18 Mar 2024

Transition:

Henry Mendoza has died

La Plaza’s outdoor seating area during the summer of 2020. It’s safe to say that this was a welcome haven for many a Capitol Hill neighbor during a dark time. Photo by Maria Helena Carey

This post has been updated.

We woke up to messages from the community letting us know that Henry Mendoza, 52, owner of the popular and beloved Salvadoran and Tex-Mex restaurant La Plaza, has died. Henry, who was visiting his native San Miguel in eastern El Salvador, passed away yesterday, March 17, in the early afternoon. According to one of his staff members, Christian, Henry ––who was very fond of soccer–– suffered a fatal heart attack while playing a game. He passed away in the field. He leaves behind an eight-year old son and a thirteen-year old daughter, as well as his brother, Carlos, who worked with him at La Plaza. Henry’s family has gathered back in El Salvador to mourn and celebrate him.

Henry’s La Plaza has been a gathering spot for about 20 years, thanks to Henry’s affability and generosity. He started off his hospitality career at La Loma, where he was a valued team member. Another restaurant, Mi Vecindad, operated in the space at the corner of 12th and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, about 14 years ago but did not thrive. La Plaza is open during major holidays too, always welcoming locals and visitors on Christmas and Thanksgiving. During the pandemic, Henry refused to pay himself a salary, making sure that his whole staff was paid and remained with him during the COVID emergency. Neighbor Libby Quaid remembers that Henry, who also refused to do food delivery apps during the pandemic, “if you ordered, it would be Henry bringing it to your door.”

At this time, there seem to be no plans for a service; however, Christian said that Henry would not have agreed to close in order to be mourned. Instead, if you’d like to pay your respects to Henry, swing by La Plaza today, 629 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, and raise a glass to a community pillar.

Andrés Mendoza, a family member, has set up a GoFundMe to help with funeral expenses. Donate here.


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2 responses to “Henry Mendoza has died”

  1. As his former sister in law I helped Henry come to this country when he was 14 years old and can tell you that he was one of the hardest working and charismatic individuals that I have ever known. Henry was fleeing the civil war in El Salvador. Henry would literally give you the shirt off his back if you were cold and a meal if you were hungry. He helped countless friends and family members. Henry worked hard and gave back to the community. I will miss him dearly and so will the rest of our family. Margarita Dilone, Andy & Irma Mendoza & Raquel Duran

  2. Anonymous says:

    I was Henry’s grandson i cried during his funeral he was a caring loving person and i loved him very much let him rest in peace 😭

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