By Thomas Sellers Jr.
“Mr. Joe” Craig was in his favorite place to be on a Saturday in Millington.
The 81-year-old Flag City resident had a table full of family at El Toro Taco. Since the longtime Millington restaurant opened in April 1975, Craig has been a regular.
Now Craig and four generations of his family are normal customers at El Toro. And they plan to be a part of the 40th anniversary celebration April 11.
“I’ve been coming here since it was located on C Street,” Craig said. “I’m a lifer. And I’m always going to come here.”
Mr. Joe wins the longevity contest at his table. While he has been there the lifetime of the business, Craig’s children, grandchildren and great grandchildren have been patrons of El Toro their whole lives.
Joining Craig for their routine meal at El Toro were Taylor Clark, Josh Sinquefield, Carol Clark, Erin Sinquefield, Dave Webb, Carey Elder, Teri Webb, Shadd Elder and Brandon Gurley.
Teri noted visits to El Toro means family from the dining area of the 8067 Highway 51 location to the kitchen.
“We’ve seen them through things in the past,” she said. “And they’ve seen us through things.”
Teri noted how the staff and owners at El Toro are a part of their family. That tradition started 40 years ago with the first owners Louis and Louise Murphy, also known as Papa Lou 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 it’s current location in 1992.
About 10 years ago Louis sold the business to his daughter Dawn. Now she and her husband Jeff Rasar operate the Millington stable.
Along with the Rasar, customers will be greeted by staff members Gail Wright, Brittany Milton, Jill Whitehead, Ashley Wilson, Bryan Voyles, Malachi Rasar, Dylan Voyles and Kortney Wiggins.
Customers know the staff on a first-name basis and vice versa. While “Mr. Joe” was fellowshipping with his family, some of his longtime friends walked into the restaurant.
Hugs and greetings were shared between Craig’s family and Ray Williams, David and Rene Gross, Dora L. Spencer and John and Janice Williams.
“The atmosphere is why I love it,” Janice said. “The food is great. I used to go when it was on C Street and I’m here every Saturday.”
Along with the family atmosphere, all the customers eating at El Toro that day noted the food is main reason the business has made it 40 years.
Jeff noted the food is freshly prepared everyday by him and sister-in-law. Ingredients in the burritos, tacos, salads, nachos, sandwiches, enchiladas and tostadas are chopped everyday. The meat used in dishes come from the Southern Meat Market.
“We are family based and operated,” Jeff noted. “Our prices are a key to our success for 40 years too. I would have to add consistency and quality of the product.”
The success of the products on the El Toro menu has allowed the business to give back to the community. Starting March 20, El Toro will be the sight for the Cruise In. The parking lot surrounding El Toro has been the home for classic cars to be on display the past 4 years.
The fifth year of the Cruise In is expected to bring drivers from across Shelby County and West Tennessee. And the classic car season always concludes the last Friday in October with a citywide Halloween Trunk or Treat.
Before the Cruise In started El Toro sponsored things like softball teams with Millington Parks and Recreation. Erin, now 26 and expecting her son Webb, reminisced about her days of wearing the El Toro uniform with her teammates.
“I remember us wearing those trucker hats,” she said. “We went undefeated one year. They used to have the picture up over there.”
From happy moments to times of sorrow, the extended family at El Toro has shared in many memories over the past 40 years.
“We had some customers show up to support us when my father passed away,” Dawn recalled. “That meant a lot. They treat us like family and we treat them like family.”
The impact of El Toro can also be felt outside of Millington. During the days of the Navy boom in Millington, many would frequent El Toro Taco.
Now those men and women who are retired across the United States also stop by the eatery when in Millington. Some even take a large order back to their new home.
“We had a trucker who went to the Swift School make an order for 6 to 8 burritos all the time for his trip to Texas,” Jeff said. “One time when he was in Texas, one of the guys unloading his truck asked him for a burrito. Now he has to take him one each time he makes a delivery down there.”
Dawn said having El Toro eaten across the nation is great, but nothing beats the loyal of home that has kept the business going strong this long.
Jeff said El Toro is a part of the Millington fabric and plans to be around another 40 years.
“This place is iconic,” he concluded. We have a lot of fun here. We love to give back because Millington has given so much to us. The customers are loyal and just great.”
El Toro Taco will be celebrating its 40th anniversary April 11 with 40 cent tacos from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 8067 Highway 51. El Toro normal business hours are from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Saturday. For more information, call 872-TACO (8226).