El Toro at the Patio gets a big Ole!

VERO BEACH — Everyone involved is hoping that the 45-year relationship that the Sexton and Replogle families have enjoyed with the Ocean Grill will be equally as successful with the new incarnation of the former Patio Restaurant.  Reintroduced as El Toro – Tacos and Tequila at the Patio, the restaurant opened Thursday evening to a bustling crowd of well-wishers; all delighted to see it in such capable hands. Like the Ocean Grill, The Patio was built by Waldo Sexton, originally as a fruit stand, gift and ice-cream shop.   By the early 1950’s it had evolved into an open-air restaurant, eventually being named The Patio.  And, like his other architectural wonders, the building was decorated in Waldo’s inimitable fashion, with historic treasures such as the Spanish-influenced works of Addison Mizner.

Its decades-long success ended abruptly in April, 2008 when Tom Beaver, who had operated the restaurant for approximately 20 years, left town without warning or explanation.  The lease was picked up by Chuck Lamm in December, 2008 following substantial renovations to the building, including a sparkling new kitchen. That association was short-lived though, ending this past spring.

The new enterprise is a true family affair; El Toro is a joint venture between Charlie Replogle, his son Joey, and Charlie’s brother Jake Replogle, Jr.  Charlie Replogle literally grew up at the Ocean Grill, moving to Vero as a child when his parents Mary Ellen and Jake Replogle, Sr. took over its operation in 1965.  Charlie and his wife Mary have managed the restaurant for the past 20 years, and their son Joey who also grew up in the business, is now a third-generation restaurateur.

El Toro is modeled after the successful Milwaukee -based restaurant Haute Taco, owned by Jake Replogle, Jr., who will divide his time between the two cities.   The menu focuses on tacos  and other traditional Mexican dishes, but there are also a few Ocean Grill favorites thrown in for good measure.

“Charlie and I had gone to visit and loved the concept,” said Mary Replogle.  “We thought it would be wonderful for Vero to have fresh, authentic Mexican food.  We have lots of nice restaurants, but nothing like this.”

While the overall décor hasn’t changed substantially, there are several enhancements including recessed lighting to highlight the unique motif and colorful new tables and chairs on the outdoor patio, which is now a smoke-free area.

It’s a family affair on the landmark building’s management side also, with Waldo’s son Ralph Sexton and grandson Mark Tripson maintaining the property.  And Tripson’s wife Hilde is responsible for the gorgeous plants and tropical floral arrangements that grace the restaurant, including dozens of orchids that adorn the large entryway banyan tree.

“I’m so happy we got it back open,” said Sexton.  “We’re glad Charlie’s here.”

The restaurant will be opened Monday through Saturday from 4 to 9:30 p.m., with happy hours from 4 to 6 p.m. and again from 9 to 10:30 p.m.  There are plans to open for lunch in the late fall. {igallery 259}

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