Patrons poured into Casa de Valdez restaurant in Taos over the weekend to get their last fix of Northern New Mexico and barbecue fare there for the last time.

The restaurant ended operations on Tuesday (Nov. 23) after decades in business. The restaurant, which is located at 1401 Paseo Del Pueblo Sur, is also on the corner between other popular New Mexican restaurants the Guadalajara Grill and Antonio’s. 

The family-owned restaurant first opened its doors in 1979 by owner and head chef Pete Valdez. Valdez went on a hiatus from 2001 to 2012 and leased the building to the former Tequila’s restaurant. Recently, Valdez and his wife, Tillie Valdez, a restaurant manager, said “it was finally time” to close down permanently after serving as a favorite spot for many locals and tourists.

“We're gonna miss them all—all our customers, all our regulars, anybody that has come in,” said Tillie Valdez. 

They both take great pride in the years they’ve put into the establishment, from the food to the service.

Pete Valdez worked long hours and often came in on his days off to clean the kitchen or prepare sauces and meat. However, neither one of them thought they would end up working in the restaurant industry. 

Valdez is a Vietnam War veteran originally from Southern Colorado. He was pursuing a PhD in Public Administration when he took over his brother’s fledgling barbecue restaurant located then on the south part of town.

He said he didn’t have much restaurant experience prior to owning the restaurant. After asking for tips on barbecuing methods he was led to an “old gentleman in South Carolina,” Valdez said, who taught him everything about barbecue. Valdez said that, since then, people from all over, including Texas have praised his barbecue, as well as the steaks and New Mexican food.

A few years into owning the restaurant, he met his wife, Tillie. 

Tillie Valdez is a born and raised Taoseña who spent 37 years working as an educator with Taos Municipal Schools and New Mexico Highlands University. She said the last three years she stepped in full time to do all the paperwork and work as a manager. She said regular customers frequently strike up conversations with her. Many of the customers that come in, she said, are past students of hers. 

“Taos...it’s like one big family, everybody is so close. You walk in here and everybody knows your name,” said Tillie Valdez. 

After the indoor dining ban was lifted, the Valdez family said they saw a surge in patronage. Their son Juan Valdez, a financial analyst for Los Alamos National Laboratory, even helped out some evenings tending bar.

A few weeks ago, they put a sign on the front door to let customers know the restaurant would close on Tuesday (Nov. 23). 

“I saw the sign and I went ‘Oh my god.’ So now I'm all sad. I told [Pete Valdez] I'm coming every night till you close,” said Dave Romero, owner of the Taos Historic Trolley and frequent customer, on Monday (Nov. 15). 

Tillie Valdez said the family initially hesitated to close because of their loyalty to their staff. She said their staff has always been reliable and helped them build a reputation as one of the places to eat in Taos.

“We have a lot of family working for us,” said Pete Valdez, referring to the restaurant staff. 

They describe themselves as workaholics and keeping busy has helped them after they lost their youngest son in 2007 in an accident. Pete mentioned that he’d now like to travel since he is retired. 

They don’t have any immediate plans to do anything after the restaurant has closed.

“I know it's gonna be really difficult. That's the hard part. We're gonna have to find something to do,” said Tillie Valdez with a chuckle. 

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