A California coastal instiutution, one with a funky vibe that fits the area, is closing after nearly 50 years.
The Whole Enchilada restaurant in Moss Landing – a small roadside stop on Highway 1 about half an hour north of Monterey – is going dark after January. It is because co-fonder Ray Retez , unoffically known as “the Mayor of Moss Landing,” passed away in November at the age of 93. His son-in-law, Luis Solano, who was running the restuarant as chef and manager, is retiring.
The Haute Enchilada Cafe & Gallarias, run by Retez’ daughter Kim, is still open. It is located just behind The Whole Enchilada.
Retez was a fixture at the The Whole Enchilada and was such an engaging personality that has people coming back for decades.
“You could find him there every day visiting with customers, giving star shaped sunglasses and mermaids to the children and passing out his famous lotto tickets to everyone who came through the door,” according to his obituary.
Retez and his wife Jan Retez bought the Moss Landing Inn in 1979, and eventually converted the gas station next door into The Whole Enchilada Restaurant with friend Denis Keith in 1981.
Moss Landing is a stop on the road but for locals it’s a destination. It has a small beach, an aging (but still active) fishing fleet and a couple of galleries that look like something out of the Old West, plus long-abandoned wooden boats and other nautical items. If you’re had too many margaritas at The Haute Enchilada Cafe & Gallarias – which is entirely possible because they are good and they are strong, with food to match – then Captain’s Inn is a quaint B&B with fireplaces in every room.
It’s really a hidden gem that too many people blow past while doing 70+ mph along Highway 1, between Castroville and Watsonville.