Lazy Dog Cafe Wants to Move into the Willows – Will El Torito be Demolished?

December 3, 2012 10:18 am · 69 comments

Lazy Dog Cafe, a Southern California restaurant chain, has been issued a Concord planning permit for Design Review of a proposed restaurant in Willows Shopping Center.

Rumor has it that El Torito plans to close, and Lazy Dog Cafe will demolish the building and build a new restaurant in that location.

Thanks to Chaz for the information & the photo!

Kimchee December 3, 2012 at 10:23 AM


Anon777 December 3, 2012 at 10:23 AM

It’s about time. Dirty, nasty place and their food sucked the last 2 times I was there – over a year ago.

JET December 3, 2012 at 10:29 AM

What the heck is Lazy Dog Cafe? Never heard of it. El Torito has been a staple here for many years, I’d hate to see that building go, lots of memories there! Why does everything old need to be demolished around here lately?

KenInConcord December 3, 2012 at 10:31 AM

I was a bartender El Torito just after college. I haven’t been back since. I would not pay $7-8 for a margarita that cost them .14 cents to make….

Just another Claycord Landmark going away.

Lori December 3, 2012 at 10:38 AM

Just checked out Lazy Dog’s menu looks good I’d give it a shot. Never have eaten at El Torito. A couple people told me it was horrible so I never wasted my money trying it.

tal December 3, 2012 at 10:40 AM

El Torito used to be good, I agree its gone way down hill, and I haven’t been back there for at least a couple years..
I think it is the last original restaurant in the Willows, from when it was built…

anonanonagain December 3, 2012 at 10:42 AM

Hopefully they can “use” this architecturally pleasing building and not waste excess money on rebuilding……

PinotNoir Dog December 3, 2012 at 10:43 AM

Another chain restaurant for the American public. Fast food disguised as a restaurant

The portfolio of their employees, a couple came from Mimi’s Cafe.

Personally, I support local restaurants. Bella, being my favorite.

Soooooooooooooo long farewell ! December 3, 2012 at 10:46 AM

El Torrito has had it’s glory. Some how they managed to take easy food to prepare and suck all the life and flavor out of it. Just there recently, the food looked like it was under the heat lamps forever, place was not busy and the service was marginal at best. The table was sticky, when I asked if they would clean it they came with a rag that looked like they used it on the floor. Should have walked out then but was with a group. Looking forward to a business that cares about building a good business repour and great food.

One can only hope... December 3, 2012 at 10:48 AM

It’s not like Concord has any shortage of Mexican restaurants, and most of them are a lot better than El Torito.

Sar Casm December 3, 2012 at 10:49 AM

Place just lost its luster over the years. Last time I ate there, it just wasn’t good. I can get better food at a hole in the wall taqueria for a lot less money. I always thought the building looked nice. Sad to see it demolished but hey, that’s progress right?

Swanky December 3, 2012 at 10:54 AM

Right there along the Hobo Highway … Er, I mean “Canal Trail.”

Limeridger December 3, 2012 at 10:58 AM

El Torrito is not what it used to be when it first opened. Although its unfortunate to see such Claycord staples go, I have been to Lazy Dog in Rancho Cucamonga several times and everythig I had was tasty plus they had a good bar/beer selection.

Mr. Anon E. Mouse December 3, 2012 at 11:05 AM

Aww, that’s too bad. Chain restaurants have no soul.

Many a pleasant Father’s day brunch buffet memories there with family over the years.

Although, I too, agree it has gone downhill over the years. Last time i was there was 2006 on a date. Poor service, mediocre flavor, questionable cleanliness. The meal was crummy too! 😀

The Grant December 3, 2012 at 11:09 AM

another thing to consider is that Mexican food in the United States (i.e., American food) is not that labor intensive. Buy fresh ingredients and cook at home (healthier and cheaper).

Paul (formerly) in South Concord December 3, 2012 at 11:11 AM

It would be better if they turned it into a “Texas de Brazil” location.

only if dogs are allowed December 3, 2012 at 11:24 AM

How about keep the building and make it into a Mudpuppies type place like that in Pt. Isabel. Let all the dogs in! Make it a rescue too!

The building is beautiful and it alone is why I’ve gone to El Torito few times.

Chain food sucks anyhow. Name a chain (someone?) which does not microwave pre-cooked frozen food. Go ahead. There isn’t one. Burger King and Wendy’s cooks more than any Applebees or other garbage eateries. I worked at Old Spaghetti Factory a long time ago and everything is frozen or boxed a la Kraft Mac-n-cheese. And I would go there only to sit in velvet chairs under chandeliers, not for the food.

