The search for "Toledo's Best Guacamole" sent me all over the city to find locally owned Mexican restaurants.
It was a "challenge" that became a "quest" and ended up as a full scale "caper". I spent two lunches and one whirlwind afternoon hunting for Mexican restaurants around the Toledo area. Nothing could stop me: not my poor sense of geography, not the fear of consuming over 5,000 calories of guacamole in 24 hours, not the strength of the margaritas, nor the redundancy of eating nine plates of guacamole. Nothing and no one could keep me from my irrational search for the perfect guacamole.
For the uninitiated, guacamole has its roots in the Aztec culture of Mexico which flourished from about 1428-1521 A.D. At that time, the avocados were mashed with a mortal and pestle called "molcajete". The earliest known recipes contained chopped tomatoes and salt. The word “guacamole” comes from a native dialect from Central Mexico. The literal translation is "avocado sauce". Over time, recipes evolved and changed so that guacamole recipes are as unique as the chef or home cook who prepares them.
With this in mind, I began my tasting experience by comparing ingredients, texture, and flavor. Every restaurant was gracious enough to give me a list of ingredients. Frank Villa of El Tipico went so far as to give me an enchanting lesson in purchasing a perfect avocado and demonstrate the proper technique for making authentic guacamole.
The ten finalists and three winners represent the full geography of our community and the diverse backgrounds of the owners of each establishment. Prices for guacamole appetizers are all priced between $1.95 and $4.95 depending on if it is served as a 2oz condiment or a full appetizer.
The Glass City Gourmet Guacamole Champions:
1. El Tipico (1444 S. Avenue - S. Toledo) - Winner of the most authentic and traditional guacamole
2. Mi Hacienda (Glanzman - S. Toledo) - Winner of the best "homestyle chunky" guac and best presentation.
3. Pepe's (Sylvania Avenue - W. Toledo) - Winner of the gourmet "Guacamole Nuevo"
Other finalists (in alphabetical order):
Casa Baron (209 Louisiana Avenue - Perrysburg)
Carmel's (2947 Tremainsville - W. Toledo)
Dos Hermanos (1705 S. Wheeling - Oregon)
El Camino Real (2500 W. Sylvania Avenue - W. Toledo)
El Nuevo Vallarta (3330 W. Central Avenue - Toledo)
Loma Linda's (10400 Airport Highway - Swanton)
Ventura's (7742 W.Bancroft - Toledo)
If you like a mild, smooth and creamy guacamole head to Casa Baron, Dos Hermanos, El Camino, El Nuevo Vallarta, or El Tipico. These recipes all contain avocado, chopped tomato and salt. Dos Hermanos and El Nuevo Vallarta also add a little cilantro for extra flavor while Casa Baron's version has a black pepper kick.
If you like a chunky guacamole with small pieces of avocado still in the mix, Carmel's, Loma Linda, Mi Hacienda, Pepe's, and Ventura's will give you what you're after. Pepe's wins special honors for it's unique recipe that includes avocado, chopped tomato and onion, a bit of garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and both salt & pepper. The addition of garlic is a European twist I suspect came from Becky and John Skiadas, the Greek original owners of the restaurant. James Foster is running Pepe's now. I'll admit I had not been to Pepe's in years and was delighted with this rediscovery. I hope the patio with the strings of white lights over head and the running fountain is still intact this summer.
Mi Hacienda distinguished itself by serving the guacamole in a small taco chip bowl. It was a nice touch and I enjoyed finishing the last bits of guacamole as I cracked the bowl into bite sized pieces.
Toledo retains it's reputation for great Mexican restaurants and there is a guacamole dip or guacamole salad for every preference.
Until next month, Viva Guacamole!
“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".