastries, and thematic promotions that I believe our customers will appreciate.”

Connie Puente Miller

In 1971, at the urging of then State Senator and Pro-Tem Jim Mills, Puente Miller opened Casa de Miguel de Pedrorena Restaurant. The adobe structures, known to visitors as Casa de Pedrorena, gained an outstanding reputation over 12-years for its garden-like setting, excellent food, and baked goods prepared in a typical Mexican bread oven or “horno” of brick and adobe that was originally designed by Puente Miller. Due to erosion of the adobe walls, it was closed in 1983 by the Department of Parks and Recreation to prevent further damage to the site.

In 1975, she opened La Panaderia (located at the southeast end of Bazaar Del Mundo) offering pastries, ice cream, candies and Mexican favorites such as churros. Today it is widely recognized as a successful Old Town landmark and a traditional stop for visitors.

The El Fandango Restaurant site at 2734 Calhoun Street was originally built as the Casa Machado home that was destroyed by fire in 1858, and was previously known as the La Casa Blanca Restaurant. It had fallen into disrepair and in 1982 the California Department of Parks and Recreation solicited proposals for the site. Puente Miller submitted a proposal and because of its merits and her outstanding track record with Casa de Pedrorena, was awarded a 10-year site lease to operate. After a considerable investment of capital, research, planning, and extensive repairs, El Fandango was born in 1983 as a restaurant featuring continental cuisine from the Mexican-American period of 1846 to 1856, a time of great change in California’s history.

State Senator Mills once wrote, “Casa de Pedrorena was my favorite restaurant in Old Town for many years. When it closed, El Fandango became my favorite Old Town restaurant.”

It faces the plaza in Old Town where the first American flag was raised in California and according to San Diego Ghosts and Haunted Places, has a Victorian female ghost, dressed in white, who has a sad and sometimes angry expression. When she appears, she has been seen drifting or floating through the building, passing through walls and closed doors. She is said to shy away from human contact and vanish as quickly as she appears.

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