A Legend in the Making
Almost 50 years ago, the first El Patio Mexican Restaurant was opened by Fred and Lena Villasana on University Boulevard. Their unique Tex-Mex recipes quickly became a favorite for the Village patrons, who were often seen lined up on the sidewalk waiting to get in. A Rice University football game usually began and ended at El Patio. At one time, there were as many as ten El Patio Restaurants throughout the city, all managed by members of the family, one of the most favorite being in the River Oaks Shopping Center on West Grey. Consistency of product was essential to the family who maintained a Commissary until Tropical Storm Allison damaged the facility.
Time and circumstances took their toll as Fred and Lena both passed away, and two of the brothers were unable to continue in the business. The remaining and eldest of the brothers, Richard Villasana, retained the restaurant at 6444 Westheimer, another at 1630 N. Gessner, and the Commissary. Although many of its recipes were imitated as the basis for other Houston restaurants, only El Patio has consistently maintained the purity of its product.
The El Patio Restaurant on Westheimer also encompasses the infamous Club No Minors. It was opened in the mid-1960’s, when the customer either had to bring in their own liquor or belong to a club in order to partake of adult beverages. A separate room was set aside as the club and membership cards were issued to patrons who paid a set fee for liquor. The door to the club bore the name “Club Villa Sana” in attractive wood lettering. Unfortunately, as the club grew in popularity, the “Villa Sana” part of the sign was taken more than once. Tiring of replacing the sign, only one word “Club” remained. Beneath this sign, a smaller sign – “No Minors” was placed. In time, everyone began to call the room “Club No Minors”. The club is noted for its potent Margaritas – no, we do NOT use Everclear – and the lively Mariachis who play three to four times a week.
In February of 1996, Richard Villasana met an untimely death. After his passing, the family endeavored to maintain the restaurant as they felt he had envisioned it. It was the desire of the family that, if the restaurant passed on to other hands, the name would continue to be synonymous with good food, reasonable prices, and friendly atmosphere.