New look: South Toledo eatery to reopen after remodelWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
El Tipico, open since 1968, is more than just her family’s restaurant to Dina Villa Nostrant — it’s home to her, her customers and memories of her late mother.
“We get people who have been here all 44 years and new people coming off the streets. And to us, this is our home. This is where I grew up,” she said.
What is now Toledo’s oldest Mexican restaurant closed for remodeling in January and is set to reopen in mid-July.
“We closed in January to do a small remodel and it has turned into a very large remodel,” Nostrant said. Originally, Nostrant planned to just make the bathrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but went further with the addition of booths, a parking lot, revamped décor and the restoration of the vegetable garden. The restaurant, which seats about 60, is still the same size, but a patio may be added by fall and four new employees could also be hired.
“My husband decided, ‘Let’s do more in memory of your mom,’ and how could I say no?” Nostrant said.
Nostrant’s parents Consuelo and Ezekiel Villa started their restaurant after moving to the Glass City from San Antonio in the ’60s. Ezekiel was an Air Force recruiter at the time and the family didn’t expect Toledo to end up being their long-term home.
“My mother thought, ‘I’ll just open up a little taco stand while you’re working,’ because she was bored and my brother and I were at school,” Nostrant said. “It was supposed to be just temporary. It ended up being a lifelong history here.”
Although she has always been involved in the eatery in some form, Nostrant took over the restaurant from her brother Francisco about three and a half years ago. Her mother Consuelo died nearly four years ago and still largely inspires the business.
“We’re trying really hard to go and make sure we can stay with everything she believed in. … With her, it has to be clean, fresh and keep it simple,” Nostrant said.
Consuelo grew many ingredients in her vegetable garden behind the restaurant, an idea Nostrant plans to resurrect. “Really, since my mother went home to heaven, the garden hasn’t been touched. We have now tilled the ground and are going to plant again so there’ll be plenty of tomatoes, jalapenos and bell peppers,” she said. In addition to garlic, chives and onions, the garden also contains cherry, apricot and peach trees. Customers will be welcome to take vegetables and fruits from the garden home.
It’s touches like these that keep customers coming back for years. Joe Balderas remembers taking his wife, who was pregnant with his now 29-year-old daughter, to El Tipico.
“[The owners] are friends, you know. If it’s not busy, Dina, her dad, her brother, whoever would sit down with us and tell jokes,” said Balderas, who loves El Tipico’s enchiladas.
“They make the best enchiladas. In fact, I haven’t had enchiladas better than them anywhere, including Mexico,” he said.
Nostrant said she plans to keep customer favorites like enchiladas on the menu in addition to adding new items like fish tacos, shrimp, pork and Mexican-style hamburgers and chicken sandwiches. The restaurant will continue to serve its signature four salsas with chips, she added.
“I can’t change it too much because we have too many loyal customers who keep writing in and saying we miss our No. 3, we miss our No. 12,” Nostrant said.
Food, after all, is the star at El Tipico, which does not serve alcohol. “After you have a few drinks, you really don’t care what you’re eating. And my mom, it kind of hurt her feelings because she put her heart into the food,” Nostrant said.
The new décor still incorporates the Villa family with a case full of pictures where customers can look at a photo of 14-year-old Ezekiel, the youngest person to ever enter the Air Force, Nostrant said.
Nostrant, who was an interior designer for more than 15 years, also incorporated her own touches with warm hues, metallic accents in the foyer and several pieces from local artists, including glass lamps.
“I know [the word] bistro’s French, but it feels like a Mexican bistro,” Nostrant said of the new décor.
El Tipico is located at 1444 South Ave., Toledo. For more information and to learn about reopening specials, visit www.facebook.com/eltipicotoledo. Once reopened, hours will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday.