Guest Post: Taco Sal

T is for Taco Sal

Note: Alphaquerque is pleased to publish another Guest Post courtesy of Albuquerque’s own Julie James-Griego.  – The Mayor

“Hey Doll!” That’s what you’d hear every time anyone walked into a great little New Mexican food restaurant in the Northeast Heights. Growing up near this great place I always thought the sign to be festive and nostalgic. And over 50 years later it still is!

Owners Felix and Cecelia Gabaldon opened their first restaurant in Truth or Consequences, NM right after World War II. They then moved to Albuquerque with a location across from the hospital on Gibson. During the home building boom of the fifties and sixties they decided to move their restaurant to the newly developed Snowheights neighborhood.

Now Taco Sal is located on the northwest corner of Menaul and Eubank and across the street from the former Octopus Car Wash (of Breaking Bad fame.) The sign went up in 1963. The restaurant prospered for many years and was sold when Cecelia retired. Shortly afterwards her sister, Teresa and nephew, Gary opened a similar restaurant with all the same great menu items on San Antonio, Taco Shel. They don’t greet customers with “Hey Doll!” but they are super friendly and the food is fantastic.

Is there a more beautiful sight than the warm glow of neon against a beautiful Albuquerque sunset? I submit that there is not.

The Gabaldons had the sign designed and installed by Zeon Sign Company. The stylized calligraphic lettering was popular and used extensively during the time the sign was commissioned in the early sixties.

The current owners have maintained the sign beautifully. The colorful stripes must be periodically repainted and neon repaired and replaced. But the sign is a testament to the time it was made – cheerful, optimistic and bold. As well as a reflection of the owners. “Hey Doll!”

Editor’s note: If you love neon The eon Filessignage you’ll want to check out The Zeon Files: Art and Design of Historic Route 66 Signs. This history of signs past and present, written by Mark C. Childs and Ellen D. Babcock showcases decades of signage designed and fabricated by Albuquerque’s own Zeon Signs. It is a delightful document of local signage, wonderfully illustrated with photos and the original art mechanicals for many of the signs. It’s available here from UNM Press.

Julie James-Griego is a graphic designer, photographer, fine artist, real estate guru and now the first repeat offender in Alphaquerque history.

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