The story of Anita Baldwin, who founded and owned this establishment, began in Michoacan Mexico where she and her brother and sister lived with her grandparents. At the tender age of seven, Anita learned how to cook and care for her younger siblings while her mother worked hard to earn money for the family. Then, at the age of sixteen, she came to the United States, arriving in San Diego in 1961. She went to school day and night to learn English and worked as a teacher’s aide for a while. There, she met John K. Baldwin Jr., a young sailor, who became her husband for forty-nine years until his death in 2015. They had three sons: Kenny, Kevin, and Joseph (also known as Keith).
Anita enjoyed cooking for family and friends who recognized both her passion and skill and urged her to open a restaurant. So, Anita enrolled in college courses and attended Greenville Technical College to learn what was required for opening a new business. So many obstacles had to be overcome such as acquiring loans and insurance that it seemed an impossible dream. Yet, in 1985, Anita’s Mexican Restaurant became the second Mexican restaurant to open in this area. The family-owned and operated business steadily grew in popularity leading to an expansion of the building and the offering of a drive-through option for tacos and burritos!
Two factors have contributed to the restaurant’s enduring success. First, Anita treats her customers like her own family. Once having met Anita, no one forgets her warm, engaging smile. Anita is very caring when it comes to serving food to her customers especially with respect to food quality and restaurant cleanliness. And second, almost everything is made from scratch, a rare thing in today’s market. Her son Kenny says that the pork is marinated for 24 hours before smoking it, and then it is hand-pulled. Both their chicken stock and their salsa are home-made. They fry their own chips and soak dry beans before cooking them. From trays of avocados for making guacamole to fresh cilantro and garlic, everything has a freshness to it. Anita says that she even made tortillas from scratch before the business grew to the point that she could no longer keep up. The tasty dishes served every day are based upon regional Mexican recipes handed down from her grandmother and her mother. And the food served at Anita’s is healthier than most Mexican dishes because they use no MSG or additives.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, problems arose for the restaurant (as did other restaurants) from lack of customers, supply chain issues, soaring food costs, and lack of staff. Anita decided after 37 years of operation, it was time to retire to spend quality time with her grandchildren and other family members.
Naturally, Anita's customers were disappointed. So about a year later, Kenny, one of Anita's three sons who had worked in the restaurant since the age of 17, decided to continue the Anita's Mexican food tradition by serving their homemade Mexican dishes from the restaurant...for takeout only. And now after being such a success, Kenny has decided to make the food, albeit a menu of their most popular items, more readily available by opening the "drive-up" kiosk located adjacent to the restaurant.
So, call or stop by and sample some of Anita's original recipe Mexican food prepard by Kenny Baldwin, her son. You will be glad you did!!