Casa Vicky owner sells historic San Jose restaurant

Nothing last forever, even a San Jose institution like the restaurant Casa Vicky. Owner Maria Aguilar told me this week that she had sold the business, which has been on the corner of Julian and North 17th streets since 1989 and has roots that go back much further.

Tequila’s Restaurant — which also has two other locations in San Jose, including Tequila’s Botanero on North First Street and Tequila’s Taqueria on Leigh Avenue —  on July 1 took over the Spanish Revival building that dates from the 1930s. The words “Casa Vicky” have been painted over outside, but the inside still looks the same — for now. I’m told lots of changes are coming soon, though.

Despite some neighborhood concerns, Tequila’s, ironically, doesn’t appear to sell its namesake spirit, instead providing beer and wine (and a popular michelada) at its other locations.

SAN JOSE – MAY 19: A portrait of owner of Casa Vicky Restaurant Maria Aguilar at her restaurant in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, May, 19, 2021. (Randy Vazquez/ Bay Area News Group) 

Aguilar’s mother, Victoria Aragon, opened Vicky’s Cafe in downtown San Jose in 1968 and then Casa Vicky on Market Street a few years later, which moved to the Tropicana shopping center in 1975. Aguilar said she’s been an employee since her mom started the business and has been its owner since 1979. She opened Casa Vicky’s on Market Street a few years later, and relocated to the Tropicana shopping center on King Road in 1975.

It built a reputation for its Mexican food and pastries, as well as tortillas that were handmade on site every day.

Last year, Casa Vicky was one of 25 restaurants in the country to receive a $40,000 grant from a National Trust for Historic Preservation program this month to help smaller, historic restaurants make improvements to recover from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant went toward improving the building’s outdoor lighting and patio seating, as well as the awning and wrought iron fencing.

Aguilar has been dealing with health issues and needed a well-deserved rest after 54 years on the job. “It is difficult to do that if I stay at the restaurant,” she said. “It is time. It is bittersweet. I miss my patrons, my employees and the restaurant.”

NEW SOUNDS AT THE FAIRGROUNDS: The Wednesday Night Music Series returns to the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds this week and running for the next two months. The high-energy, 10-piece dance band Clean Slate leads things off, with other bands including The Usual Suspects (July 27), Country Cougars (Aug. 3), the Houserockers (Aug. 24) and the Hitmen (Sept. 14) following in future weeks.

Local performers will set the mood each week at 5 p.m., with the headline bands starting at 6 p.m. There’ll be food trucks on hand and booths selling beer, wine and soda, but don’t forget to bring a chair or a blanket. Admission’s free, and you can check out the full lineup at

‘IT’S PLAYING AT THE DINI’: After making a name for himself in Bay Area television and radio, Steve Dini stepped into a second career as the drama teacher Pioneer High School for more than 25 years until his retirement in 2017. He’s since taken himself out to pasture in Morgan Hill, but he’ll return to San Jose this fall for a very special event: Pioneer is dedicating the stage of its performing arts center in his honor.

“Upon hearing the news, I was, for once in my life, speechless,” he said.

One might wonder why just the stage and not the whole building. Dini points out there’s a rule that a person’s name can’t be on the building until that person is dead, and he’s not willing to go to those lengths for recognition (yet).

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