Home » Boyle Heights In Focus, Featured, Manuel's El Tepeyac » Manuel Rojas, owner of Boyle Heights landmark El Tepeyac, dies at 79

Photo by Erik Sarni

Photo by Erik Sarni

Manuel Rojas, owner of the famed El Tepeyac restaurant in Boyle Heights has died. Family members confirmed Rojas lost his battle with cancer Tuesday evening at White Memorial Medical Center. He was 79.

Rojas, better known by his customers as “Manny” or “Don Manuel,” was the creator of the Hollenbeck Burrito and Manuel’s Special— burritos so big they are often shared— and was loved by the East Los Angeles community and beyond.

Friends and customers of Rojas took to Facebook and Twitter to express their condolences and posted photos of their time with him.

“Thanks for creating the best burrito in the world!! Your legacy will live on forever in our hearts and stomachs. Farewell Manuel,” commented Fred Kelder on our Facebook page.

“OMG, rest in peace. You were such a “character.” Thanks for the great food and candy to go,” posted Anna Ruiz.

“A big loss to the community and his Family R.I.P. Manuel Rojas,” added Robert Chavez.

According to family members, Rojas was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and underwent treatment last year. In August, the cancer reappeared in his throat and had spread to several respiratory organs.

“I literally have no words… it’s the saddest day of my life,” said Rojas’ granddaughter Mirella Campos, 18.

Lines form outside El Tepeyac Cafe in Boyle Heights. Photo by Erik Sarni

Lines form outside El Tepeyac Cafe in Boyle Heights. Photo by Erik Sarni

Lights from Manuel’s Original El Tepeyac Café shined bright on Evergreen Ave. Tuesday night.

Cooks quietly served up five-pound wet burritos and waitresses tended to a handful of late diners.

Campos greeted customers as best she could, but spoke about her loss with tears in her eyes.

“He was my king, my dad, my everything,” she said.

Campos is the latest generation in the family to work at the Boyle Heights landmark, which opened its doors in 1952. Today, it’s not unusual to see a line of customers wrap around the establishment.

Some have grown old visiting the restaurant, calling Rojas a friend, confidant, even a husband, says Campos.

“When we drive around, my grandpa and I, here in Boyle Heights… he’s honking at everyone, waving like he’s royalty,” said Campos. “ ‘Mija, I’m a movie star,’ he would say.”

Others have travel across the city, state and country—either for the burritos or to meet the man who greets them with a smile, a joke and a tequila shot.

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8 Responses to “Manuel Rojas, owner of Boyle Heights landmark El Tepeyac, dies at 79”

  1. Leticia Romero February 13, 2013

    Such a loving and caring man. Don Manual you brought joy to everyone who ate at your restaurant. You greeted your customers with love and respect! May you rest in peace!!!!

    Reply
  2. Rest in peace mr Rojas,,, no more pain nor suffering…. May our lord god have mercy on your soul,,, my most sincere condolences to all your family & friends!!!

    Reply
  3. Tom Figueroa February 13, 2013

    We had breakfast there on Jan 2. It was then I found out Manny was in the hospital. His battle at that time seamed positive but now, It’s sad to know that anyone who goes to Manny’s El Tepeyac in East LA, for the first time will never get to know the man at the door with the warm welcome, the man who would offer you a shot of tequila as you sat down to eat and the man who would hand you candy as you walked out the door. I will never forget the feeling of being welcomed into what felt like Manny’s home.

    Reply
  4. Tom Figueroa February 13, 2013

    We had breakfast there on Jan 2. It was then I found out Manny was in the hospital. His battle at that time seamed positive but now, It’s sad to know that anyone who goes to Manny’s El Tepeyac in East LA, for the first time will never get to know the man at the door with the warm welcome, the man who would offer you a shot of tequila as you sat down to eat and the man who would hand you candy as you walked out the door. I will not forget the feeling of being welcomed into what felt like Manny’s home.

    Reply
  5. I grew up in Boyle Heights. I now live in Philadelphia. This would always be my first stop whenever I come home to visit. Such sad news. This has always felt like a genuine “neighborhood spot.”

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  6. My 1st date with my boyfriend was at Mannys, when we left we visited that beautiful Lady of Guadalupe shrine in the parking lot in remembrace of my boyfriends brother who had recently passed away, and put a rose there and now it has became a tradition for us each time we eat there…! I hope that it remains there with the restaurant for manys years..R.I.P.. Manny!

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  7. manny can’t believe u hav passed away we had a great time at ur restaurant back in feb 2011 we had come all the way from England to c u because we had watched u on man vs food tv god bless rip dude

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  8. Diana Molina Carson August 3, 2013

    I have been going to El Tepeyac since 1958 those taquitos & macha burritos are delicious. I will miss you Manny your warm welcome, friendly smile, and conversations. It won’t be the same w/o you but you are no longer suffering through unbearable pain. We will miss you forever!

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