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Go for "The Whole Enchilada"

by Nick Anis

An age old phrase, a term used to depict complete entirety, or just an ironic metaphor, a restaurant in Diamond Bar is exactly what you get when it comes to taste, “The Whole Enchilada.”  Located in the Ralph's and Bank of America center at Grand Avenue and Diamond Bar Boulevard, to many people, The Whole Enchilada is like a family member or a close friend.  Their contributions to our local cities and their friendliness towards our schools and service clubs have earned them a special place in our community.

For the past fifteen years, the restaurant has been serving homemade, fresh, and delicious Mexican food.   This place is fantastic, which explains why the restaurant does a brisk business for both lunch and dinner and has so many regular customers.  People just keep coming back, even when they move out of town.

All of The Whole Enchilada's recipes were developed over a decade and a half ago by Miguel (head cook) and Gil Villavicencio (cousin and co-owner).  Gil is quick to point out “Our patrons really like these recipes and we’ve carefully preserved them over the years.” 

The Whole Enchilada is the kind of restaurant you can count on.  According to Gil “We carefully add new items and announce them on table tents, but we keep the menu consistent to make sure our patrons are assured an enjoyable dining experience.”  Gil also points out that “The Whole Enchilada is not my restaurant – it’s my family’s.  We love each other, and by caring about each other and working together, we have built a wonderful business.”  Gil's brother, Ruben, is quite an accomplished restaurateur and has done an impressive job building the company (two other Whole Enchilada's as well as 16 Millie's Restaurants) into a highly successful family-owned regional restaurant chain with locations from Ventura to El Centro.

The Whole Enchilada has an “A” rating from the Health Department; the kitchen and the dining area are well maintained and spotless.  The sea foam colored leather booths are among the most comfortable you will find.  There is an attractive contemporary décor, pleasant music, and the meals are nicely presented.  The restaurant is fully air-conditioned and also has breezy ceiling fans.  There are 20 booths and about a dozen tables and arm-backed chairs, which are ideal for larger groups; lots of nice flowering potted plants, pottery, and art.  There are wall-mounted color televisions, and a good-sized pleasant lobby area where you can relax while your table is being prepared.  While you're waiting, you may order libations, such as a soft drinks, ice cold beer (bottled or on tap), chilled wine, or a delicious blended frozen cocktail from the full service bar.

The first thing you’ll notice after you start reading the menu is that The Whole Enchilada has an extensive carte du jour (menu) with nearly 100 delicious items to choose from including several unique specialties.  Most patrons opt for the combinations which come with a choice of 1-3 entrées, fresh cooked rice, and freshly prepared refried beans topped with jack and cheddar cheese finished in the broiler, and promptly delivered to your table fresh and delicious and … HOT (when your server says “careful, this plate is hot,” take their word for it!).

A different lunch special is offered every weekday for only $4.95.  Combinations, which are served anytime, range from $5.59 to $9.29.  There are six kid's meals to choose from for only $3.19 including a soft drink.  Soft drink refills for adults and kids are FREE.  If you get a combo punch card you get your tenth combination meal FREE (including a beverage).

The Ruben Special ($5.59 or $6.29 with rice) is a huge flour tortilla filled with shredded chicken or beef, refried beans, deep-fried in light vegetable oil, then covered with cousin Miguel's delicious homemade and slightly more spicy green sauce and jack and cheddar cheese, served with a heaping side portion of guacamole and sour cream.

The seafood Enchilada ($7.99) is 2 corn tortillas filled with delicious seasoned seafood and shrimp, covered with Miguel's delicious homemade and slightly milder red enchilada sauce.

Everything is made fresh on the premises – even the chips and salsa!  When you sit down to eat, almost immediately you’re presented with a heaping bottomless basket of fresh homemade and hot chips and an oversized ramekin of chilled salsa.  The produce is also quite fresh and you'll really notice the difference when you try one of the delicious tostada salads or experience the spectacular homemade salsa. 

The Whole Enchilada Restaurant's salsa is kept and served WELL CHILLED to maintain it's freshness and flavor and is perfect for dipping because it coats your hot fresh chip.  BUT …. It's also chock full of delicious fresh vegetables including vine-ripened tomatoes, large and firm sweet onions, cilantro, jalapeno and green chilies, and spices (all fresh).  No wonder The Whole Enchilada makes one (and sometimes two) 20-gallon batches of the delightful mixture EVERY DAY.  It's DELICIOUS!  If you DARE, you can ask for the Mucho Caliente (very hot) salsa, which is spicier, much spicier.  There are also 120 to 250 pounds of chips prepared fresh on the premises every day.  The chips are a consistent size, shape, and thickness, and they are fried on the premises every morning in fresh 400-degree light vegetable oil.  These chips are very tasty, and they are also very addicting, which is why most of the patrons have two or more heaping baskets of them (fortunately they’re served complimentary with all meals).  

Both flour and corn tortillas are served hot and fresh off the grill in warmers or wrapped in foil with butter on the side.  There are also medium and extra grande flower tortillas for burritos, and for tostadas, which are also shaped and fried (on premises), to a golden crispness in light vegetable oil.

