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Jacob Estrada: From Mariachi Music to Mexican Menu


By La Prensa Staff


Taco Tuesday will never be the same again in downtown Toledo, as a new restaurant quietly held a grand opening on Tuesday, August 6, 2019. Longtime mariachi singer Jacob Estrada opened the Lowrider Café with his partner and girlfriend Sylvia Chukies.


Estrada becomes the second local Latino singer and musician to open a small business in recent months. Izaya Burciaga opened a gentlemen’s salon in Rossford a few months ago. But both men are honoring other, long-held dreams.


Estrada started forming his dream of owning a restaurant with original recipes about six years ago, but naysayers kept the dream just that—by not seeing the possibilities that he did. The idea stayed in the back of his mind until he met Sylvia Chukies.


“I didn’t have the support that I do now,” he said. “If this one person doesn’t see the vision, somebody else will. I know there’s always somebody out there who hungers, with desires to do great things. They just didn’t see what I see. Eventually, it just all lined up and here I am six years later.”


The couple first discussed a coffeehouse, but his girlfriend has a lot of restaurant experience, so the Lowrider Café was born as a concept about a year ago. The planning started—and so did the extensive experimentation to come up with original, fresh-food recipes.


Estrada found the perfect downtown location for the restaurant while on his rounds checking for unpaid meter parking for ParkSmart: 316 N. Michigan Avenue, near the intersection with Madison St. The business owner was suffering because of construction in the area and eventually closed. The business eventually closed and Estrada worked out a favorable lease with the building’s owner.


“That was September of last year, so we’ve been physically working on it now for nearly a year,” he said. “Keeping the finances together has been the main thing. That’s why it took so long. This has been paycheck by paycheck that I’ve been investing in this.”


The dream suffered a major setback just after the start of the New Year, when a deal to lease kitchen equipment fell through. Estrada stated he didn’t have the funds to purchase his own professional grade appliances, when fate intervened. Three weeks later, he won a Queen of Hearts jackpot from Latins United, providing the capital he needed for the kitchen equipment.


“That came at the perfect time,” he said. “We were back to square one. Suddenly we were back on track.”


Estrada plans to honor a promise he made to Latins United members when he won the jackpot: to offer club members a 10 percent discount at the restaurant when they show a membership card.


“The main thing is quality food, a hangout place for people to come and a variety of choice of refreshments,” he explained. But the establishment won’t have a liquor license. The plan is to open for breakfast and lunch at the beginning. “We want to create a family-oriented place for people to come to.”


There will be some evening events, possibly acoustical musical performances, karaoke, and trivia nights with a limited menu. The restaurant features a lounge area with big, comfy chairs and leather couches.


Estrada is mindful of the heavy competition among downtown Toledo restaurants. Despite a renaissance of sorts in the central business district, several eateries have closed in the past year. Estrada pointed out some of those closures had other influences beyond that competition for a limited number of lunch patrons. Parking in that area of downtown also is a valid concern.


“Yes, it is a risk. It is a risk,” he admitted. “I’m really relying on support. I’m really hoping for support from the Latino community. I’m well-established in the community with my music. It is scary, but this is a risk that I’m willing to take.”


The opening day festivities involve a D.J., mariachi band, and taco specials. There also will be a cornhole game for a chance to win food and other prizes. The restaurant will start with extended hours to see how downtown foot traffic coincides with evening and weekend special events. He’s also hoping for the possibility of providing after-hours food to bar patrons as nightclubs close.


“What we really did was slow the process down to make sure we got the rice to how we want it to taste, getting the taco meat to the perfect seasoning, and we just took our time on everything, making sure we got it exactly how we wanted it,” he said. “We want it to be fast, but we want it to be quality as well.”


While his full-time job helped to fund the restaurant, the status of his ParkSmart job, once the restaurant opens “is up in the air right now,” according to Estrada.


So how did the name LowRider Café come to pass? Estrada has lived in California, which is also where his girlfriend was born and raised. Lowrider vehicles are popular on the West Coast, with plenty of clubs surrounding the hobby. Estrada emphasized the car clubs are a common theme among all races and nationalities. So he hopes his café, in similar fashion, will bring everyone together. The walls will be adorned with low-rider themed photos and art. He hopes to have weekend car shows in the future with live outdoor music.




Copyright © 1989 to 2019 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/06/19 13:51:30 -0700.




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