There’s just one week left to nominate your favorite local businesses for the DECA Hidden Gems competition. On May 7, the final four will be chosen — based on popularity, merit and need. So, keep nominating — even if your favorite spot has already had a shout-out! We are listening. To date, more than 80 businesses have received nominations. That’s huge.
In the run up to the final four, we decided to highlight some popular nominees for you — just to share the love. We even went to visit them all in our mission for information. This write-up comes from our friend and fellow #DECAgems organizer Niamh Hill:
Did you know El Sol (1448 Danforth) is both a North Mexican restaurant and a gallery?
Before owner Yolanda Paez started working in the kitchen, she studied art in Mexico.
That’s why there’s art on the walls, weighing down the shelves and even covering the ceilings. (All of it is for sale too — check out the sun (sol) figurines, Mexican glass collections and sombreros in the back that curious guests are encouraged to try on along with maracas. Ole!)
Even when cooking up some delicious soft or hard tacos, empanadas or guacamole, Yolanda always has art on her mind. She laughs as she thinks about cooking in the kitchen and creating a poem in her head at the same time.
‘I’ve seen children grow up’ she says as she describes her 19 years operating on the Danforth. ‘They come in with their parents when they’re little, and then they come in on their own.’
She runs the gallery/restaurant with her brother Gonzalo.
The ingredients the family uses are mostly imported from Mexico (locally when it’s not the middle of winter!) and the meals are always prepared fresh and entirely from scratch. Each year Yolanda goes back to Mexico for two weeks and purchases the spices, heading straight to the market in Mexico City from the airport.
As soon as the weather is warm enough Yolanda wants to start hosting gallery nights on Monday evenings to showcase Mexican art and music. Along with drinks they plan on serving up a special menu of finger foods for visitors. She’s especially excited to open up the patio this summer and to paint the fence a new color, perhaps blue or yellow – she can’t decide.
What would Yolanda do to El Sol if she wins the #DECAgems competition? Marketing. Right now, they rely mostly on word-of-mouth. El Sol has a website, but between the gallery and kitchen, Yolanda can’t find time to update it.