Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Kendall's Cafe Sold!


Last updated 9/21/2021 at 12:29pm

Michael Sadler

Lorena and Benito

Kendall's Café is now under new ownership, as of Sept. 1, at the helm of Benito Arteaga and Lorena Valdez.

Previous owner Gary Bailey initially approached Benito about taking over Kendall's, and Darlis also graciously offered to stay in Borrego for part, or perhaps even all of the coming season to help organize the café under new ownership, after which she will be returning to Missouri.

And Benito and Lorena have only high praise and admiration for previous owners, Gary and Darlis Bailey.

"We would like to thank everyone for all the kind words, and to give a warm welcome to all in our new adventure," Lorena said. "The support has been amazing, and we really appreciate it. Benito and I have been long-term customers of Kendall's, and we enjoy every single aspect of what Kendall's is. We would love to continue the tradition and keep what everyone has grown to enjoy about his establishment."

Benito Arteaga began his career in Borrego by washing dishes at de Anza Country Club, and then moved up the ladder. He prepped meals and then began cooking for de Anza patrons, then La Casa del Zorro (was also their baker), then Pablitos, and Palm Canyon Resort, and Borrego Springs Resort, and finally Kendall's Café. To keep the moss from growing beneath his feet, Benito has also been employed for the past 16 years by the Borrego Water District, as their Backflow specialist, and he's in training for waste management duties.

Lorena Valdez, Benito's wife of 25 years, began her work in Borrego as a bus-girl. She was chosen and hired part-time by Union Bank while still a senior at Borrego High and has spent her entire professional career in Borrego's banking industry; she had to take three years off to successfully battle breast cancer.

When Benito was a dishwasher and Lorena a bus-girl, little did they each realize, nor have any reasonable cause to expect at the time that someday they would be the proud new owners of Kendall's Café!

Kendall's Café has been a fixture in Borrego Springs for 32 years, but it was closed or only partially open for almost two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent COVID variants arising in the last six months have made America's restaurant business, Kendall's Café in particular, challenging to maintain over the last six months.

Aside from business and managerial duties, Benito will probably be located in the kitchen.

"I love to cook," says Benito, "and it's been my dream to open up my own restaurant." Mission accomplished! He seems to know a lot about the restaurant business, and Lorena about finances – she's definitely a numbers person – to make it all work. Benito certainly knows his way around a kitchen, specifically Kendall's, yet he and Lorena also harbor a sense of tradition about what Kendall's has meant to this community.

There will be changes, but they are minor ones. "Benito does have many years of experience as a cook," Lorena said, "and we will be incorporating our own twist of dishes in the form of specialties."

The only one that can be announced at this time is a 100-year-old secret recipe handed down from Lorena's family in Mexico for "Camarones ala Diablo," a shrimp dinner only "mildly spicy" that, from Benito's description, will surely be a mouth-watering winner throughout this desert region. The other notable change is that Kendall's will soon be open full time – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – with operating hours from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Stay tuned for the schedule.

"We hope everyone enjoys Kendall's," Lorena said, adding "and we look forward to serving a community that we have enjoyed for so many years."

So we Borregans can only wish the very best for the partnership of such hard working and friendly people like Benito and Lorena who, starting from humble beginnings, now have a very solid footing in one of life's greatest rewards – turning a dream into reality.

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