1927 – Manuel and Alice are born in Watts, CA.

1965 – Manuel and Alice open the restaurant on March 15 with nine tables, limited menu and a license for beer & wine. Manuel is cook, server and dishwasher. Alice has a day job at the school district to support the family. Leonardo is six years old.  Restaurant serves its first Friday fist special: Huachinango à la Jarocha.

1968 – Menu expands to 21 tables. Becomes a hangout of Ken Kesey and some of the Merry Pranksters; restaurant is mentioned in the book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

1972 – Leonardo starts working as a busser in the dining room.

1973 – Flamenco dancers are regular entertainment in the late hours of Wednesday nights.

1974 – Restaurant serves as the headquarters for a farm workers cooperative organized by Manuel and Alice to help migrant families settle, find housing and send their children to school.

1986 – Eduardo Diaz, our longtime manager, starts working for the Santana family.

1988 – Liquor license expands to include spirits and the liquor bar is built. Manuel’s serves its first Margarita.

1989 – Manuel retires from the restaurant to do art; his son Leonardo takes the reins. Restaurant is not damaged in the Loma Prieta  earthquake, stays open and serves food to emergency crews.

1992 – Coffee blend is changed to our signature Arabica & French roast blend and Mexican Chocolate Ice cream becomes a favorite on the menu.

1993 – Restaurant starts accepting Visa and MasterCard.

2001 – Leonardo and Patricia marry. Alice retires and Patricia takes over her administrative duties for the restaurant.

2002 – Alice passes on June 1 at the age of 75.

2006 – Manuel’s gets its first real sign painted on the awning. The original carved wood sign remains on the awning’s right edge.

2008 – Manuel passes on July 1 at the age of 81, just awarded ‘Artist of the Year’ by the Santa Cruz County Arts Council.

2012 – Manuel’s is awarded Business of the Year by the Aptos Chamber of Commerce.

2013 – Leonardo’s traditional Mole Poblano is awarded Judges Choice winner in annual Mole & Mariachi Festival in Santa Cruz; sauce is featured in Sunday & Monday Night specials.

2014 – Mary Bulfin retires after 30 years as manager — 1st person to retire after a lifetime career at Manuel’s.

2015 – March 9 – 15: 50th Anniversary Celebration Week

2020– March 15 – 55 years in business celebration fizzles due to pandemic worries.

2020 – March 16 –Pandemic Covid 19 shelter-in-place county order forces dining room to close and Manuel’s serving only take-out, all staff began wearing masks and on July 7 – Manuel’s started serving outdoors on 7 socially distanced tables in the dahlia garden behind Manuel’s.

2021 – With pandemic restrictions lifted, Manuel’s serves indoors again and the temporary outdoor patio closed.


Site Development: Melody Sharp