St. Louis Park alum draws upon heritage for Uptown restaurant

Employees at Tinto Cocina + Cantina work in the kitchen to prepare dishes. (Sun Sailor photo by Will Hoverman) A selection of tacos served daily at Tinto Cocina + Cantina. (Sun Sailor photo by Will Hoverman) The Tinto Cocina + Cantina dining room awaits happy hour customers. (Sun Sailor photo by Will Hoverman)
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Employees at Tinto Cocina + Cantina work in the kitchen to prepare dishes. (Sun Sailor photo by Will Hoverman)

By Sun Sailor Intern Will Hoverman

A St. Louis Park High alum who emigrated from Mexico as a child relied upon her heritage when she opened Tinto Cocina + Cantina, a chic Uptown Minneapolis eatery.

Rebecca Illingworth opened the Latin American kitchen and bar at Bryant Avenue and Lake Street following a business venture in St. Paul.

Illingworth has a personal connection to the food she serves. When she was 8, her family moved from Mexico to St. Louis Park. She enrolled in Cedar Manor Elementary School and eventually graduated from St. Louis Park High School in 1987. She and her family continued to celebrate her family’s culture while living in the United States.

“My mom always worked in the food business,” Illingworth said. “I earned a journalism degree in college and eventually worked in advertising. But I have always had a passion for restaurants.”

Before opening Tinto Cocina, Illingworth was the owner of Bin Wine Bar in St. Paul’s Lowertown district.

“When I was at Bin, we had items that were Latino, and they were our number-one sellers,” Illingsworth said. “So I decided to focus on those family recipes that I know best and relocate back home to Minneapolis – it was really the best of both worlds.”

Tinto Cocina’s menu features a selection of tortas and tacos made with homemade, gluten-free tortillas. They have a plethora of entrees all focused on authentic meats, vegetables and daring flavors. A popular menu item is ropa vieja, a combination of braised beef, spicy aioli sauce, queso fresco (fresh cheese), sweet plantains and pickled onions.

The restaurant does not have an exclusively Mexican menu. The business also incorporates flavors from Ecuador, Peru and other Latin American countries.

“As Latinos, we represent each other’s food in various ways,” Illingworth said. “Just to say Mexican would have been too insular. We really are a Latino restaurant.”

She said customers have said they love the flavorful food, are not necessarily overwhelmed with the spices and find prices to be affordable. She added that they feel content with the authentic food and drinks.

Carlos Garza, the head chef at Tinto, once led Carnivale, a Latin fusion restaurant in Chicago.

“He helps me create the menu, recipes and really maintain the integrity that I wanted,” Illingworth said.

When she is not running the restaurant, she enjoys travelling. From Warsaw to Istanbul and beyond, Illingworth brings her global perspective to the food she serves.

Tinto Cocina + Cantina is located at 901 W. Lake St. in Minneapolis. To view its menu and learn more, visit tintompls.com.

Contact Will Hoverman at [email protected]