Raise a Glass to La Jolla Where the First Margarita was Poured

A Small Restaurant at the Train Stop is where the First Cocktail was Mixed

In the early 1900s, similar to other small towns, La Jolla’s local train station situated in the Upper Hermosa district was a bustling center of activity. The La Jolla Line, an electric railroad project led by John D. Spreckels, aimed to connect the small coastal hamlet of La Jolla with downtown San Diego and operated from 1913 to 1949. The train commenced at the foot of Broadway in downtown San Diego, traversed northwards along the present-day Pacific Coast Highway, through the communities of Mission Beach and Pacific Beach before reaching its destination at the Arcade Building, now known as 7932 Girard Ave, near La Jolla Cove.

The San Diego Electric Railway and The San Carlos Terminal

La Jolla Electric Railway Route
Map of the original San Diego Electric Railway Route to La Jolla

The train stop at La Jolla Hermosa was finished in 1925 and was designed as a replica of the San Carlos mission at Monterey and the Methodist Church bought this property in 1951 to become the La Jolla United Methodist Church (See the photo below of today’s church compared to the isolated railroad stop building). The train made its final run in 1940 when the San Carlos terminal’s fortunes began to decline in the years after World War II because the rise of automobiles and the expansion of San Diego’s freeway system. 

La Plaza Restaurant and El Toro Bar and the First Margarita

Before the building was converted to a Methodist Church, it was occupied by a bar and restaurant called La Plaza Restaurant and El Toro Bar which was popular with celebrities for its food prepared over an open pit barbecue. They didn’t know it at the time, but the bartender there invented the iconic cocktail that has become one of the most popular adult beverages in the United States, the Margarita. According to Naren Young, bar director at Manhattan’s The Orchard Townhouse, “Without question the Margarita is the most popular drink right now. I’ve noticed it at almost every bar I’ve gone to in the last four months”.

La Jolla Methodist Church
Today's La Jolla Methodist Church (top) and the San Carlos Train Station (bottom)

But who is to say that mixologist Albert Hernandez’s concoction was the first one poured in the US? None other than an Eagle Scout project of a local young man by the name of Philip Andrews of Troop 506 who planned, organized and built a large display in 2011 that stands behind today’s La Jolla Methodist Church on the La Jolla Bike Path. (See photos below.) Young Mr. Andrews’ project came about as part of the city’s project to invest $1.5 million to widen and repave the path to make it smoother and safer for users and the city also added new amenities, such as benches, bike racks, and improved lighting. 

La Jolla History
The history of the El Toro Bar and La Plaza Restaurant
La Jolla Bike Path Poster
The full poster display on the La Jolla Bike Path behind the Church

Jose's Courtroom and a Lasting Legacy

The Church and The El Toro Bar cohabitated the building for a few years until the church sought to avoid the awkward position of owning an establishment that served alcohol, but did not contribute to any church projects. According to the poster, The La Plaza Restaurant moved to downtown La Jolla and was eventually renamed Jose’s Courtroom. and now boasts the second-oldest liquor license in La Jolla.

Today, there are few visible remnants of the La Jolla Electric Railway Line, although a few of the line’s former stations and power substations still exist. The line’s legacy is celebrated by the La Jolla Historical Society, which maintains a collection of artifacts and photographs related to the line’s history, but the history of the first Margarita may be the most significant heritage yet to impress visitors to the Village of La Jolla!

Dedicated to the Memory of Philip Andrews

Click Philip's Photo to Read More

Phillip Martin Andrews October 15, 1994 – November 20, 2019 La Jolla Family and friends mourn the loss of Phillip Andrews, but we will always be inspired by his beautiful spirit, courage, and many accomplishments. Growing up, Phillip had many supportive teachers and mentors first at La Jolla Methodist Church Nursery School, then La Jolla Elementary, Muirlands Middle, and La Jolla High School. Through the Scouting program, Phillip developed a strong interest in the outdoors, backpacking, canoeing, etc.

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