Johnny's keeps ‘em coming

March 18, 2002|By MARIO RENTERÍA

Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — The people who run Johnny's Burritos know the keys to staying in business for 39 years: home-cooked food, customer satisfaction and friendly service.

Nikki Lane of El Cajon said the atmosphere is the reason she keeps coming to Johnny's.

"It's a great atmosphere. I guess it's because it's family- oriented. The customer service and the food are great," she said.

Lane was born and raised in Brawley and has been going to Johnny's since she can remember.

"I remember when I was really small and my dad used to bring me here," she said.

She was visiting the Valley when she talked to a reporter. She stopped by Johnny's just before heading home.

Johnny's Burritos belongs to Ana Maria Palomino, the mother of Richard Palomino, 40, Leticia Mendez, 39, Ana Walker, 38, and Lorraine Palomino, 34, all of Brawley, all of whom still work at Johnny's.


Ana Maria Palomino started the restaurant about 39 years ago with her husband, John Palomino, who died in 1997, said Mendez.

The Palominos managed apartments where the restaurant is now.

Across the street, where there now is a parking lot, was Neighborhood Market, which was being sold by its owner. The Palominos bought the market and started selling burritos, said Mendez.

The previous owner had locked up the market during lunchtime because the high school students would steal things. Brawley Union High is only a block away.

After the Palominos purchased the market, Mendez said her mother started selling burritos to the high school students at lunchtime.

"She would make like 25 burritos and sell it to them every day," said Mendez. "And little by little she would add things to the menu."

"I remember when all of us worked at home. We used to shred meat and make tacos and cut the lettuce while watching television," she said.

She said the name, Johnny's Burritos, came after regular customers simply called Neighborhood Market "Johnny's."

In 1981 the Palomino's built the new Johnny's just across the street from the old Neighborhood Market.

Paul Santillan, 50, of Brawley has been eating at Johnny's since it opened. Santillan is a friend of the family.

"The food is excellent," said Santillan.

The only change he would like to see in Johnny's Burritos is it adding more locations.

Mendez addressed the prospect of adding more locations.

"A lot of people want us to expand, like to El Centro and other places like San Diego, but it's a lot of work," she said.

"I guess we're just perfectionists and we think that if we expand it's just not going to be the same," she said.

She added the family seems to be satisfied with the one business in Brawley but she added, "maybe later."

Johnny's Burritos is not the only business the family owns. Her brother and sisters all own other businesses.

Richard Palomino owns JD Cubs, a sports shop; her sister, Walker is a manicurist and owns Nail Cottage; and her other sister Lorraine Palomino owns Blissful Escape, a gift shop.

Mendez runs the restaurant with the help of her husband, Charles Mendez, and her brother and sisters.

"It's a tradition," she said.

"College students that go away for spring break, when they come back home they stop here first and their parents call us to give them messages when they arrive," said Mendez.

She added the family has shipped food to other places, including Oregon and Paris.

She said the Blue Angels pilots are big fans of Johnny's Burritos and always go to the restaurant when they are training in the Valley.

She added there is no secret or special ingredients that make the food so good.

"It's all just homemade," she said. "Nothing's canned. It's all fresh."

Jason Sonico, 14, and Javier Zamora, 14, both eight-graders at Barbara Worth Junior High School, agree.

"The food is great," they both said.

Their favorite dish, which they were eating at the time, is the cheese fries.

Larry Adamek of El Centro has been eating at Johnny's for about 17 years.

He said his favorite is the iced tea.

"They have really good Mexican food and the service is always with a smile," he said.

The restaurant is open from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 5 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays. It is closed Sundays.

>> Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3441.

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