The restaurant becomes quite busy during lunch and dinner (especially on Friday and Saturday nights), but the 10-minute wait flies by because the service is very good and the cooking staff really knows their stuff.  When the kitchen is busy there are 4 highly experienced cooks and several helpers.  Each is trained to work all stations, which insures everyone on the team always knows what they’re doing.  The head cook, Jorge (George) who is originally from a suburb of Guadalajara, Mexico, has been there since the place opened, 15 years ago.  When the server brings your table’s order into the kitchen, the first thing the cooks do is check the order to make sure there are no mistakes.  Then all the meals for your table are prepared so that they can be served hot and fresh for an enjoyable dining experience. 

Portion sizes are generous and consistent and each plate is nicely garnished. It's a real kick seeing the food arrive piping hot and looking as though it’s ready to be photographed for a cookbook.  In the case of the sizzling fajitas, besides looking gorgeous, you can also hear them sizzle and smell the delightful aroma as this dish finishes cooking while making it's brisk journey from the kitchen to your table in a very hot cast iron skillet-serving dish.  This skillet is the hottest plate in the house, but it's for serving, not eating, and it comes cradled in hard wood and is accompanied with a room temperature serving ceramic plate that has rice, beans, and pico de gallo (chopped onions, tomatoes, and cilantro).

There's something on the menu for everyone.  Delicious combination platters with tacos, enchiladas, taquitos, chili rellenos, tomalias, and tostadas.  Tempting entrées like chimichangas, fajitas, burritos, tacos, enchiladas, and platillos de huevos.  And Favoritos de la casa (House Specialties) like carnitas, chile Colorado, carne asada, camarones picado, chile verde, and steak or chicken picado.  If you like fish, try the fish and shrimp tacos, seafood burritos, and shrimp fajitas.  And if you’re a vegetarian, the Whole Enchilada has a wide assortment of vegetarian dishes. During the holidays you can order homemade tamales to enjoy at home, and during Halloween there's a “guess the weight of the pumpkin” contest.

When your bill arrives, it comes accompanied by a plate of crispy tortillas coated with cinnamon and sugar and some mints.   But, if you want a more luscious desert, don't fret, The Whole Enchilada also has some great postres (desserts).  Try the deep fried ice cream ($2.59) which is flash frozen ice cream dipped in hot light vegetable oil to form crispy outside and soft creamy luscious inside, and served with strawberry or chocolate topping and fresh whipped cream; it's D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!!!  Or try The Rio Grande Mud Pie ($2.69), coffee ice cream, swirled with chocolate sauce throughout and layered on a dark cookie crust, covered with a whipped topping, shaved chocolate and sliced almonds.  Or for a more traditional Mexican dessert, try The Whole Enchilada's homemade Mexican Flan ($1.99) served like a large slice of pie.

The Whole Enchilada also offers food to go and catering for special occasions.  The restaurant can handle catering for a small group to several hundred.  The restaurant provides “food only” or “full service” including heated chafing dishes, servers, and clean up.  If you like, you can have generous portions of fresh hot chips and chilled fresh homemade salsa first, so you can serve it to your guests before the rest of the catered meal arrives.

Customer service is very important at the Whole Enchilada; they treat all their patrons like family.  The restaurant is a popular place to celebrate a birthday because patrons are donned with a colorful and festive sombrero and (with the beautiful backdrop of the restaurant's picturesque décor) a picture is taken while a special Whole Enchilada version of Happy Birthday is sung by a group of the staff.  The celebrant is also treated to a complete meal including beverage and dessert.

Dedicated General Manager and co-owner, Gil Villavicencio, works 5-6 days a week, and you can see Gil roaming the restaurant, greeting customers, making drinks, and helping servers.  The Whole Enchilada is a good corporate citizen too.  The restaurant sponsors the DBIA, Youth Sports, Miss Diamond Bar Pageant, Diamond Bar Friends of the Library, Diamond Bar Sister City and other community events and organizations.  Another wonderful policy of The Whole Enchilada is hiring many high school and college students, which helps these students earn money for their education.  In spite of having several students working as hosts, busing, and serving, the staff (which averages about 30), is extremely well trained.  The manager, Sandy, has been there 14 years.  Sandy is very easy to recognize because she is tall, thin, and has striking blonde hair.  Sandy, who is a working mom, started as a server, and has done most of the jobs in the restaurant.  She is always pleasant and always busy, and she is a superb bartender. 

For pleasant surroundings, excellent food prepared and served by well-trained, friendly, and courteous staff, why not go for (and to) The Whole Enchilada in Diamond Bar!  A few words of warning: don't eat too many chips because you will want to leave room for the other delicious food.  Don't test the hot plates to see if they are hot.  And, most important, don't expect to leave hungry, because you won't!

The Whole Enchilada Restaurant & Catering
1114 Diamond Bar Boulevard
Diamond Bar, Ca  91765

Phone: 909-861-5340 909-861-5288
Fax: 909-396-7673

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Nick Anis is a food, wine, and travel and technology writer with 24 books in print. Nick’s beats include snow and water sports, and vacation destinations. Nick can be reached by email at: nickanis@aol.com.

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