El Tipico Restaurant goes back to its grass roots

By Chris Galford

What El Tipico can’t grow itself, it buys local, in an effort to guarantee its menu stays green.

What El Tipico can’t grow itself, it buys local, in an effort to guarantee its menu stays green.

Sometimes it takes a dark moment to be the catalyst for new light. For Dina Villa, owner of El Tipico restaurant, the shadow came in the form of breast cancer. Yet this discovery would kick off a chain of events which led to discovery, change and a return to the “green” way of life in her restaurant.

El Tipico is the oldest Mexican restaurant in the city of Toledo — a staple of the area since 1968. It was founded by Dina’s mother and father, who ran El Tipico under a few core principles according to Dina, the most important of which was this: the ingredients had to be fresh. To that end, they maintained their own garden in back and flooded their kitchen with their personal recipes.

For years, Dina thought she was maintaining this goal. After her brush with breast cancer set her researching, she discovered the prevalence of preservatives and GMOs in grocery stores by the FDA’s own allowance — the restaurant’s primary suppliers in the colder months.

“We thought it was fresh and it wasn’t. That upset me, so I went ahead and eight months ago transitioned into organic. It’s taken a lot of dedication, a lot of research, going to a lot of different vendors and farmers, but now our food is chemical free. Our beef is grass-fed, antibiotic- and hormone-free, our chicken as well. Our vegetables are our own,” Dina said.

What they don’t grow — which is saying a lot, since Dina’s garden contains everything from jalapenos to berries and herbs — they buy from local farms and co-ops, where they can guarantee quality control. All this has also allowed the restaurant another distinction.

“We are the only non-chain Mexican restaurant in Toledo which is completely organic and fresh,” Dina said.

The change also means that participants in the upcoming October 11 taco eating contest will be undertaking an organic treat, with the $15 registration fees going to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Show your support for local businesses! Call Dina at 419-382-0661; email at eltipicotoledo@yahoo.com; visit the website at http://eltipicotoledo.net; or visit El Tipico Restaurant at 1444 South Ave., Toledo, Ohio.