Bay Area community steps in to save beloved cheesesteak joint Sonia’s Kitchen

SAN JOSE, CA —  Brandon Moreno and Alex Retodo, former roommates during their days at San Jose State University, walked down the same path from their old apartment to one of their favorite restaurants, Sonia’s Kitchen.

87-year-old Filipina owner Elpidia Barrera and her son Ray have been serving the community for over 25 years.

“Everyone in this neighborhood if you were alumni from the ’80s, ’90s, Sonia’s is the place. It just had that magic, that Filipino love not because of the food but from the heart. That’s what they shared.”

But due to the coronavirus pandemic — Sonia’s Kitchen lost many of its customers due to the stay at home order and was struggling to stay afloat.

Moreno, who still lives in the area, took notice and decided to help.

“I sent out emails to everyone that I knew that was part of our Filipino community at San Jose state, an email to show our local spot needs some help. Even though most of them don’t live here anymore, probably 95% don’t, they don’t forget this place.”

Sure enough, Sonia’s Kitchen saw an influx of people — which consisted of alumni and also brand new customers, who wanted to try these much talked about cheesesteaks.

“I was surprised because all his friends are coming. They say oh we know Brandon. We went to school with him. Now they all call me auntie. I said wow, I have a lot of relatives now,” said Elpidia Barrera.

After years of cooking up cheesesteaks, burgers, and sandwiches for countless of students and neighbors — Barrera said she still enjoys her work.

“It’s so good. I appreciate everything, people coming here. And I thank god for keeping me alive. Every day is so nice. I am able to get up and go to work.”

Sonia’s Kitchen will be approaching its 30th anniversary next year, which keeps these supporters motivated to help keep the restaurant open for many more years to come.

Let’s just all get behind this and support this business not only because it’s Filipino-ran but it’s good stuff and a place like this we need them to stay open forever. This place is a gem that everybody needs to enjoy.”

Retodo, who is also the owner of the Lumpia Company, said he will be making a special cheesesteak lumpia with proceeds going towards Sonia’s Kitchen.

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