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El Rey Restaurant: Everyone’s Favorite Haunt

Servando “Van” Cueva

By Jamie Reno | Photography by Sergio Hernandez

Speaking of someone who appreciates life in the valley, longtime Pauma resident Servando “Van” Cueva landed his first job as a dishwasher more than 40 years ago at what is now known as El Rey Restaurant.

But Cueva didn’t plan to wash dishes forever. He had a vision for his future. Slowly but surely, Cueva climbed the ladder, becoming a cook, then waiter,

then bartender.

In 1994, he’d saved enough money to buy the market that adjoins the restaurant. In 2002, Cueva was able to purchase the newly renamed El Rey Restaurant from previous owner Peg Henry (some longtime Pauma locals still call it “Peg’s”).

Cueva carried on Peg’s long tradition. The El Rey has become easily the most popular spot for Pauma locals to eat and congregate, largely because of the popularity of Van, who knows your name and pays close attention to all of his customers.

“Everyone comes here now,” says Mike Fitzsimmons, a well-known Pauma Valley Realtor. “Van is a very smart and personable guy, and he’s truly dedicated to his customers and this community.”

If you spend any quality time in Pauma Valley, you will eventually end up at the El Rey, which is to Pauma Valley what Carlee’s is to Borrego Springs: the place to chill, regardless of income or ethnic roots.

El Rey Restaurant: Everyone’s Favorite Haunt

Servando “Van” Cueva

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