By Gina Valencia | Photo by Alexiz Gomez
When Mexican natives Manuel and Socorro Orozco immigrated to California in the late 1950s, they dreamt of opening a restaurant that would serve up delicious dishes from their homeland. Though each worked fulltime jobs, Manuel at a General Motors factory and Socorro for the County, and raised four children, the Orozcos eventually realized that dream by opening their first Super Mex restaurant in February 1974, on 1st Street in Long Beach.
“They weren’t sure if it would be successful so they both continued to work [their] full time jobs,” said Jerahm Orozco, restaurant CEO and grandson of Manuel and Socorro. “[After work] they went straight to the restaurant and continued to work [well into the] night.”
For years, the elder Orozcos continued to work multiple jobs while simultaneously running the restaurant. Eventually, Manuel retired from General Motors and the whole family became more involved in the business.
BIENVENIDOS: ALL ARE WELCOMED
The Orozcos’ focus was always to ‘offer great-tasting traditional Mexican food and create a dining environment where customers felt comfortable and welcomed.’
Almost 50 years later, the Orozco family has not only achieved but multiplied that American dream with several locations throughout Los Angeles and Orange Counties, most still family owned and operated.
Even if not related, employees of the original Super Mex on 1st Street have come to feel like family, such as site supervisor Rodrigo Rodriquez who started as a dishwasher over 16 years ago. And bartender ‘Mono’ Vazquez who also started as a dishwasher 31 years ago when he was still a Wilson High School student, and now serves patrons refreshing horchatas and Super Mex Margaritas, among other tasty drinks.
JUST LIKE MOM USED TO MAKE
The Super Mex story has familiar threads. Growing up with immigrant parents, I saw first-hand the example of hard work: after a long day at her full time factory aerospace job, my mom Connie would still whip up homemade food for our family. The importance of a home-cooked meal was instilled in her by my grandmother Ramona and is something at which the Orozcos have become professionals.
Many moons ago when I lived in downtown Long Beach, the 1st Street location was only a bike ride away. On certain days when only chips and salsa would do, my roommate and I pedaled over to indulge in steaming plates of cheesy yumminess: asada Super Mex burritos, chicken enchiladas, nachos, and always rice and beans. “[Our] shredded beef crispy tacos and salsa can’t be beat,” said Jerahm.
Besides the generations of loyal customers, some notable guests have found their way over to the original location as well. Boxer Oscar de la Hoya, the late Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda, as well as, former Dodger and Long Beach native Justin Turner have all had the pleasure of enjoying home-cooked style meals at the Orozco kitchen, known as Super Mex.
Super Mex on 1st Street will be celebrating their 50th anniversary next year and “a grand celebration” is already being planned, according to Jerahm.
So, get your chips and salsa bowls ready because what’s a fiesta without the food!
Super Mex (original location)
732 E. 1st Street, LB, CA 90802