Silvia Figueroa and the Red Onion are community staples

Silvia Figueroa and the Red Onion are community staples
Photos by Mike Kinney.

By Mike Kinney

Silvia Figueroa and her close friends run the popular, long-running Red Onion hamburger restaurant at 11900 San Pablo Ave. in El Cerrito, right across the street from the Home Depot. The line was long during our recent visit to pick up a cheeseburger, onion rings and chili with cheese.

Figueroa may be the owner, but she was busy taking orders that day, including those coming in by phone. As soon as she took one order, she’d announce another was ready for pickup. The food would then come fresh off the grill, explaining the aroma of homemade cooking.

“We cook our customers’ food so they will enjoy it and keep coming back,” Figueroa says simply.

Figueroa, a Pinole resident and native of Hibbalgo, Mexico, along with the Red Onion, are community staples. She worked at Red Onion for 10 years before becoming owner 17 years ago. The community has gotten to know her and her restaurants well. She also has a second Red Onion location in Concord. 

“I have proudly been serving food here for 27 years,” she said.

Her close friends, Arturo Ramirez and his wife Angie Jimenez, are responsible for cooking on the grill. Customer reviews laud the traditional diner experience offering a classic burger. The day we visited, customer Bob Linsey of Orinda went another route, ordering the chicken breast sandwich, French fries, onion rings and chocolate shake.

“It’s worth the drive,” he said.

On Google, Red Onion’s El Cerrito location scored a 4.5 out of 5 stars out of nearly 700 reviews from visitors and travelers alike. One visitor from Indiana remarked it may have been his best cheeseburger to date.

Another reviewer added, “Silvia who owns and is present at the Red Onion is a champ in griddle-food realm. She has good help and burgers especially are excellent. But it’s also easy to get a solid breakfast there too.”

There are many reasons customers feel special here. One of them is Figueroa offers her customers a free meal on her birthday, as long as they can show proof with an ID.

Red Onion opens 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily.