If you want to know what’s happening in Toledo’s Mexican food scene, look no further than Carlos Qué Pasa, the fourth addition to the Mendez family restaurant resumé. After a successful soft opening in early December, the restaurant plans to hold its grand opening with the full menu shortly after Valentine’s Day. Quick service, fresh ingredients and healthy options make it a place where all dietary needs are satisfied with something delicious.
Looking to the future
Jose Carlos Mendez and his family own two Cocina de Carlos locations (in Perrysburg and Waterville) and Poco Loco downtown. This new restaurant’s approach is to offer convenient, street style service for those in a hurry, as well as a welcoming place for people to spend time. The upstairs seating area is ideal for a relaxing meal, to spend time sipping horchata, or catching up on work.
Currently, Mendez offers about two-thirds of the eventual menu with plans to add dishes hard to find in this area, as well as vegetarian and vegan options that maintain authenticity.
“We’ll have some really new things for Toledo,” Mendez says. “For example, I’m working with pork stomach, which is very popular in Mexico. There are a lot of foodies in Toledo who want to try new things.”
One thing Carlos Qué Pasa is doing that you won’t find elsewhere: making corn tortillas with a mixture of cactus and spinach. Because corn tortillas fall apart so easily, tacos can get messy. That’s what inspired Mendez’s wife to create the special recipe, which gives the tortillas a slightly green hue. “The moisture from the cactus works like a glue,” says Mendez, adding that cactus is a big part of Mexican cuisine, so it stands to reason that it would be part of the solution here.
La Comida Deliciosa
Walking into Carlos Qué Pasa, we were met with the smell of freshly made tortillas and sampled one right off the grill. The barbacoa with avocado was fresh with generous portions, but the real star of the show for us were the chorizo pork tacos, topped with medium salsa, cilantro, and fresh lime juice (all from the self-serve cold bar). The chorizo is perhaps spicier than most, so you’ll want to wash it down with one of Carlos Que Pasa’s fresh juices or teas, which vary daily. We chose the tart, citrusy maracuya made from the Brazilian passion fruit, and guanábana, a sweet juice made from soursop fruit.
Also available are healthy alternatives to classic favorites. The pork tamales didn’t disappoint, but we also opted for the vegan cheese and jalapeño pepper tamale. The peppers, thinly cut strips with a mild kick, provided balance to the subtle taste of the dairy-free cheese, which was surprisingly flavorful.
Mendez marries tradition with an eye toward the future. For him, this means sustainable practices (no dishwasher, few chemicals for cleaning, and compostable food containers) and fresh, natural ingredients.
“Each of our restaurants is different in its atmosphere, experience, and unique dishes,” he adds. “I’ve learned how to eat healthy, so I’ve turned that experience into what we have at Carlos Qué Pasa.”
11am-9pm daily. Will stay open later after the grand opening. 3137 Central Ave. | 419-214-9323 | carlosquepasa.com