Conquistador: Back from the fire without “El”

Owners Jose and Juana Mora in nicely decorated atrium-like dining area.

Photo by Ted Escobar
Owners Jose and Juana Mora in nicely decorated atrium-like dining area.


Jose’s parents, Socorro and Tiburcio start to prepare meat last Friday for a catering job on Saturday.

— It was the worst of times for the Mora family when the El Conquistador Restaurant in Sunnyside burned in 2011.

It’s best of times now, with the new restaurant Conquistador at the Mini Mall at 214 S. Sixth St. humming along smoothly.

It is better appointed, more colorful and spacious. One section, with skylights, brightens the entire place in daytime.

At night-time owner Jose Mora illuminates the place with his smile. His father, Tiburcio, chips in, day or night, with his sense of humor.

“I am content,” Jose Mora said. “Things are going very well.”

Some things changed after the fire. The most significant change was a swap of positions between dad and son.

After the El Conquistador burned, Tiburcio shut down the business and decided to retire.

“That’s why I changed the name to Conquistador, because dad retired, and I wanted people to know this is a new business.”

But Tiburcio never left. He works for Jose now. So does Socorro, Jose’s mother.

Tiburcio will probably never leave completely. Father and son have worked side-by-side from the first day Jose could work.

“We are a hand-me-down family,” Jose said. “My grandfather was a meat cutter, my father was a meat cutter, and I’m a meat cutter.”

The first job Jose got in America was at a restaurant in Seattle, Torrero’s, washing dishes in 1984. His dad was right there, also doing dishes.

“That’s where I started to cook,” Jose said.

Dad and son stayed there 7-8 years then went down to Cottage Grove, Ore. to help a cousin open a restaurant. Then they moved on to Crescent City, Calif. where dad partnered with a cousin for nine months.

“You how it is sometimes with family, you can’t see eye-to-eye,” Jose said. “We sold the restaurant, and it stayed with the cousin.”

At about that time, father and son heard of a possibility in Sunnyside. In 1994 they opened El Conquistador on Edison Avenue. It became very popular.

Before that, Jose had an American food restaurant on the Yakima Valley Highway. One day, a young woman by the name of Juana Sanches, a graduate of Sunnyside High came asking for job.

Jose hired her, and they’ve been working side-by-side ever since. Jose said the sparks started to fly sometime between one and two years.

Juana (Mora now) is a server and manages the serving staff.

There are 10 employees at Conquistador. Most are family. There are Tiburcio and Socorro. There are Jose and Juana. There are two of Jose’s sisters. And Jose and Juana’s son and daughter also help out.

In addition to the restaurant, there is catering component to the Mora business. It’s busy just about every weekend in places as far away as Spokane and Portland, Ore.

“We have two nice vans equipped specially for that,” Jose said. “Sometimes we do what are called taquizas, or tacos only events.”

Whatever they do, the Moras do it together.


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