Huge mistake to demolish such a lovely building.

@AnonEMouse December 3, 2012 at 11:28 AM

You DO realize El Torito’s a chain, too, right? Can’t say I’m sorry to see El Torito go….agree with above posters that eating there was a very mediocre experience. Will look forward to trying the new place.

Shoppermom December 3, 2012 at 11:38 AM

Lazy Dog Cafe has great food and a fun ambiance. They are based in Southern California and we go there whenever we are down that way. They aren’t a big chain; I think they only have 5-6 restaurants. Delicious food, lots of healthy options. I am so happy to hear this news!

ed December 3, 2012 at 11:39 AM

definitely time for them to go. their day is done. its said the cleanliness of a rest. can be judged by the cleanliness of the restrms. some kind of plumbing problm in there, weird smell.

but who doesnt vacuum out the wallet when it comes to drinks. i’m going to have to go w/ the open carry idea here. or probably should close carry those little bottles around and when nobodys looking spike your own drink. no i dont do that. but if you do i wont see it. quite frivolous spending in my book. why not a value drink menu? any rate i’l save $ and calories.

ed December 3, 2012 at 11:41 AM

mr. mouse,
and how did that date go?

ed December 3, 2012 at 11:49 AM
looks very good.
food up to date
nutritious and delicious
prices look good
think a lot of people will like going here

ed December 3, 2012 at 11:52 AM

heres a sample. sat is not a happy day though.

Happiest Hours
Monday-Friday 3-6pm & Sunday-Thursday 9-close (bar & patio only)
$3, $4, $5 & $6 favorites
16oz Drafts Coors light, Bud light & Pabst Blue Ribbon $3.00 All Well Drinks $4.00 16oz Lazy Dog House Beers $4.00 BV Chardonnay or Merlot (glass) $4.00 Cosmo or Pink Lemon Drop Martini $5.00 Zarco Gold Margarita $5.00 Sailor Jerry Rum & Coke $5.00 Lazy Dog House Beer Sampler $5.00 Cucumber & Mint Martini $6.00 Pomegranate Martini $6.00 Asian Pear Martini $6.00 Sparkling Strawberry Margarita $6.00 Champagne Mojito $6.00 Stoli Vodka On the Rocks Your Way $6.00 J.Lohr Chardonnay or Merlot (glass) $6.00 Craft Beer Sampler $6.00 $1 off all 22oz draft beers Pitcher of Sangria: Red Pomegranate, White Peach or Black Currant Rose $15.00 Round Hill Cabernet Sauvignon (glass) $4.00 Housemade Sangria: Red Pomegranate, White Peach or Black Currant Rose $4.00 All 16oz Craft Beers $5.00

$3, $4, $5 & $6 favorites *= Happy Hour Portion
Cajun Fries, Loaded Potato Hushpuppies, Grilled Garlic Flatbread or Zucchini Fries & Ranch* $3.00 Togarashi Edamame Beans $4.00 Sweet Potato Tater Tots $4.00 Fried Mozzarella $4.00 Brick Oven Pretzel $4.00 Spicy Buffalo Chicken Nuggets $4.00 Hawaiian Ahi Poke* $4.00 Chicken Wings* $4.00 Chicken Lettuce Cups* $4.00 Chicken Tenders & BBQ Sauce* $5.00 Any Personal Pizza $5.00 Late Night Burger (only available after 9pm) $5.00 Nachos $6.00 Hummus Trio $6.00 Spinach & Cheese Dip $6.00 Inside-Out Cheese Quesadilla $6.00 Wok-Fired Calamari $6.00

marinemom December 3, 2012 at 11:55 AM

Last time I ate there we had very bad service so didn’t leave a tip.
The waiter came running out after us and kept asking where’s my tip.
That was a few years ago I never went back.

diggiedog December 3, 2012 at 12:04 PM

scary place, should have been closed down years ago. Welcome Lazy Dog…….
We need more good food restaurants around these parts.

DD December 3, 2012 at 12:16 PM

Let’s all chip in, buy the building, and re-open a Tia Maria.

mika December 3, 2012 at 12:22 PM

Chevy’s, now El Torito. Don’t you be closing next El Tapatio! Had many a “happy hour” at Chevy’s and El Torito! Many!

NRA #1 fan and member December 3, 2012 at 12:32 PM

Close El Torito and Claim Jumper. Both have terrible food and I’ll never eat there again.

SanDee December 3, 2012 at 12:33 PM

Used to eat their on a regular basis, but have to agree it has really declined.
Food was awful, service just OK and as for being clean, not very.

