El Meson co-owner Bill Castro says “it’s surreal” as the West Carrollton restaurant’s 45th anniversary celebration approaches in July.
What started as a three table, one employee restaurant grew into five dining rooms, 450 seats, a fleet of food trucks, culinary excursions, catering operations and more.
The restaurant’s history dates back to 1966 when NCR brought the Castro family to its headquarters in Dayton. Castro’s father, Herman, had worked as a computer tech instructor in South and Central America, where he was transferred every three years to different countries. The family ultimately stayed in the Dayton area, and in the 1970s, Herman and his wife, Gloria, bought what was then The Pizza Queen in West Carrollton. A few years later, they branched out from pizza and subs to Hispanic food on the weekends.
“I see others (reaching) their own anniversaries — 14 years, 10 years, maybe 20 years. To unbelievably say we’ve been here 45 years, we’ve gone through the pandemic... economic plunge 10 years ago... to know we have weathered all that is the real sense of accomplishment,” Castro said.
Every day they are challenged with costs of items and a very low percent of profit, but they stick together and focus on their “si, se puede” (yes, we can) mantra, Castro said.
Their hard work pays off when they see generations of families at the restaurant particularly celebrating special events and milestones.
“The whole experience is based on the people that value and appreciate you,” Castro said.
El Meson’s team of 25 employees plus family members look toward Herman, 88, and Gloria, 87, as ambassadors of the restaurant. Castro said because they are committed and have an ability to look at a situation and say “tomorrow will be better” or “this will pass,” it gives them the strength and drive to continue the tradition.
The restaurant is now in its third generation with Castro’s nephew, Stefen, now involved.
With six great-grandchildren in the family, Castro said, “This restaurant is more than just a business. It’s a place where they’ll grow up and hopefully will be part of the next generation.”
The celebration will kick off Wednesday, July 19 with a Pollo Patio Party from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. featuring half flame broiled rotisserie chicken for $14, followed by a Paella Patio Party from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, July 20 featuring $8 bowls of paella. Friday, July 21 will be a ticketed event to celebrate their anniversary with live music from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. from Velvet Crush followed by Flash G & Top Secret from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. The anniversary will also have food trucks and a beer/margarita truck. General Admission tickets are $10 and VIP tickets are $35. The final day of celebration will be Saturday, July 22 with Customer Appreciation Day where the El Meson team will thank their customers for their support.
“Thank you for being with us, standing with us, growing old with us, continuing traditions with us, celebrating life with us because a meal should do that,” Castro said.
El Meson is located at 903 E. Dixie Dr. in West Carrollton. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.elmeson.net or www.facebook.com/ElMeson.