Familiar recipe: El Toro Taco adds to traditions with new concepts and menu items

El Toro Taco co-owner Jeff Rasar jokes with a familiar customer last week as the lunch rush comes to its conclusion at the 8067 Highway 51 North location. Photos by Thomas Sellers Jr.

Fresh ingredients, familiar faces and fancy cars are a few of the trademarks of El Toro Taco.

The Millington business, started by Louis and Louise Murphy, has been operating since 1975. Now standing at 8067 Highway 51 North, El Toro Taco is a firm part of the Millington fabric.

Now owners Dawn and Jeff Rasar continue to provide classic food items while reinventing the menu and adding external features like the Classic Car Show from April to October.

“Great, we’ve been blessed,” Jeff said. “We do the car show for Goat Days. All the money we raise goes back to the Crisis Center. We do a cruise-in every Friday night here for local entertainment kind of thing. We do a Trunk-or-Treat every year on the Friday before holiday.

“Last year we did a car show in November,” he added. “It was a Christmas Car Show. The proceeds we were able to raise went to giving a Christmas to needy kids in the community.”

The giving continues the tradition started by “Papa Lew” and “Mama Lou” back in the 1970s.

El Toro Taco employee “Ms. Faye” Brown adds some sour cream to a burrito order.

“Loyalty of our customer base,” Jeff said. “We have the best customer base in Millington. We really do. They’re always here to back us, help us and support us. We’re blessed by their presence. My father-in-law started it back in ’75. He geared the business toward the military so they could be able to buy decent food at a decent price.

“Of course us kids would skip class and come to El Toro,” he added. “It just boils back down to the Lord blessing us. The community has blessed us by keeping us in business this long. We’re trying to make sure we have a good product for a good price. And keep it to where families can afford to eat.”

Recently a family of six with four adults entered the restaurant and was able to feed everyone for about $30.

The customers left satisfied, eating taco salads, tacos and burritos. The menu has expanded in recent years with the barbecue nachos featuring fresh toppings and chili.

This past year El Toro added hot tamales to the main menu. And joining the sugar chips on the dessert menu are the caramel apple nachos. The classic sugar chips adorn caramel-covered baked apples on a bed of vanilla ice cream.

“Everything we do is made in house,” Rasar noted. “We make things fresh daily. We make our own guacamole from fresh avocados. We get our meat from Southern Meat Market right across the street. We make our own chips. We grate our own cheese. It’s not out of a can. We make our own refried beans and sauce. It’s nothing we do not make here everyday.”

While fresh Mexican-based food is an everyday thing at El Toro, the weekly, seasonal car shows are a Friday night special event. Rasar rides up in his 1931 Modal A Coupe alongside other classic automobiles from drivers living in Collierville, Bartlett, Cordova, Germantown and Tipton County.

“It’s fun for us because we’re able to do more for the community,” Rasar said. “If it wasn’t for the community, we wouldn’t be in business. That’s the bottom line. So we try to give back to the community as much as possible. It’s some fun and clean fun for families to do. It keeps us off the streets and gives us something productive to do. I do the car thing myself and all my friends. It’s somewhere for them to go and do something fun.”

This year Trunk-or-Treat is scheduled for Oct. 26 in the parking lot of El Toro Taco. Jeff is inviting all of the area residents out to participate with a classic car, a child looking for candy or anybody looking to just be entertained.

“It’s good clean fun with the car people,” he said. “We try to do a lot for the community. Everything that we do that is car related is donated back to the community. We do that and the food. The food is simply good food. You get good quality, good quantity. It must be really good food because it has kept us in business for 43 years.”

Another key ingredient to El Toro’s success is the staff. The crew works hard preparing the items fresh when ordered. Also Jeff and the staff members are on a first-name basis with several customers.

Bonds are formed with people like “Mr. Joe” Craig. Recently the 84-year-old Craig was moved to an assisted-living home. El Toro will often send Mr. Joe, a more than 40-year customer, his favorite of a guacamole salad.

The Rasars, Brittany Milton, Jill Whitehead, Kortney Wiggins, Caitlyn Wiggins, Faye Brown, Barbara Jean Petty, Shawna Wiggins and Anita McGill vow to continue to foster those types of relationships.

“We’re family owned and operated,” Jeff concluded. “We’re trying to make sure everybody feels welcome when they order something. If it wasn’t for the community we wouldn’t be here.”

El Toro Taco started 43 years ago with the first owners, Louis and Louise Murphy, also known as Papa Lew and Mama Lou. Mama and Papa Lou built a brand behind the motto of “Our family taking care of your family” on C Street. El Toro moved to its current location in 1992.

About 13 years ago Louis sold the business to his daughter, Dawn, and her husband, Jeff.

El Toro’s normal business hours are from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday. For more information, call (901) 872-TACO (8226).

THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for Journal West 10 Media LLC. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to thomas.sellers@journalinc.com. “Know Your Biz” feature stories about Shelby County businesses appear weekly in all four of the Journal West 10 newspapers. We also welcome your suggestions on who to feature next; email ideas to Bartlett Express Editor Carolyn Bahm at carolyn.bahm@journalinc.com.

Barbecue nachos are a tasty plateful of flavor at El Toro Taco.