R.I.P. La Imperial: Home of the Super Burrito to Close After 40 Years

Post your memories of this East Bay institution, which is closing this week, joining the ranks of classic shuttered eateries such as Banchero's.

La Imperial's super burrito is an East Bay institution. It presents as a massive missile on your plate, slathered in spicy red sauce and likely to remain in your belly for hours to come — especially if you made the mistake of devouring it solo.

But sadly the Hayward restaurant, closing after 40 years,  is yet another in a long line of East Bay classics that have shut their doors in the past year: Banchero's in Hayward and JD's and Pyzano's in Castro Valley.

The owners, the Gilbert family, told the Mercury News what most other shut-down restaurants are saying: business has fallen off.

This review on Yelp from a faithful Livermore customer, posted earlier this month, sums the place up perfectly, especially the kitschy decor:

"I've been coming here since I was in the womb and not much has changed since then.  The front of the place used to be a Mexican market, and there were lines out the door to get a seat.  There is no trouble getting seats now, but I'm sad to hear they are closing their doors in December.  

My philosophy with Mexican food is that a place is only as good as their rice and beans.  La Imperial has THE BEST beans I've ever had and it's not even close.  The rice is also exceptional, but every time I go, I order a side of beans to go.  Can't say I've ever done this at any other Mexican restaurant.  The meats are all good too.  I typically get a super burrito (which is MASSIVE enough to provide 3 meals) and switch up the meats I get each visit.  Shredded beef, chicken, machaca, carnitas, carne asada, chorizo are all good.  If the good food wasn't enough, it is dirt cheap too.  $6.75 for a super burrito that provides three meals?  Yes please!  The other options are also good.  My dad swears by their tamales and chile rellenos.

The only place I could ding them a star is the cleanliness and decor being outdated, but to me that is part of the appeal.  The decor has been the same for 30 years, except the mural on the walls which is probably 15 years old.  Usually the best Mexican food comes from the divier places, and La Imperial is no different.  As for cleanliness, yea it looks pretty dirty, but I've never been sick in the countless times I've eaten there, nor has anyone else that I've eaten with.  If you want your Mexican restaurants clean, chic, and devoid of any soul, go to Chevy's or Chipotle.  If you want down home Mexican food come to La Imperial while it is still here."

It's unclear exactly what their last day will be, only that it will be by Dec. 15, according to the restaurant's Facebook page, plastered with farewells and memories from faithful fans.

Post your memories in the comments below.

Thomas P. November 28, 2012 at 07:20 PM
As a late teen with limited funds a supper burrito for 3.69 always made for a good day. As an adult I heard many horror story's. I know the owners nephew. Still I never stopped going. Good times. Thanks for the memories.
Thomas Clarke November 29, 2012 at 01:34 AM
I remember the first time I ate there mid-Seventies. There was nothing like it then. I do not remember the Super Burrito being there in 1975, but maybe it was. I have eaten there at least monthly since, and at times more often. However, the last year has definitely been a slide to mediocrity. I hope all he workers land on their feet.
YoureAnIdiot November 29, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Well we "used" to go there for years but stopped.. We always ordered the pork super burrito but through the years it had changed drastically.. It used to be really good, then we noticed the changes in taste and it wasnt good at all.. And we would wait 20 minutes or more sometimes for our order and there would hardly be anyone in the place.. How long does it take to put some rice beans and meat in a flour tortilla roll it up and serve it?.. Im not surprised its closing.. If they cleaned up the place and did things like when they had opened, perhaps they wouldnt be going out of business. I suppose the kids didnt care.. I hardly saw any of them working there anymore either.. Too bad.. it WAS GOOD AT ONE TIME...
Vel November 30, 2012 at 10:51 PM
It is good, but the customer service is horrible and the girl there has a bad attitude and is stingy with the napkins.
Roy Towers December 17, 2012 at 08:49 AM
I am heartbroken. I ate there tonight for the last time. I first went there in 1973, and it's been my favorite place ever since. No, the food has never changed - I don't know where folks get that idea. It has always been excellent! La Imperial has been a big part of my life - a place where I knew I could go, be among friends, and be happy. There has never been a more kind family than Mamma Gilbert's clan. They've treated me like a member of the family. Life if full of changes and some are not for the best. Roy


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