Filed Under Businesses

Miguel's Mexican Food

Chef Miguel Ribera opened his namesake restaurant in 1959.

Far more than just a restauranteur, Miguel Ribera was a beloved community leader with a passion for helping local Latino youth. Born in New Mexico in 1916 and orphaned as a child, Ribera moved to Reno by 1959, and by that fall was cooking Mexican food at a restaurant at 145 West 3rd Street called La Cha Cha.

In December of 1959, Ribera opened his own Mexican restaurant in this converted house at 1415 South Virginia Street. Originally a family home built in the 1920s, the house had first become a restaurant in 1956, when Maria de Flores operated it as the Casa de Flores, offering Spanish food well into the wee hours of the morning.

Ribera briefly renamed the eatery Casa de Amor, or “House of Love,” switched the menu to Mexican cuisine, and announced it would be open 24 hours a day. In 1960 he gave the restaurant his first name, and the popular chef soon served as an ambassador of Mexican food to the eager local community. By 1961 “Chef Miguel” was making appearances at the Reno YMCA for demonstrations of “foreign cooking.”

Ribera’s wife, Maralyn, and their daughter Antonia also worked in the restaurant. The generous family provided scholarships to many of their employees, including a young Emma Sepulveda, who went on to become an accomplished writer and professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.

The Riberas originally rented the building from its owner, former San Francisco Mayor Elmer Robinson. In 1963, Robinson told Ribera that he had made a $5,000 down payment in Ribera's daughter's name, and that the restaurant now belonged to him. In 1965, a major fire forced Ribera to temporarily relocate the restaurant to a new location, 2700 S. Virginia Street (across from the Peppermill). After repairs were finished, he decided to keep Miguel's at the newer location and opened new restaurants in this space, first the Jolly Roger and then The Cove. By 1980, however, the original location was back to operating as Miguel’s Fine Mexican Food.

Miguel Ribera passed away in 1998. For his years of dedication to the community, the Miguel Ribera Family Resource Center at Pine Middle School and Miguel Ribera Park are both named after him. In 2001, Elmer and Adilia Figueroa bought Miguel’s, which they continued to operate under his name.

Images

Chef Miguel
Chef Miguel Miguel Ribera in the kitchen at one of his Reno restaurants. Source: Ancestry.com
Casa de Flores, 1956
Casa de Flores, 1956 Longtime restaurant host Al Baker fronted the Casa De Flores, which opened with Maria de Flores as chef in 1956. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: April 24, 1956
Street view ca. 1957
Street view ca. 1957 A view looking northward on South Virginia Street from Mt. Rose Street provides a glimpse of the Casa de Flores one door north of the Office Bar. The restaurant originated as a house, which remains the core of the building. Source: Nevada Department of Transportation Date: ca. 1957
Casa de Amor, 1959
Casa de Amor, 1959 Chef Miguel Ribera ran the kitchen at the Casa de Amor, which he opened in 1959. He also ran La Cha Cha restaurant, then located at 145 West Third Street. Source: Nevada State Journal Date: December 12, 1959
Second Anniversary ad
Second Anniversary ad Miguel's Casa de Amor commemorates its second anniversary and the completion of an expansion at 1415 S. Virginia Street with a celebratory ad in the local newspaper. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: August 31, 1961
Moving south
Moving south In 1965, a fire at the original site of Miguel's forced owner Miguel Ribera to relocate the restaurant further south, to 2700 South Virginia Street, where it continued to operate through the 1970s. By 1980 the restaurant was back at its original location at 1415 South Virginia. Source: Reno Evening Gazette/Nevada State Journal Entertainment Section Date: November 5, 1965
Community leader
Community leader Miguel Ribera was known for giving back to his community. Here, he attends the dedication of the park on Neil Road that was named for him. Source: Reno Gazette-Journal Creator: Jean Dixon Date: August 16, 1998
Miguel's Fine Mexican Food, 2016
Miguel's Fine Mexican Food, 2016 The converted house at 1415 South Virginia Street has served as a restaurant since 1956. Several additions to the building have resulted in its current appearance. Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2016

Location

1415 South Virginia Street, Reno, NV

Metadata

Alicia Barber, “Miguel's Mexican Food,” Reno Historical, accessed May 19, 2024, https://renohistorical.org/items/show/158.