Josie Torres Quarnburg

Mexican staples refried beans and tortillas were served alongside turkey for Thanksgiving dinners served by Josie Torres Quarnburg’s parents when she was growing up. “We never had a green been casserole until maybe 20 years ago,” said Quarnburg, who is the chef at Torres Cafe.

JAMES WOODCOCK/Gazette Staff

Quarnburg, owner/chef of Torres Café, 6500 Frontage Road, said when she grew up in Billings, her parents often served Mexican dishes for Thanksgiving dinner.

“We’d do turkey, maybe a turkey mole. We’d have our refried beans, rice, chili, and tortillas. We never had a green been casserole until maybe 20 years ago.”

Quarnburg’s parents, who are deceased, founded Torres in 1953 and the restaurant is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

“My mom, Herminia, was from Mexico and my dad, Urbano, was from Texas. My mom worked at the different restaurants and my dad worked on farms. They originally opened Torres on Minnesota Avenue next to where the Standard Bar was. We were there during the heyday of Skid Row.”

Thanksgiving wasn’t a big deal for the Torres family until Quarnburg learned how to roast a turkey when she was in home economics class at Senior High School. She said her mom wasn’t fond of the cooking program because she thought girls should learn to cook at home from their mothers.

“I learned to make a pie crust, which was the hardest thing I ever made because we were used to making tortillas,” Quarnburg said.

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