La Casa Coronado was possibly the Cities’ first Mexican restaurant, site of many Spanish class field trips. The restaurant was opened by Mrs. Elvira, “Vera” “Mama” Coronado. Vera and her husband Arthur, Sr., emigrated to the U.S. from San Luis Obispo, Mexico, in 1924.
154 E. FAIRFIELD AVE., ST. PAUL
This was the first location of La Casa Coronado. The business was started in 1946 when Mrs. Coronado started cooking tamales and tortillas in “an unimposing frame building” on Fairfield Ave. across from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.
In a 1951 column, Will Jones described it as “a tiny place with six or seven tables.” Jones said that when she opened it, it was a bustling place, and although it was located in a Mexican neighborhood in St. Paul, about three-quarters of her customers came from Minneapolis.
Mrs. Coronado would visit schools to explain how Mexican food is made and cooked. She learned the business from her father, a restaurateur in Houston. The photo below was part of a four-photo spread in the Minneapolis Star, October 10, 1947, that showed 40 fifth and sixth graders from the Edith Cavell school in Minneapolis making a field trip to the St. Paul restaurant the day before. Mexican food was new to most of them.
But Mama was doing too much, and suffered from a bad heart, Jones said, so the place closed down from 1949 to 1951. Fortunately she found a new partner, Mrs. Seraph Sanchez, and the restaurant opened in early May 1951. (Minneapolis Tribune, May 8, 1951)
The business grew and in 1951, Vera’s husband, Arthur Coronado, Sr. gave up his dry-cleaning shop to support his wife’s business. (Minneapolis Tribune, January 26, 1965).
1113 WASHINGTON AVE. SO.
This brick building had three stories, with stores on the first floor and apartments on the upper two. On November 2, 1958, a fire killed a man and displaced 11 people in SRO apartments. At the time, the first two floors were vacant.
On May 5, 1960, Mrs. Coronado moved her restaurant from St. Paul to this location, with the intention of keeping the St. Paul location open for about six months after the Minneapolis site opened. The Minneapolis restaurant served 250 people in two dining rooms, reported Will Jones on March 23, 1960.
The ad below may be hard to read, but it offers the Latin rhythms of the Larry Vasquez combo featuring Francis Lopez, plus music for dining and dancing in the La Terraza room.
In February 1963, La Casa Coronado received the liquor license of the Frolics Bar, which was being displaced by the Gateway urban development project.
In May 1963 there was a new “La Terraza,” the new terrace room, that featured authentic Mexican music, cocktails, and dancing to real Latin American rhythms.
June 1963: “Every Friday and Saturday, authentic Mexican entertainment is provided by the Duo Los Gaonas, and Roberto Del Villor, Mexican recording artist.”
On January 25, 1965, fire swept through the building, causing $100,000 in damage to the building. When Mrs. Coronado went to the site and saw her restaurant go up in flames, she collapsed and had to be taken to Divine Redeemer Hospital. The restaurant took up the first two floors of the building. Nine U of M students and a Mexican musician were rooming on the third floor.
At the time of the fire, son Arthur Jr. and four of his six sisters were active in the business. (Minneapolis Tribune, January 26, 1965)
The building was demolished in July 1965.
23 N. SIXTH STREET
By April 29, 1965, La Casa Coronado had moved to 23 No. 6th Street. In a familiar pattern, this building had suffered a fire in 1946, when it was a shoe store.
In March 1969 it featured the intimate Pancho Villa Cantina and Flamenco guitarists Luella and Ernesto.
The last ad was found in September 1979.
Its assets were sold by the IRS for back taxes in December 1979.
The site has gone through other iterations since then.