MORIARTY – The historic El Comedor de Anayas restaurant will be changing hands this month, and for the first time in about 60 years, it will not be run by a member of the Anaya family.
It is a place whose history is proudly displayed along the walls in countless newspaper clippings and yellowing photographs, part of what gave the place its charm, will remain, according to Mike Anaya. He said Jesse and Olivia Stuard of Breezy Rain Cafe Inc. will lease the restaurant now.
It has had its place on the map for politicians who knew the secret and not-so-secret stops on the campaign trail. Those politicians, from Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton, are up on the wall. You can date the photographs as they go from the 1960s to the ’70s and ’80s and watch the neckties go from skinny to fat to fatter before finally settling on a reasonable width and staying there, for the most part.
El Comedor is a place where the tide of political events has been decided over cups of coffee, and standing testament to that are the autographed photos of politicians from state representatives to presidents.
You can find family snapshots from the 1980s, trophies from local sporting teams the Anayas have sponsored over the years. Most of these artifacts are neatly framed with captions on the glass.
It’s something most restaurant owners just don’t do all that often these days.
“These could never be replaced,” Anaya said as he looked at one of several walls filled with framed photographs. “It was in this room that (Bill) Clinton announced his presidency.”
The neon star above the restaurant is also a part of history. It was one of just a handful of neon displays that was granted funds to be refurbished by the Route 66 Restoration Society, according to Mickey Allen, who has taken on much of the workload to keep the restaurant going in recent years.
When the sign is running, the spiked globe rotates horizontally and each hemisphere rotates around a vertical axis in opposite directions. Anaya said it’s pretty distracting, actually.
“Sometimes you get cross-eyed trying to follow it,” he said.
Over the years, the restaurant has also given out countless free dinners to locals in need, and served as a meeting place for 4-H, the Rotary Club, Toastmasters and other groups. And the Anayas would regularly allow local churches to use the place to feed people on Christmas Day.
“We served 300 people on a few occasions,” Anaya said. ”
Anaya closed down Mike’s Friendly Store in 2011, and handing over the keys to the restaurant is just another part of an effort to put his affairs in order, he said. “This is just another step closer to retirement,” he said.
— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal