By Claire Harlin
Sisters Catalina “Liza” Salgado and Teresa Rincon were born in the building that stands at 621 Valley Ave. in Solana Beach, and for more than seven decades, they’ve spent most of their waking hours there.
Most people in the community, however, have for generations known the location as a go-to spot for turkey tacos and chile rellenos, a place to convene after a Little League game or to go out with the family for Mexican food.
The much-embraced Tony’s Jacal was not only one of Solana Beach’s first restaurants when it opened 66 years ago, but it’s a staple in Eden Gardens — not only for its menu but for its community involvement. Continuing with the legacy left by their parents, Tony and Catalina Gonzalez, owners Salgado and Rincon don’t think twice when it comes to helping their neighbors — whether that means cooking for events at the local schools, lending their space to non-profits or sponsoring sports teams.
“Our dad was poor growing up as a kid and so when he had the money he did whatever he could to help,” said Rincon, who works well over 50 hours a week at the restaurant.
Perhaps the biggest act of kindness by the Tony’s Jacal family, however, has been ongoing for 42 years and resulted in more that $1 million in scholarships that have helped local Mexican American youth attend college. Catalina Gonzalez was one of a few community leaders that provided the financial backing to start the Mexican American Educational Guidance Association (MAEGA), and Rincon and Salgado will be honored on Nov. 10, from 6-8 p.m. at the Encinitas Senior and Community Center in a tribute event recognizing their longtime efforts to keep their parents’ generosity alive.
“I don’t feel like it’s even our award,” said Rincon. “It’s really for our mom.”
Anna Vallez, MAEGA’s president, would beg to differ, however. She said the sisters are hardworking and incredibly humble. For them, she said, feats of kindness are routine and they seek nothing in return.
The sisters still donate their space to MAEGA, which gave $91,000 in scholarships last year for all of the organization’s fundraising dinners, and at one event — held each year on the last Tuesday of the Del Mar horse races — the restaurant donates its profits. Vallez also said that Salgado, who handles all of the restaurant’s bookkeeping, offers both her energy and resources to prepare and help serve food for hundreds at an annual barbecue fundraiser while Rincon is busy at the restaurant.
“Their presence is huge,” Vallez said.
While the ladies may not be big on taking credit, their goodwill and significance in the community shows — even through the restaurant itself. Walking into the front entryway of Tony’s Jacal, one might notice that the walls are covered with rows and rows of framed photos of Little League teams the family has sponsored.
“Our dad was the first one to start a Little League team in the area,” said Rincon, adding that the restaurant still sponsors both soccer and baseball teams, as well as Torrey Pines High School football. “People come in and show their grandchildren when they used to play for Tony’s Jacal.”