El Chorro Lodge: Looking Back on a Landmark

Categories: News

el chorro_oldexterior.jpg
Courtesy of El Chorro Lodge
The iconic El Chorro Lodge in Paradise Valley reopened today at 11 a.m., ushering in a new era for one of the Valley's oldest and most beloved restaurants. Considering how easily the Cine Capri was erased and how many other local landmarks have been left to decay, it's a miracle this one was saved so quickly. Perhaps it's because so many locals have a tangible connection to El Chorro's past, whether through family dinners or memorable occasions like birthdays and weddings. Or time spent at the bar...

el chorro_oldgroupbar.jpg
Courtesy of El Chorro Lodge
​The Lodge originally opened in 1934 as the Judson School for Girls, and was converted into a restaurant and pub three years later. Former owner Joe Miller started bartending at El Chorro in the fifties, eventually buying the place in 1973. Local philanthropist Jacquie Dorrance picked up the property just one month after Miller announced his retirement last May.

Good thing she did. According to operating partner Kristy Moore, a local woman credited El Chorro as "the backdrop of her life," while another man said his entire world was crumbling when he heard of the restaurant's closure. He wasn't the only one.  

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Courtesy of El Chorro Lodge
Cherished Memories contest entry by Stephen Q. Shannon, circa 1946-47.
​When the new management took over, they created a "Cherished Memories" contest for people to share personal memories of the restaurant. Moore received dozens of heartwarming letters and phone calls, but she remembers one gentleman in particular who shared a saucy tale.​

 

"I was talking to this one old guy and carrying on about how great these new fireplaces were going to be," she recalls. "I was saying you don't have to huddle around that one fireplace anymore, and he says, 'Girlie, with all that butt-rubbin', I got lucky around that fireplace a few times!" Ahh...those were the days.

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Courtesy of El Chorro Lodge
That was some fireplace, even back in the day.
​It's amazing how attached people were to the old El Chorro. When you grow up going to the same restaurant for brunch every Sunday for forty years, I imagine it stings when you have to find an alternative. The former El Chorro management found that out back in the '90s when they discontinued the popular brunch. "It was the place to be," publisher Danny Medina was quoted as saying in a 1999 New Times piece by Dewey Webb ("Lost Brunch," 1999). "I think they were serving brunch before anyone had heard that term in Arizona." Eventually the brunch was revived.  


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