By Edita McQuary
On September 1, 2017 El Toro Bravo will celebrate 50 years of doing business at 123 Monterey Avenue in the Capitola Village. On September 5 at 11 a.m. the mayor of the City of Capitola will present a proclamation honoring El Toro Bravo as the oldest business still operating in Capitola Village. Current owners Kristie and Jon Baron are donating that day’s proceeds to Mid-County Soccer. They have been involved in and sponsored Mid-County Soccer teams throughout the years. The public is invited to stop by.
Kristie’s grandmother, Delia (Dee) Rey opened the restaurant on September 1, 1967 with the help of a friend who lent her the money to pay for six months’ rent. Dee was a single mom with four children (Raymond, Carmen, Annie and Michael) to support. If she was aware of the statistic that 59% of restaurant businesses fail in the first three years, she paid no attention to it.
Dee said, “It was rough at the beginning. The first takings were not too good and I barely made enough to buy rice and beans at the grocery store to cook the next day’s restaurant meals.” But by January 1968 she was making enough money to enable her to buy from purveyors who now came to her restaurant. Delia had worked in various local restaurant jobs at Tampico Kitchen, Delmarette, and Pasatiempo before she opened El Toro Bravo.
She is thankful for the many people who helped her get started. One of these was her former boss, Sam Nye, of Pasatiempo where she had worked as a waitress. Once a week he would bring a group of friends to Capitola and they always came in to El Toro Bravo for a delicious Mexican meal.
Delia’s family lived in Los Angeles, however she came to Santa Cruz for a job opportunity at Sylvania, but her first love was always food. Many of the authentic Mexican cuisine recipes at El Toro Bravo are from Delia’s mother.
Delia’s children, Raymond, Carmen, Annie and Michael all worked with her in the restaurant after school. She says she couldn’t have done it without her children who gave up their after-school playtime to work in the restaurant. All her children, as well as nephews, nieces, cousins worked in the restaurant and many still do.
Granddaughter Hillary Guzman was on duty this week. Hillary’s father and cousin operate the El Toro Bravo in Truckee, California. Speaking about her grandmother and her family, Hillary said, “My grandmother’s influence has been very great. We really love each other and care about each other. If we could be half the person she is, we’d be grateful.”
Known for its delicious Mexican food, cleanliness, and friendly service, El Toro Bravo is still a village restaurant where many residents and visitors bring their children and grandchildren. A couple from Merced asked to speak to the owner before leaving to say, “It’s the best enchilada sauce we’ve ever had.”
This unique family restaurant stands out as a great find and value for authentic Mexican cuisine in today’s world of corporate chain restaurants. They invite you to stop by whenever you are in the area. Domestic and imported beers are available to enhance your meal. Catering is available for all occasions. Check out their full menu online for appetizers, entrees, combinations and sides. They appreciate four to five days’ notice for catering to large groups.
Like most tourist areas, parking can be tricky. But if you don’t mind a walk, you may find a free neighborhood parking spot up the hill. There is an automated paid parking lot across the street with three hours parking.
Kristie Baron has created a website, www.eltorobravorestaurant.com, which has special offers as well as coupons for “Taco Tuesdays,” “Kids Eat Free on Tuesdays” and “Half-off Appetizer with a Meal Purchase.” Check it out.
El Toro Bravo is located at 123 Monterey Avenue and is open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Telephone: 831.476.1553, website www.eltorobravorestaurant.com.