Recycling at its Best

Tio Tacos in Riverside, CA

This is one of my favorite eye candy places to go in Riverside, CA. It is a tiny taco restaurant, and looks like any old tiny taco house, but once you step inside its walls, everything around you is art, all of it made from trash, literally.

Another small part of Tio Tacos, Ricerside

Folk artist, Martin Sanchez created Tio Tacos Dream Garden, expanding out from his restaurant to the whole block and back courtyard, filling the whole area with junk art sculptures, towering garbage giants, and and a church made out of bottles.

This is one elephant who won’t eat your peanuts.

This is absolutely one of my favorite places to wander. I cannot imagine that anyone can go in here and come out feeling gloomy.

Check out the walkway too. Not a single thing is wasted.
How can you not love this?

In 1984, when Sanchez immigrated from the village of Sahuayo,
in the state of Michoacan, he was shocked by what people threw away. “I don’t throw away nothing for 18 years,” he says. He doesn’t plan anything ahead, but will suddenly get a creative bug, and perhaps create a 20 foot-tall wire figure with two years-worth of cans.

Just the patience to create one of these figures is overwhelming.
Inside the Tio Tacos Bottle Chapel

When he first came to Riverside, he sold peanuts and ice cream in the park before he bought a hot dog cart in 1989 and began to sell tacos outside of Tio’s Tacos. He bought the restaurant and the clapboard house next door in 1995, which became his family home. The adjacent parking lot and house, currently used for storage and a gift shop, was purchased in 2000. His creations include more statues on the roofs and on top of palm trees.

Sanchez built his chapel out of multi-colored bottles and other recycled materials as a gift to his wife, Concepcion. The chapel, which was consecrated by the Catholic church, has water springing from its walls and a ceiling painted like a miniature Sistine. Light filtering through the bottles gives a stained glass effect. Today the chapel is used for weddings, quinceaneras, graduations, and just private quiet moments.

Tio Tacos is located at 3948 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, CA 92501, 951-788-0230. It is right down the street from the historic Mission Inn, another of Riverside’s wonderful stories just waiting for you to visit.


28 thoughts on “Recycling at its Best

  1. Wow, is all I can say! What an imagination. Did he paint the ceiling in the chapel too? If so, he is really talented in more than just junk art. This is a lesson for people who throw away so much trash.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow,
    All these are beautiful Ann. I love the bicycle and the church is spectacular.
    Thanks so much for sharing.
    You have brightened my day by just reading about it, a visit must be wonderful πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Margaret. We don’t get over that way too often, but when we do, I always beg my Richard to take me to see Tio Tacos. The other thing I always want to see is the wild donkeys. They are not in the same places, but two of my very favorite things I love to visit. Both make me happy in different ways. Thank you very kindly. Yes, I love the same things as you do. I am glad I made your day bright!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes, they sure do sell tacos and other Mexican food. It looks like a very modest little restaurant, but they serve an amazing number of dishes, including ones with seafood in them.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Anne, what a great story. We found a house made out of bottles back in the 19th century or early 20th. I can’t remember the name, but it was in CA just east of Death Valley. Up in South Dakota, there are buildings that used the lids of cyanide drums as roofing. The cyanide was used in mining. These aren’t as artistic as your story, but they are examples of recycling, nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh this warms my heart. Alternative and sustainable and earthship/unique buildings have always been deep in my heart. Wow, I love your stories. I try to seek out unique buildings, ones that are historic and those that are contemporary and photograph them, explore them and then write about them. I used to be married to an architect in Phoenix, AZ, and we did a lot of looking at the Frank Lloyd buildings and many other architectural buildings in the area. I really like the truly unique “found art” buildings the best. Yes, there was one somewhat like what you found in CA, but this one in Arizona was built back up in the hills and I honestly can’t quite remember where, but it was totally made out of found objects, and the maker put a lot of work into it, so it was beautiful. A lot of stone, bottles, and all kinds of things he must have hauled from some distances in those days. My most secret dream would be to build one like that, ot to build any alternative, sustainable, or earthship home somewhere out on its own land. Ah, maybe someday . . .


    1. Thank you kindly. I hope you do get the chance. There is a lot to see and do in Riverside. My significant other and I are hoping one of these days to be able to get an RV and get to travel and see some of the funky wonders like this that exist likely in every state. That would be so much fun! Thank you again and I hope you all are enjoying this spring weather.

      Liked by 1 person

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