Quickie: Guillermo Castro Dies
Birmingham has lost a treasure. Guillermo Castro, owner of Sol y Luna and Cantina, passed away Monday morning following a heart attack. After moving to Birmingham from Guadalajara, Mexico, in the 1980s, Castro worked at various restaurants, including Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Merritt House, until creating Sol y Luna, his first restaurant, in 1997. In an interview with The Birmingham News, Castro said that he was motivated to create Sol y Luna when he was unable to find the food he used to enjoy in Mexico anywhere in Birmingham. “I couldn’t get good avocado, fresh cilantro, not even Corona beer,” Castro said. “I grew up 40 miles from the town where they make tequila. But in restaurants here, I got something that was artificially flavored. I said, ‘I’ve got to do something to expose my culture to Alabamians.’” Castro did all that and more. Following the success of Sol y Luna, Castro opened Cantina, which serves similar ethnic cuisines in a more casual atmosphere. Cantina was wildly successful, as well, and Castro was able to open two more Cantinas, one in Cahaba Heights and a franchise in the Patton Creek shopping center of Hoover.
There are few people in the Birmingham restaurant scene who were as well loved as Castro.
Not only was Castro’s food superb, but the atmosphere of his restaurants is second to none. Sol y Luna was ranked “Best Romantic Dinner” in Birmingham Weekly’s 2010 Menu of Menus, and Castro has been ranked as one of the best chefs in the city in past editions. His contributions to the Birmingham culinary community have been immense. He will be missed.
Castro is survived by his brothers, Alex and Jorge , who told The Birmingham News that they are committed to keeping their brother’s dream of bringing authentic Mexican cuisine to Birmingham alive. By Andy McWhorter.