The restaurant site has been recognized as a California State Historical Landmark. Situated just two short blocks south of the historic Mission San Juan Capistrano and the Train Depot. The building was originally two separate structures. The northern sectionwas originally the home of Miguel Yorba Adobe, built in 1797. The southern half housed the Juzgado (court and jails) and was established in 1812.
The walls forming El Adobe’s cocktail lounge were part of the original Miguel Yorba Adobe. The wine cellar is now housed in the Juzgado’s dungeon-like cell. The ground beneath the foyer served as a passageway for Seeley & Wright stagecoaches, until the advent to the Santa Fe Railroad in 1888.
In 1910, Georgia Mott Vander-Leck bought and unified the properties for use as their residence and store. Thirty-six years later she sold it to a visionary farmer from the Rancho Mission Viejo, Mr. Clarence Brown. Brown built the El Adobe restaurant, which opened auspiciously on July 8, 1948 with the wedding and reception of the first commander of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Fegan, USMC. Yearly, hundreds of couples continue the tradition as they marry in the garden-nestled Wedding Chapel.
During his administration, former President Richard Nixon enjoyed the Mexican dishes prepared exclusively for him by El Adobe’s chef. These dishes inspired El Adobe’s change from continental to Mexican Cuisine.
In 2003, Hatch Designs was contracted for the remodeling of El Adobe. The architectural elements of El Adobe de Capistrano artfully reflect the history of both building and location. Antiques, furnishing, and décor were all chosen to compliment the genuine Mexican-Californian ambiance. Included in the renovations, El Adobe’s kitchen received a complete overhaul; and it incorporated a new mesquite-burning grill and hood system, so that fresh steaks and seafood could be added to the menu.
El Adobe is now owned and operated by managing partner Steve Nordeck, Tony Moiso, and Gilbert Aguirre.