Side Dish: Antonio Lopez is in Detroit’s royal tequila family

Jan 4, 2017 at 1:00 am

Antonio Lopez can sometimes be hard to get a hold of.

That's because when he's not getting his hands dirty at his family's Lopez Tire shop in Southwest Detroit, he's rubbing elbows with the owners of bars, restaurants, and party stores — all to get his family's Tequila Cabresto into the Detroit craft distilling lexicon.

It's part of a hustle the Lopez family knows well.

The Lopezes got started in the tequila game more than a decade ago when the family's patriarch Silverio Lopez used the money raised from the tire shop to fulfill a lifelong dream: to purchase a farm in his homeland, the Los Altos region of the Mexican state of Jalisco.

Initially, the plan was to grow and sell agave, the ingredient needed to make tequila, to Mexican distilleries (by law, tequila can only be made in Mexico), while the family continued in the tire business. When a crash in agave demand wouldn't allow for that, the Lopezes decided to figure out how to make the spirit themselves.

Silverio Lopez tends to details over the farming, and Antonio handles distribution and marketing and continues to work at the tire shop. His sister, Sonia, uses her accounting degree from Wayne State University to deal with finances. Their brother, Eduardo, manages the shop full time.

In the 10 years or so since the first bottle of Cabresto was manufactured and bottled in Mexico, the Lopezes have introduced the spirit to their adopted hometown of Detroit. Fans appreciate the smoothness of their award-winning reposado, silver, as well as their newer line of añejo and their use of 100 percent blue agave (no hangover-inducing fillers or additives).

We managed to get Antonio Lopez away from his work for a few moments to talk about his dual life in the mechanic's shop and spirits, who to look out for in his Southwest Detroit neighborhood, and what he'd be doing if he weren't in the family tequila biz.

Metro Times: What is one thing people don't know about you that you wish they did?

Antonio Lopez: I live two different worlds. When at the shop, I get my hands dirty. But when I'm out at an event for Cabresto, someone from there wouldn't even recognize me. There's very little time when the two worlds interact.

MT: What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you?

Lopez: I always gotta have my café de olla in the morning.

MT: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Lopez: I guess teleportation.

MT: What is the most positive thing in food or drink that you've noticed in Detroit over the past year?

Lopez: I see more and more places coming in and opening up and there's a variety of different foods now. There weren't that many options before. All these bars and restaurants are bringing Detroit back to life. If you would have been here 15 years ago, it was a ghost town downtown.

MT: Who is your Detroit food crush?

Lopez: Bucharest Grill owner Bogdan Tarasov. I've met him; he's a really humble guy. He's doing it right, his food is cheap, and it's really good.

Also have a food crush on the people selling food at Patton Park. You'll find tacos, elote, camarones, anything you can think of... It's only available on Sundays, but it's worth waiting for.

MT: Who's the one person to watch right now in the Detroit dining scene?

Lopez: George Azar from Flowers of Vietnam, but also the Garita family from El Barzon. They're about to open up their pizza joint pretty soon.

MT: Which ingredient is most representative of your personality?

Lopez: Anything hot, spicy. I always like my food with a lot of spice, chilies, salsa.

MT: If you weren't working in the restaurant or drink business, what would you be doing?

Lopez: I would still be 100 percent in the tire shop business.

MT: Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen.

Lopez: I like everything... Oh, but I hate liver, I've always had a beef with liver. There's just something about the texture that I've never liked.

MT: What is your after-work hangout?

Lopez: Besides hanging out at the shop and having a few Cabrestos, probably Detroit City Distillery or Thomas Magee's.

MT: What's your food or beverage guilty pleasure?

Lopez: Micheladas for drinks. And for food, I've been hooked on these snacks, my mom makes them. She cuts up a few Slim Jims into little pieces, then cooks them up in a frying pan, and adds limón. I guarantee once you've tried them, you'll be hooked.

MT: What would be your last meal on Earth?

Lopez: A fat, juicy steak with a loaded potato, with some hot sauce, like Tapatio or a homemade salsa.