El Charro

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El Charro Mexican Foods was the first full-service Mexican restaurant in Alabama. It was located at 1118 3rd Avenue West, a site selected with guidance from the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. It opened on June 18, 1949 and closed on the same day, 49 years later, in 1998.

The restaurant was owned by Melvin and Virgie Spears with their daughter, Theresa and her husband, Charles Collins. The Collinses' sons, Charles, Jr, Brian and Neil also worked there as teenagers.

They had the dining rooms decorated with murals depicting Mexican village life and the Aztec calendar. The rear dining room's murals, previously damaged by water, were covered over during remodeling in the 1970s. A 1993 arson forced the restaurant to close while the building was restored. The business closed after the Spearses retired in 1998.


  • Communication from Brian Collins (July 29, 2014)