Ugh. Two and a half years after we learned that longtime 11th Street stalwart Don Ramon's was in some financial trouble, the family that owns the restaurant announced that it is closing as of Friday, March 31.
Don Ramon's, the home of a stellar plate of chile colorado among other Mexican and Mexican-American dishes, has been serving hearty meals and margaritas from a windowless space at 225 11th Street since 1982. Smack in the heart of what was a neighborhood full of gay leather bars, Don Ramon's became a go-to spot for the gay community — something that the family that the Ramirez family who owns it embraced — as well as city leaders.
On the restaurant website today is an announcement that the place is closing for good, effective today.
"It breaks our hearts to say goodbye to our customers, especially our regulars, who have been able call Don Ramon’s a second home for years," writes Leonila, Lucy, Nati, and Nathalee Ramirez. "And we are devastated for our employees, who have given so much of themselves to this community – some of them for more than 20 years. We fought long and hard to save our beloved restaurant – but in the end, hard work, community support, love and tradition weren’t enough."
They add, "Don Ramon’s has been a South of Market outpost for regular folks, families, members of the Latino and LGBTQ communities, and many of the City’s most prominent movers and shakers alike for 40 years. We have welcomed people from all walks of life through their doors – celebrating everything from baby showers and weddings and quinceañeras, to retirement dinners, wakes and memorials – while also catering to the city’s political establishment. The restaurant has also been a familiar staple of the annual Folsom Street Parade, where everyone from leather daddies to motorcycle cops are expected to turn up for lunch or dinner."
The restaurant was opened by the parents of the Ramirez sisters, Ramon and Guadalupe Ramirez, and the sisters have been operating it since their mother's death some years ago. As Lucy Ramirez told SFist, her sister Nati, who ran the kitchen, had to backwards-engineer the recipe for the famous chile colorado after their mother passed. "She went to the grave with that recipe," Lucy said.
"Ramon had a vision of opening a sit-down Mexican restaurant and working alongside his family," the sisters write. "We have kept the family’s legacy strong by serving the same recipes and providing excellent customer service."
The restaurant ran into hard times several years back, with a predatory lender reportedly being partly to blame. The family took out a $5 million loan to make repairs to the building, which they owned — they explained to the Chronicle that the lender ended up owning the building and being their landlord — and they announced in September 2020 that they might be forced to closed Don Ramon's. Six months later we learned that the restaurant had been saved through some sort of bankruptcy restructuring, and now they say they have fallen victim to a 50% rent hike that they couldn't negotiate down.
The Ramirez sisters conclude, "We are incredibly grateful to everyone who worked here, everyone who ate and drank here, and everyone who cared about Don Ramon’s. We will miss you."