A strong patriot, Gutierrez comes from a family of hard-working, successful restauranteurs. At one time, his parents owned the popular El Charro Mexican restaurants on the Peninsula and in San Francisco's North Beach. One branch was in the Student Union building at San Francisco State University--called the Big Enchilada--where Mike Gutierrez learned the business by working there while at student. Both parents are now deceased, although the El Charro still operates under different owners in South San Francisco. In honor of his father, Emilio, Gutierrez later added his name to the El Portal restaurant at 828 Main St.
Earning a degree in political science from SFSU in 1978, Gutierrez became a police officer with the San Jose force, which is where he met Stan Kephart, a fellow policeman who had also been on the Pleasanton City Council. Hearing Gutierrez talk about how he wanted to follow his parents' footsteps into the restaurant business, Kephart encouraged him to come to Pleasanton, and the rest is history. Like so many of us, he decided to live here and raise his family after the first time he saw Main Street. Soon there after, he opened El Portal at 320 Main, relocating nine years ago into the old Cheese Factory building on North Main.
Among the better restaurants in Pleasanton, Gutierrez's is perhaps the simplest, a nicely-decorated, full sit-down Mexican restaurant that features all of his father's recipes ranging from a shredded beef taco to his fancier dishes, with prices ranging from $6 to $15. Managing the kitchen with his wife Carolina handling the customers, both always have time to talk about local issues and events. This has made Emilio's El Portal a favorite rendezvous spot for City Council and other political campaigns. Last week, former Peninsula Congressman Pete McCloskey and his team were there after helping to launch Jerry McNerney's campaign for Congress. With the other November campaigns for mayor, City Council and school board seats just starting, Gutierrez's restaurant will likely become even more lively as the scene of political strategic planning and debates in the weeks ahead.