Marisco Mexicano from El Tipico.
In the background is a puffed taco and flautas and in the foreground shredded chicken Quesadilla from El Tipico.
In 2002, Ezekiel Villa said “If you have good food, a clean place, and service, they’ll come back to you.” And Toledo keeps coming back to El Tipico Restaurant, 1444 South Ave.
Staying true to those principles are credited to the South Toledo restaurant’s success in holding a strong customer base during a time when chain restaurants were crowding Toledo’s locally owned Mexican restaurant market. His recipe for success held true when he and his wife, Consuelo, now deceased, opened the restaurant in 1968, and still holds true today.
Suburbanites, El Tipico is worth traveling south of the border, eh hem, I mean to South Toledo. It was a cold week when we visited for lunch, but once inside the restaurant we felt as though a cabana boy was just a whistle away, waiting to refresh our drinks, serve us fresh fruits, fish, and surprising flavors that make Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes hot, hot, hot.
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The restaurant was remodeled several years ago, and honors Ezekiel’s service in the U.S. Air Force with a photo wall. He still lives in the neighborhood.
Dina, the Villa’s daughter, treats every customer as a friend. She said her mother made a conscious decision not to serve alcohol because drinking numbs the palate and Consuelo wanted customers to be solely entertained by the pleasures of the food and its flavors.
With a selection of memorable non-dairy frozen homemade concoctions such as milky sweet Horchata ($3.25), spiked with cinnamon and zingy lemonade ($2.75) made with freshly squeezed citrus, and strawberry, you’ll be saying “alcohol who?”
It also imports bottled (yes, in the glass) soft drinks from Mexico. The Coca-Cola ($2) is “like the ones you remember from when you were a child,” since it it is made with sugar, our informative waitress said.
The restaurant offers a children’s menu, a couple breakfast items, and a full breakfast menu on Saturday; vegetarian and gluten free options denoted with a V and GF. It also also uses organic meats and vegetables.
If your stomach churns at the thought of gluten, take comfort in knowing that El Tipico does not thicken sauces or gravies with flour and offers corn and rice tortillas shells and corn tostada chips.
★ ★ ★ ★
Address: 1444 South Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Wheelchair access: Yes
Average price: $ $
Credit cards: AE, Dis, MC, V
Web site: eltipicotoledo.net
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Outstanding; ★ ★ ★ ★ Very Good; ★ ★ ★ Good; ★ ★ Fair; ★ Poor.
Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants. The Blade pays for critics’ meals.
At lunch, we appreciated the cup of fresh salsa that used local chopped tomatoes to embellish the corn Tostaditas that were not overly salted and pleasantly “crunched” in our mouths.
With so many food choices we decided to get the most out of an appetizer with the Sample Platter ($16) that placed three favorites on one plate: Chile con Queso, pieces of green peppers floating on a cloud of white cheese, Chorizo Bean Dip, a blend of beans and chorizo sausage served in a cup that had a crust of melted cheese, and Beef Quesadilla. It also included Spicy Chicken, chunks of white chicken coated in a blend of spices.
I have been searching for a real -- not from the bottle -- mole sauce in Toledo, and I finally found it at El Tipico. The Chicken Mole ($13) served in a clay pot, was a fiesta of flavors. Sugar, chocolate, cinnamon, and other delights kept my taste buds on their toes. I also ordered a side of the Papas Mexicanas ($4.50), cubes of potatoes tossed in cilantro, onions, and tomatoes. Also available as individual orders are tacos: soft shell, hard shell and a puffed shell that is deep fried for a crispy outside and soft inside. Each taco is served brimming with green chopped lettuce, slices of juicy tomatoes, and showered with cheese. Prices vary depending on the filling, which ranges from ground beef, shredded chicken, refried beans, beef tips, grilled steak, barbacoa, shrimp or fish.
A friend ordered a chicken Tamale ($2.50), a corn husk filled with corn masa and shredded chicken, gently steamed, and then topped with a light gravy.
When we returned for dinner on a Saturday night the restaurant was packed. We had the same attentive waitress and began the meal with a favorite dip, Chile con Queso. This time we brought it up a notch adding chicken ($8). We also ordered a small side of Guacamole ($6). It was a green plate of freshness, but lacked flavor and I found it to be dull.
I decided to be brave and order a cup of the Menudo soup ($7), bits of tripe with tender hominy, onions and served with a large lemon strip. It was rich broth, but I couldn’t stomach the tripe. I enjoyed the texture, but was put off by the intense smell.
A friend kept it light with the Low Carb Mexicana ($13), which was a basic shredded chicken and marinated beef dish minus all the starchy options. Another friend ordered the Chile Relleno Dinner ($13), a large poblano pepper stuffed with queso and chicken. The pepper is then dipped in egg batter and topped with a “wonderful mild” salsa verde. A third friend gobbled the Puffed Taco ($3.75) and large flour Quesadilla ($7.25) brimming with cheese and shredded chicken.
The waitress said the Marisco Mexicano ($15) was one of her favorite dishes. You can choose fish or shrimp. I followed her suggestion and chose the shrimp. I am glad I did. Grilled shrimp was served on a bed of its signature rice. It is served with homemade barbecue sauce and a habanero mango sauce, that perfectly married the sweet and hot of each main ingredient.
Sweet Chimi filled with cheesecake and chocolate brownie from El Tipico.
While we pondered dessert, Dina befriended our table. She spoke of the garden and fruit trees the restaurant uses for fresh ingredients. It was originally planted by her mother. Her mother would share the garden’s bounty with the community, a practice Dina still upholds today.
While a friend took a tour of the grounds with Dina, we tore into dessert like a pack of wolves. When she returned there was no evidence left of the Mexican sweets. The Bunuelo Cup ($8) was a small bowl of happiness. It contained a bottom coating of honey and cinnamon, followed by scoops of luscious vanilla ice cream that had ribbons of mixed berries and whipped cream.
The waitress surprised us by choosing the rich ingredients to fill the most wanted Sweet Chimi ($13). A gooey cheesecake and brownie chocolate filling was stuffed into a warm tortilla, that was adorned with ice cream and ribbons of sweet whipped cream.
El Tipico left us happy, full, and dreaming to return to South Toledo for a celebration of the senses.
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