What is up with the Willows? Another favorite restaurant has also gone downhill-Claim Jumpers!
Funny how food and service go down, but prices go up.

Anonymous December 3, 2012 at 12:55 PM

Although I don’t care for El Torito, I think the building itself is very pretty. I would love to see the building reused and not demolished.

Starfish December 3, 2012 at 1:00 PM

wow ed, that menu looks awesome. I take it you’ve been there.

Starfish December 3, 2012 at 1:39 PM

to the restaurant-of course. the necessity for clarity.

Palermo December 3, 2012 at 1:40 PM

I like the building for El Torito, hate to see them tear it down. They did change the menu awhile back, it got to be too spicy at least for me. Claim Jumper’s food has gotten really blah and the hostesses are terrible. We went in, the place was empty, the girl said we had to wait 15 minutes because they didn’t have enough lunch servers.

JustMe December 3, 2012 at 1:49 PM

Didn’t realize El Torito was still in business. Haven’t been there for years. They used to have amazing nachos back in the day, with the different kinds of cheeses and that amazing tomato salsa, but then they completely changed that and all their other dishes and I pretty much stopped going.

I looked at the website for Lazy Dog and it looks like a fun place with pretty great food choices. The brick oven pizza alone sold me.

The Willows could certainly use a new restaraunt or two. Has anyone considered Lazy Dog might move in Tony Roma’s old location? It was remodeled recently if I’m not mistaken.

The Richards Family December 3, 2012 at 2:35 PM

Lazy Dog will be a great addition to that area. I think bad management led to the El torito demise, after all they are the ones that are going out of business, no one is forcing them out.

Just Me – Lazy Dog is a rather large place, the Tony Romas is way to small.

The lazy dogs resturants I have seen are newer and rather attractive. I thing they will do great in that area.

Anon December 3, 2012 at 2:47 PM

El Torito has some surprising locations. I have pics of the one in Istanbul, Turkey

Anon December 3, 2012 at 2:51 PM

(in fact it looks like they have more than one –

Starfish December 3, 2012 at 3:02 PM

In Turkey–lol, wow Anon. I have been to Chevy’s but never El Torito. Turkey seems like a dangerous place now. Goodness. 🙂

Jim White December 3, 2012 at 3:03 PM

I’ve tried the food at El Torito when it first opened and in the 1980s and it was bad to fair back then. Had food there recently, still not good. The salsa with the chips was rotten and had to be returned. They couldn’t even do that right. Nice building though.

Starfish December 3, 2012 at 3:03 PM

Definitely not going to Turkey. 🙂

T15 December 3, 2012 at 3:29 PM

I’ll miss their deep fried ice cream.

Anon December 3, 2012 at 4:20 PM

Love El Torito, great meals within the last few month, good service, pleasant surroundings. Perhaps some complainers should not rely on non current visits.

Reality says... December 3, 2012 at 4:35 PM

Bad food, overpriced, too loud, bad drinks, pre-made box taco shells…for a minute I thought we were talking about Guadalajara Grill.

Can that knock that place down while they are at it?

Larrabee December 3, 2012 at 4:37 PM

I’ve eaten there at least a couple dozen times since the late seventies, and have never had a bad meal; but I haven’t been there for about 5-6 years. Sounds like it’s really gone south. I’ve always liked that building. It would be a shame to tear it down.

Home owner December 3, 2012 at 5:05 PM

Yes, I hope this is true…..I hate El Torritos. The employees are thieves. They do not know how to return lost Items that don’t belong to them. Come on Lazy Dog Cafe 🙂

Fig Newton December 3, 2012 at 5:16 PM

That place stinks! Overpriced, and lousy food! I like a 99cent Chalupa at taco bell!

concord restaurants December 3, 2012 at 5:42 PM

El Torito has gone way down hill. Was so disappointed. Used to be good. CLAIM JUMPER is god awful. So expensive for cold, horribly- prepared food at a premium price. As of now, there are NO Mexican food restaurants that I care for in Concord period.

Oh man December 3, 2012 at 6:04 PM

I’m SO excited! One of the only things I miss about living in Southern CA is LAZY DOG CAFE!!! Grilled cheese! Sun-dried tomato pesto pasta! Chicken hummus salad, OH MY!

So sad... December 3, 2012 at 8:20 PM

I liked it there. The best parts are some of the waitresses. Food is good and so were they 😉

Dolores December 3, 2012 at 9:04 PM

my husband Tony and I eat at El Torito a few times, they better leave this restaurant alone, ands STOP DEMOLISHING buildings.

sad December 3, 2012 at 9:52 PM

Nooo!!! Keep it first Chevy’s not this 2

But, wait! December 3, 2012 at 9:55 PM

No Olive Garden?

