Tracing Tracy Territory: Longtime restaurant to become new ale house
by Sam Matthews
Apr 19, 2013 | 10284 views | 9 9 comments | 245 245 recommendations | email to a friend | print
El Castillo to close
Ray Morelos and his wife, Josephine, hold a photo of the early days of El Castillo Café Mexican Restaurant in the 1950s in the dining room on Wednesday, April 17. The Moreloses have decided to close the restaurant at 600 Central Ave., which has been run by their families since it opened.   Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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A major change is about to alter the face of the developing restaurant and entertainment scene anchored at the corner of Sixth Street and Central Avenue.

At the same corner, El Castillo Mexican Restaurant, a Tracy culinary mainstay since 1956 and our town’s oldest family-owned restaurant, will soon close its doors, and a new version of Helm’s Ale House will take its place.

Ray and Josephine Morelos, owners and operators of El Castillo for more than half of the restaurant’s 57 years of existence, plan to retire after closing the restaurant as soon as sometime next month.

What will replace El Castillo at the historic corner — once home of Charlie Clark’s Terminal Grill — is close to being finalized.

Dave Helm, who operated Helm’s Ale House at the corner 10th and Central for more than two years, said he is working out details of a lease agreement with the Cose family, which owns the building, to take over the corner location for a restaurant and full bar.

Helm was forced to close his original ale house in October 2011 after the building he rented was ordered vacated because of structural deficiencies and safety issues. It remains empty to this day.

El Castillo was founded in 1956 by Francisco and Paula Cisneroz, parents of Josephine “Josie” Morelos. The parents ended lives as migrant farm workers to settle in Tracy and open the restaurant on Central Avenue

“I was 10 years old when my family opened the restaurant,” Josie said. “I started helping my mother in the kitchen, and that’s when I started learning how to cook.”

She has continued for more than a half-century as El Castillo’s main cook.

The restaurant has offered a variety of Mexican dishes based on the fare of the Cisneroz family’s hometown of Morelia, Mexico.

“One of the dishes that has been a favorite of our customers is chile rellenos,” Ray reported. “We use light Anaheim peppers stuffed with cheese and fried in batter. They have more flavor than chile rellenos made with other varieties of peppers.”

After it was originally located at 623 Central Ave., El Castillo was moved in 1979 to larger quarters at the southeast corner of Ninth Street and Central Avenue.

Then it was located on Grant Line Road for nine years before it returned in 2001 to Tracy’s downtown at Sixth and Central.

“We wanted to get back downtown were we started,” Ray said. “After we took possession of the building, we did extensive remodeling to create a restaurant with 75 seats and a full bar.”

In addition to serving regular customers, El Castillo hosted a number of community organizations and was honored by the Tracy Hispanic Business Group.

Morelos, who served on the City Council, said he plans to stay active in the community.

He was 2012 chairman of the Tracy Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, served as president of the South Side Community Organization and has been active in the Tracy Hispanic Business Group and the Tracy City Center Association.

A Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, Morelos is a member of the American Legion and VFW.

Helm said he hoped to be in business at the Sixth and Central location by June 1.

“We will do some minor remodeling, but the location is already well-equipped with a kitchen and bar,” he said. “And there is outdoor seating, a real plus.”

As he did at his original location, he plans to offer an array of craft beers. But the new Helm’s Ale House will also have a full bar to augment a restaurant that will be open for lunch and dinner.

“Within two blocks, there will be five restaurants in the vicinity of the new downtown plaza and restored Grand Theatre,” Helm said. “It will be a great place for our kind of business. I’m anxious to get going as soon as possible.”

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at
Comments-icon Post a Comment
May 22, 2013
In reply to "victor_jm:"

Yes, "this city is inundated with Mexican eateries," to say we don't need another one you'd need to be extra specific. Every mexican eatery is not the same. Moreover, I'm sure you're referring to the many taquerias and carnecerias in town. I think Tracy could use a lavish family oriented mexican restaurant with authentic homemade cuisine. El Castillo was recognized as being far different from a taqueria. It was a dine-in restaurant with a family atmosphere that attracted for numerous years delightful and congenial customers.

Best of luck to Helm's Ale House with much success!
April 25, 2013
Hurray !!! I've been very anxiously waiting for Helm's Ale House to find a spot to re-open!! I dearly miss my Chimay beer !! Congrats to everyone for a perfect transition. I can't wait for June !
April 19, 2013
Question to lastword. Did you really mean to come off like a racist? Jeez!
April 23, 2013
Comment for Lastword:

This city is inundated with Mexican eateries. We don't need another one. An ale house would be nice at this location. I did enjoy my experiences at the previous Helm's location, but I do request the owner and staff take their smoking farther from the front door. I actually prefer my social experiences aren't affected by smokers. Sorry, smokers stink.
April 19, 2013
This has to be the best news I received this whole month. I have dearly missed Helm's Ale House since it closed due to structural issues. Dave Helm ran a classy joint and served several interesting and tasty microbrews and ales. The food was very good and the service was excellant. And Dave entertained his visitors with war stories from his law enforcement days. It was my home away from home (I was a fan of Cheers). It was a place you could take your family to or just hang out. Congradulations for my friend Dale Cose in brining in Helms Ale House!
April 19, 2013
I am looking forward to trying out Helms...never been there.
April 19, 2013
This is the best news ever. Sad to see one of my favorite Mexican restaurants go, but I couldn't ask for a better replacement. Welcome back, Dave, I've missed your crazy beer concoctions more than you can imagine.

Facebook users, you can find the Helm's Ale House page right here:

See you on opening day my friend!
April 19, 2013
That's the Saddest news in long time.

That is not a good replacement for That building nor that area.

Helm is only complain about who is hanging around the plaza, complain about the people living directly across the Tracks, or the surrounding area.

Its only appropriate that another Mexican fine dining restaurant replace el castillos. Keep that helms away from sixth street.

April 22, 2013
I have the utmost respect for the Morelos Family, and have had many a fine meal there. Alot of folks will miss them and I wish them good luck. Helm's is perfect for that area, and if he keeps the riff-raff away so be it.

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