Today EL Portal Restaurant is owned and operated by Earl and Mary Rose Wilcox and their family. The Wilcox family also owns EL Portal Mexican Grill located at the Arizona State University downtown campus in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism building. Additionally, Earl and Mary own and operate EL Portal Express located in the North Concourse of the Third Terminal at Sky Harbor Phoenix International Airport.
EL Portal Restaurant which is located in the Grant Park community is one of the oldest Hispanic barrios in the city of Phoenix. EL Portal’s neighbors include American Legion Post 41, The Friendly House, and Saint Anthony Church. Grant Park is located directly across street from the EL Portal restaurant where numerous community events regularly take place.
The restaurant was built in the late 1940’s by the Zapien family headed by Mercedes the matriarch of the family. For more than fifty years the Zapien family operated EL Portal Restaurant. For many years the restaurant was a popular meeting place for elected officials, community leaders and government officials.
In 2000, Earl and Mary Rose purchased EL Portal Restaurant from the Zapien family and quickly built on the reputation which the restaurant had established. Today the restaurant is still frequented and attended by political dignitaries such as Arizona’s first and former congressman Ed Pastor, former state senator Alfredo Gutierrez, county supervisor Steve Gallardo, members of the Phoenix city council, state legislative members, several county and federal judges, and various local and national community leaders such as Petra Leyva, Salvador Reza and Dr. Sylvia Herrera and others.
EL Portal also has served as the site where numerous social and political press conferences have taken place to address critical issues affecting the lives of the minority population, including the need to protect the rights of the immigrant population and indigenous people.
While in college both Earl and Mary Rose were inspired by the philosophy of community service of legendary farmworker leader Cesar Chavez. Presently, they both administer and operate Grant Park under the direction of The Victoria Foundation Inc. founded by the former director of Chicanos Por La Causa Inc. Pete Garcia. Grant Park implements innovative interventional programs geared toward assisting dislocated youth of Phoenix.
EL Portal is located three blocks walking distance from the Phoenix downtown sports, culture, and warehouse district.
Meet Earl & Mary Rose Wilcox
Our Neighbor - Phoenix American Legion
Photo - Chris English