After 53 years of working 15-hour days at Las Palmas Restaurant in Visalia, the owners have decided its time to retire and close the restaurant.
Sunday is its last day. The closure comes with all the emotional upheaval you’d expect when saying goodbye to longtime customers and employees.
But there’s something else customers are also mourning: the house salad dressing.
This Mexican restaurant on Main Street is known for its creamy salad dressing that is a bit like Thousand Island. It’s the owners own secret recipe (and it is most definitely not a combination of mayonnaise and ketchup, they say). The dressing is served with side salads and other dishes.
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It’s so popular that customers peppered the owners with requests for the recipe and bottles of dressing when they heard the restaurant would close. They got so many requests that they made a Facebook post asking customers to sign up for its newsletter on its webpage. That way they can contact them when the family comes up with a plan to distribute the dressing.
“We didn’t expect the degree of interest in being able to get the Las Palmas House Dressing after we close on the 28th,” the post says.
Owners Alicia, 76, and Gilberto Cortes, 78, say they’re leaving their children and grandchildren in charge of the dressing. They are looking into bottling it, with the grandchildren talking about selling it at a farmers market.
“So many people are inquiring and asking, oh my gosh, yes,” said Alicia Cortes. “A lot, a lot, a lot of people love the salad dressing.”
Just how delicious is this salad dressing?
“Salad dressing is like crack u just want more,” was the headline from one reviewer on TripAdvisor.com.
The dressing came up frequently in the post where Las Palmas announced its closure, which had 481 comments and 625 shares.
But it’s not only the salad dressing customers are mourning. The restaurant itself has a following that is sorry to see it close.
Las Palmas’ owners have worked 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. shifts for years.
“In September, our kids had a meeting with us and they wanted us to stop working,” Cortes said. “We’re still pretty healthy, we work hard and it’s time.”
The kids thanked their parents for providing for them and told them to “have fun, enjoy what you have,” she recalled.
The Corteses were worried about their employees though. One has been with them for 48 years, and several others for decades.
Before they told them they were retiring, Cortes called around to other restaurants, looking for jobs for each of them.
“Our prayers were answered,” she said.
Casa Grande Restaurant is taking over the space at 309 E. Main St. and will run it as Casa Grande. They offered jobs to all Las Palmas employees.