Ortega Mini Market & Restaurant
Ortega is a local, authentic Mexican experience with good food and very reasonable prices. It's fun when you want a good-food, no-frills experience but don't come here if you are a stickler for cleanliness, designer decor, or have a craving for fajitas. Try the chicken enchiladas and chips & salsa. The weekend breakfasts are supposed to be great.
Ortega is a small, unassuming restaurant tucked away inside a corner Mexican market, easy to miss if you aren't specifically looking for it. As you walk in, the store counter on the left displays Mexican sweets and pastries, ripe avocados, and packages of tortillas for sale. On the opposite wall runs a long refrigerated case with a variety of sodas, juices, and cold grocery items, and a few shelves with dry goods. In the middle, a selection of well-worn red 'pleather' booths and old wood-grain formica tables and, in the very back, the kitchen with "I'll do it my way" painted in huge letters over an archway. Scattered pinatas hang from the ceiling, adding to the overall 'ambience'. My favorite was Sponge Bob. A Sponge Bob Pinata!! And I also noticed Frosted Flakes and Fruit Loops on the shelves, not very Mexican, but somehow fitting right in. 'My Way', indeed! The floor is dark tiles covered with dark brown runners. The overall space is a little worn and dingy but, at the same time, strangely welcoming.
Our service was very casual and relaxed, as you would expect in a place like this. Our waiter was informative, helpful, and prompt, even if only after we pulled out the camera and notepad. Funny, that seems to happen to us a lot :)
Ortega serves authentic Mexican food, not the fancy-schmancy chain restaurant offerings like fajitas or tequila shrimp- that's a good thing. It's strictly a no-frills kind of place. That said, I was kind of disappointed when the taco platter was with plain ol' ground beef instead marinated pork, or something like that; they have that too, but it's expensive, especially if you plan on eating more than 2 tacos (and who doesn't?). Still, the ground beef taco platter ($6) came with 4 crisp and plump tacos with plenty of meat, tasty corn shells, grated cheese, and tomatoes. The tamale ($2) was a bargain as far as price, but was a little dry and without much flavor or filling. The chicken enchiladas ($6.75) were delicious and filled with lots of moist, flavorful meat and smothered with real cheese. The pozole, a house specialty pork and hominy soup, had lots of tender chunks of pork and a spicy, salty broth. The chips and salsa were $2 extra, but the chips were thick and crunchy and the two salsas, one spicy and blended, and the other chunky salsa-fresca were great! Ortega also has a nice selection of Mexican sodas and juices in flavors such as tamarind, guava, mango, and coconut.
Let's face it, Ortega is not the cleanest restaurant we've ever seen. The overall shabbiness of the place, combined with the dirty carpet runners and messy shelves did not conjure up images of Mr. Clean. I would maybe even go so far as to call it a 'hole-in-the-wall' but, hey, that's OK with me. Some of the best meals I've had were in 'hole-in-the-wall's.
Ortega provides an authentic Mexican experience at a great price. Some of the dishes, like the chicken enchiladas, were excellent! It's a local bohemian and artists' hangout with an unusual, relaxed atmosphere.
The atmosphere is very local and, let's face it, a little shabby. It's also not the cleanest we've seen.