La Imperial's super burrito is an East Bay institution. It presents as a massive missile on your plate, slathered in spicy red sauce and likely to remain in your belly for hours to come — especially if you made the mistake of devouring it solo.
But sadly the Hayward restaurant, closing after 40 years, is yet another in a long line of East Bay classics that have shut their doors in the past year: Banchero's
The owners, the Gilbert family, told the Mercury News what most other shut-down restaurants are saying: business has fallen off.
This review on Yelp from a faithful Livermore customer, posted earlier this month, sums the place up perfectly, especially the kitschy decor:
"I've been coming here since I was in the womb and not much has changed since then. The front of the place used to be a Mexican market, and there were lines out the door to get a seat. There is no trouble getting seats now, but I'm sad to hear they are closing their doors in December.
My philosophy with Mexican food is that a place is only as good as their rice and beans. La Imperial has THE BEST beans I've ever had and it's not even close. The rice is also exceptional, but every time I go, I order a side of beans to go. Can't say I've ever done this at any other Mexican restaurant. The meats are all good too. I typically get a super burrito (which is MASSIVE enough to provide 3 meals) and switch up the meats I get each visit. Shredded beef, chicken, machaca, carnitas, carne asada, chorizo are all good. If the good food wasn't enough, it is dirt cheap too. $6.75 for a super burrito that provides three meals? Yes please! The other options are also good. My dad swears by their tamales and chile rellenos.
The only place I could ding them a star is the cleanliness and decor being outdated, but to me that is part of the appeal. The decor has been the same for 30 years, except the mural on the walls which is probably 15 years old. Usually the best Mexican food comes from the divier places, and La Imperial is no different. As for cleanliness, yea it looks pretty dirty, but I've never been sick in the countless times I've eaten there, nor has anyone else that I've eaten with. If you want your Mexican restaurants clean, chic, and devoid of any soul, go to Chevy's or Chipotle. If you want down home Mexican food come to La Imperial while it is still here."
It's unclear exactly what their last day will be, only that it will be by Dec. 15, according to the restaurant's Facebook page, plastered with farewells and memories from faithful fans.
Post your memories in the comments below.