Tortilla West has been a long standing favorite for many since it opened in West Ghent 11 years ago.
Tortilla West is not a traditional Mexican restaurant. They call themselves “Mexi-Ghent,” which is a blend of Mexican, Southwestern, American, and South American influences. Many people may not have had the opportunity to experience the significant changes that have been made to the ambiance, menu, and quality of service.
As the general manager, Megan Glover stated, “Every nice lady after 10 years deserves a facelift.”
Starting at the noticeably lighter exterior, Tortilla West already feels less imposing than the previous styling. Walking inside is a smooth transition to a lighter, airier, and more open feeling area. As one of Norfolk’s initial craft beer bars, Tortilla West still keeps a current and comprehensive local and regional craft beer list with special homage paid to their neighboring West Ghent brewery Smartmouth. Their margarita is house made with fresh ingredients and does not include premade sour mix. The attention given to the margarita is noticeable in comparison to many other restaurants and will definitely please those that are interested in this classic Mexican drink. The wait staff has also received noticeable training in craft beer and mixed drinks and makes excellent menu recommendations for any alcoholic beverage of your choice. The mixed drink menu will be experiencing a revamp this coming Cinco de Mayo. A new cocktail manager, Shawn England, is coming on board from Chow to help round out the cocktail and mixed drink selection.
Their starters menu selection includes a wide variety of options. The guacamole with chips and salsa includes a large helping of well-seasoned guacamole, a smoky chipotle red salsa, and tortilla chips that are generously sprinkled with Tortilla West’s signature spice blend. This appetizer is filling and very affordable. Another Mexican-inspired classic is the street corn, which includes a chipotle mayo and a significant sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. The corn has a bold, smoky flavor with a great grilled char to round it all out. The jalapeno shrimp is another new menu addition. The shrimp are very tender and are sautéed with garlic, white wine, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and jalapenos. Flour tortillas are provided with the dish, but additional garnish or sauce to top the tortillas might serve to balance the dish out and provide a more satisfying portion. That aside, the dish was still very flavorful and delicious.
Tortilla West has some amazing deals on some of their popular entrees throughout the week, including $.89 tacos on Monday and Tuesday, $5 Build-Your-Own burrito on Wednesdays, and half off nacho platters on Thursday. I had the opportunity to sample several of the tacos during this visit, which included the slow roasted pork carnita, chipotle steak, Gardein chorizo, and vegan sloppy Boca. The slow roast of the pork provides a great tenderness and taste and definitely helps set the chefs of Tortilla West apart from restaurants that may cut corners to try and imitate that flavor. Both vegan options were excellent and proved to be enjoyable for someone who is traditionally non-vegan. The Gardein chorizo had a notably authentic and spicy flavor as well.
The mahi Veracuz, one of the house specialty menu items, is another new addition. The soft and flaky mahi provides a great compliment for the complex and enjoyable flavors in the spicy seasoned rice, black beans, olives and capers. Another specialty dish was the crab and shrimp nachos. This dish combines the great flavors of traditional nacho toppings such as cabbage, pico, black beans, fresh jalapenos, and cheese, topped with soft, buttery shrimp and crab.
Desserts for Tortilla West are provided by Elite Custom Cakes on North Colley, which are also featured at Tortilla West’s sister establishments, Chow and A.W. Shucks. Based on the flavors in the peanut butter pie I think it’s safe to say that any desert provided by Elite is a great end to any meal. For a peanut butter and chocolate pie with a thick Oreo crust, the pie proved to have a surprisingly pleasant balance of chocolate and peanut butter without being overpowering or overly rich like many pies of its kind.
The overall experience at Tortilla West was an excellent one. With a renewed emphasis on local sourcing in their beer and dessert selection and significant consideration taken into food preparation and presentation by the chefs, the food really shines compared to many other Mexican inspired restaurants. It is evident that the management really cares about their guests’ overall restaurant experience. They have taken several steps towards improvement, such as continuing staff education, and overall design aesthetic, and have been very receptive of taking patron suggestions for changes to the menu.
Take a chance and experience excellent casual dining at Tortilla West! The restaurant has also started hosting Wednesday Trivia events, Thursday Improv Comdey shows, and Friday night Drag Bingo, giving an added entertainment option during your meal on those select days.
For more on Tortilla West, click here.