Ancient Mariner December 3, 2012 at 10:07 PM

Was once Tia Maria, then Casa Maria, now El Torito.
I loved the wonderful faux-Mexican ambience, but the food was not as good as local Mexican food usually is.
Sort of a Disneyland version of what a Mexican restaurant might be.
We are spoiled with so many fantastic Mexican reasturants around here so if a “Mexican” restaurant is going to thrive, the food had better be very good, not merely adequate!

judaspriest December 3, 2012 at 10:35 PM

make it a fine dining long john silvers OH YEA

judaspriest December 3, 2012 at 10:36 PM

bring back carlos murphys

Screwy Louie December 4, 2012 at 12:07 AM

Best chain restaurant, by far, Black Bear Diner

Mimi (original) December 4, 2012 at 4:43 AM

Too bad the Red Onion Mexican food chain is gone. Grew up in SoCal in the 60’s & 70’s and really liked their food back then.

Kirkwood December 4, 2012 at 10:09 AM

When El Torito opened it put Tia Maria out of busines. Actually, the Tia Maria (Aunt Mary) was in the building now occupied by a Chinese buffet. That’s the corner of Clayton Rd. and Franquette Ave. There have been several restaurants there over the years. Must be a bad location.

Onthefence December 4, 2012 at 10:25 AM

Back In the early 2000’s this place used to be the place to go….a girlfriend of mine worked there and this place holds so many memories of good times and fun nights with yummy food and drinks :o) I used to go there for there amazing Jose Cuervo fajitas and Sunday Brunch,But I too admit I havent been there In a few years due to the fact the last couple times I took my hubby to show off how amazing this place was….It was a super let down and embarrasement at how aweful the food and service had got while the prices had increased.The fajitas were aweful….hardley any meat and dry as hell.So sad to see It go,but I can honestly say I probably would never waste my money there again ;(

Sunfish December 4, 2012 at 1:30 PM

ed you did leave out some drinks–whiskey sour-I do not care for, this is for someone else. john collins (that name…. 🙂 ); not for me. These lead to a lynchburg lemonade–havn’t tried yet. So I just leave them alone and go for a long island iced tea, ward eight, singapore sling, nuts and berries or something similar.

Many people are not used to these types of drinks–please leave the drinks alone and all will be well.

Sunfish December 4, 2012 at 2:49 PM

If you cannot handle the fire-don’t play with it. 🙂

RanchgirlCA December 4, 2012 at 3:09 PM

El Torito was great more than 25 years ago, when we’d head down on Friday after work. I had many good late nights there back then. Ahhh, the good old days. Years later when I acutally went to the restaurant I thought the food was not so good. I’d really like to try a Cracker Barrel. Time for something new.

Sunfish December 4, 2012 at 3:23 PM

Always remember, if you cannot handle the drink- then do not indulge. 🙂

claycordite December 4, 2012 at 5:36 PM

We like El Torrito (and one of us grew up on authentic Mexican food). I don’t know how you can call this expensive. Granted it isn’t a taqueria, but…. The staff are wonderful to us. The building is so beautiful and far more like Spanish architecture than the many small Mexican places around town — La Pinata and La Tapatia come to mind.

They took the Mexican name away from the city of Concord, so I expect some Elephant Bar-like place (fru-fru drinks and teenager food) will take over and wreck the El Torito location. We prefer the non-chain restaurants, but good ones are hard to find, usually packed and loud, and in locations where parking is a problem. Thinking it’s time to give up on the old East Bay and move on to some smaller city.

lou December 4, 2012 at 6:14 PM

went there today. waitress said they are not closing.

Sassy December 8, 2012 at 10:20 AM

We go to El Torito for dinner and Sundays for their brunch. We love the food and we always get great service. I hope this is a rumor.

Trade December 11, 2012 at 9:12 AM

We used to go to El Torito for Brunch at least once a month back in the day. It was an amazing brunch and a lot of fun. They lost the touch. Welcome to the Dog it looks fun and might breath some life into the area.

j December 13, 2012 at 7:26 PM

I say bring on Lazy Dog. It’s not like I’ve been to El T more than once in the past 10 years. And like that other Mex restaurant that USED to be good (yes, I’m talking to you Guadalajara Grill), El Torito’s time has passed. They’ve had more than 20-years to improve and have failed to do so.

Calendar Girl December 14, 2012 at 12:55 PM

When I worked in the early ’80’s, I loved going there with my co-workers. Then after I got married, we brought our kids there for many different occasions. Our kids have grown up going there, and we still meet there with extended family. We will miss that place if it’s gone!

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