visits Sundown Cantina Southwest Grill
–by Mary Helen Dara
PUBLICATION DATE: 06.06.17
Executive Chef at Sundown Cantina Southwest Grill Daniel Tankoos is celebrating the restaurant’s sixth year at its location in Mayberry Square. The St. Francis de Sales graduate found his niche after a time of uncertainty following college. “I went to Ohio University,” he stated. “When I finished, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. A friend of mine had family in the restaurant business. I worked with him to make money. It surprised me that I really enjoyed it, and I was good at it. I decided to attend culinary school in Chicago. I had a cousin who went to the same school, as well as people who went to Ohio University.”
Chef Tankoos cooked in Chicago while in school. When he completed the year and a half program, he moved back to the Toledo area. “I always knew I was coming back,” he recalled. “I was single just before I moved to Chicago. Two months before I left, I ended up meeting my future wife in West Toledo. She is a graduate of St. Ursula. We dated the whole time I was in Chicago. We have now been married five years and have two kids, a 3-year-old and 1-month-old.”
Upon his return to the area, Chef Tankoos began work at Saba’s Bistro and in the kitchen at Chuck’s on Monroe Street. “My background is American bar food and Italian cuisine. I was looking to get into more upscale food,” he recalled. “I began cooking at Rosie’s Italian. I was there for two and a half years until my brother, Robert (Tankoos), found this place. My brother was working with my dad (Bob Tankoos) in the printing business but was always looking for opportunities especially knowing I could cook. We grew up in Sylvania and didn’t know this place existed. We are the fifth or sixth owners of this place. At one point it was a steakhouse, a Mediterranean restaurant, and a Mexican restaurant for a short while. The owners we bought it from named it the Sundown Cantina. We liked the name and kept it.”
The duo also liked the physical setup of the facility. “We knew we needed a patio and bought the place after learning we could add an outdoor area. The only things we didn’t like were the margaritas and the food,” stated Tankoos. “We bought it and changed everything on the menu. I had never cooked Mexican food before, but I was confident I could learn how. The Sundown Cantina wasn’t closed for even a day. We bought it Tuesday morning and I was cooking Tuesday night. We kept on the original staff, and we still have two of the original staff members. We went to work and gradually changed the menu as I taught myself how to cook Mexican food. I instantly added more American food because that is my background.”
Former and new patrons frequent the restaurant. “You see the same people in here because we are a neighborhood place,” said Tankoos. “They don’t want to eat Mexican every night. Therefore, our menu is split down the middle. We do a really good hamburger and a New York strip steak. I can never take them off the menu for I have 15 regulars who love them.” Some of the menu items include a ‘build your own quesadilla’ and their latest item is a ‘build your own taco’. The menu also features a wide variety of appetizers ranging from soft pretzels served with warm, white queso dip to Southwest chicken egg rolls. “I have to bring the egg rolls to family parties, or I get yelled at,” stated Tankoos. “We have an eclectic mix of items that will satisfy a wide range of needs and ages. We have burgers, wraps, hot dogs and even seafood and a Reuben sandwich. We also have kids meals which is why we sell as many tater tots as we do refried beans. We are very kid friendly.”
The Sundown Cantina also has one of the Savvy’s favorites … dessert. A favorite of many is the skillet cookie with fried ice cream. The warm cinnamon fries are also worth a try as are the calories.
Chef Tankoos and his brother have expanded to North Carolina and own the Sun Up Cafe’ there. In addition to the two restaurants, offsite and onsite catering is available. I am happy to report that the sun will not set on the Sundown Cantina and Southwest Grill anytime soon. “We truly are a family business. My sister, Ashlee Mitchell, was a server when we first opened, my brother, Robert, ran the front, my dad is our unofficial word-of-mouth marketer and my mom, Dianne, does payroll and the books. We have great regulars we enjoy serving and are located in a wonderful community. We just love it.
“The plan is to be here for a long time,” stated Tankoos.