Ezekiel Villa, a U.S. Air Force veteran, and his wife Consuela opened south Toledo staple, El Típico in 1968. Today, their daughter and now owner, Dina, carries on her parent’s tradition, maintaining her mother’s recipes while espousing her philosophy of healthy, fresh food.
A fresh start
“My mother was a lifetime gardener who served healthy food made with fresh ingredients. Things have changed since her time, with more chemicals in food today, so fresh meat and produce doesn’t always mean healthy,” explained Dina. “Five years ago, I made the decision to switch to organic. Now, we only serve antibiotic and hormone-free meats, organic vegetables and herbs from our garden and local farms.”
The enhanced taste was obvious, beginning with the beyond-basic chips and salsa— freshly-fried tostaditas with a house-made, mild salsa that sung with the flavor of fresh tomato.
Two things stand out immediately at El Tipico: first, they willingly accommodate patrons with special dietary needs. Most of the menu items are gluten-free, and most can be made vegan or vegetarian. Second, El Típico is alcohol-free, a decision made by Consuela, who claimed that alcohol distracts the palette (a point difficult to disagree with).
Clean plate club / limpiar club de la placa
We began with the Five Layer Fiesta Dip, a magnificent mountain of rice, refried beans, guacamole, pico de gallo and incredibly fresh sour cream. We ate silently and feverishly.
Among the dinner options is an offering somewhat rare in NW Ohio: Chicken Mole (mo-lay), a savory stew built in a sweet, spicy sauce of cocoa, cinnamon, chili peppers, nuts, fruit and other spices. The dish, tender and complex, was served with Mexican rice and refried beans. For vegans and vegetarians, El Tipico offers a meat-free option of mole enchiladas.
The menu demonstrated variety with a la carte items, such as a GLT (guacamole, lettuce and tomato) burrito topped with melted organic cheese; a simple taco made with refried beans and topped with cheese, lettuce and a thick slice of a dark red, organic tomato; an enchilada made with beans and Chile Ancho, a red sauce with a smoky, deep flavor; and vegetarian tamales, masa (a corn meal paste) filled with refried beans and steamed in a corn husk.
All in the family
Pleasantly surprised by the prices— all a la carte items are under $4— Dina explained how an organic kitchen keeps the cost so low: “Some customers are very concerned with staying 100% organic, and I want to provide for them,” said Dina. “But not everyone can afford that. It’s important for us to maintain our philosophy and keep costs as low as possible for the neighborhood.”
Balancing their mission with their role in the community is a family tradition. In the back of the restaurant, Dina keeps a garden, just like her mother did, using produce and herbs in the kitchen, but also including raspberries, gooseberries, apples and other produce for the neighbors to pick and enjoy.
“It’s our belief that if you wouldn’t serve something to someone you love, you shouldn’t serve it to anyone,” said Dina. “I think of my son when I prepare food, just like my parents thought of me.”
11am-3pm & 5-9pm, Tuesday-Friday.
1444 South Ave., 419-382-0661.