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Lowrider Cafe feeds community with 'tokens of love'

For $5, you can buy a token of love and donate it back into the cafe's 'Love Jar' so anyone in need of a meal can use the token to get food at no cost to them.

TOLEDO, Ohio — You might be familiar with the concept of the five love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, physical touch and gift-giving. According to psychologists, everyone has at least one.

But for the folks at the Lowrider Cafe in downtown Toledo, food is their love language. 

Anyone who walks through the doors of the cafe doesn't leave with just their bodies nourished, but their soul gets fed as well. 

"We want you to come here. We want you to feel comfortable, but we want you to feel loved and well accepted. That's what we're all about and my staff exemplifies that," Silvia Estrada said.

Silvia and her husband, Jacob Estrada, opened the Lowrider Cafe five months ago with the vision of always helping others.

"That's what it's all about. It's not about, 'How can I make myself money? How can we make money?' but what can we do to help others and at the same time be able to take care of ourselves doing that?" Jacob said.

Their answer? Tokens of love. Literally.

Credit: wtol

For just $5, anyone can purchase a token of love. Once purchased, you can keep the token, but the idea is to donate it back into the cafe's Love Jar. That way, if anyone in need of a meal comes into the cafe, they can "pour love" from the jar and use a love token to get a meal at no cost to them. 

"Every now and then you would have someone come through the doors and say 'Hey do you have any spare food?' or 'Do you got any money?' and we would give what we could," Jacob said."After while, it does start adding up and we're like 'OK, we gotta feed these people.' We don't want to be the type that turns away. That's the way were wired. And Silvia came up with the idea and said, 'Why don't we make these tokens?'"

A love token meal consists of two hard-shell tacos, beans, rice and a chocolate heart dessert along with a drink.

So far, the cafe has received several hundred dollars in donations from areas such as California, Washington, Houston and of course right here in Toledo.

"The first one to bless us with a big contribution was the Libertarian Motorcycle Club (of Toledo). At first we were like, 'This is really cool,' but now it's like 'We're so blessed to bless others,'" said Silvia. "We couldn't do it without the community of our family and friends."

And though we are in the season of giving, the love tokens at the Lowrider Cafe will be available as long as the cafe exists. 

"There's a time and a place for everything, whether it's politics, religion and all that stuff. Not here at the Lowrider. Here it's all about feeding people, good times and showing lots of love. And there's always time to do that," said Jacob.

In addition to tacos, the cafe is currently in the process of adding another popular favorite: coffee. 

But as the cafe continues to grow, staff hopes the restaurant will remain authentic.

"I believe in this place and what they do. Any other places (he worked) were good, but here, I just believe in what they're doing. Especially with the love tokens," said Brian Wagner, a cook at the cafe. "It's tough for us right now, but eventually when we do grow I hope we don't lose sight of what our initial ideas are. They have a set of values most kitchens strive for but we have it here."

The cafe is also hosting the "Nuestra Gentes Christmas Fundraiser" December 20 starting at 5:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m.

There will be authentic Latino cuisine, a cash bar and live entertainment to help give gifts and deliver food to 20 families in need. 

The Lowrider Cafe is located at 316 Michigan Street and is usually open Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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