Tortilla Jo's dining room - dinner - April 18, 2004
Ordinarily, I would wait at least six months following the opening of a new restaurant to try it out, understanding the problems and adjustments that are inherent with such an endeavour. However, since we'd been waiting for more than a year for the opening of Tortilla Jo's, we took the first opportunity available to try out the restaurant, two days after their official opening.
The dining room opened at 5:30, and we arrived at about 6:15 since we had been told that the restaurant does not accept reservations. I was a bit surprised that the waiting method is just to stand in the line outside the restaurant. Most of the other nearby restaurants ask that you leave a name, and then there's some sort of bar or waiting area nearby, so it was a bit odd to just be standing outside the restaurant. We were told that it would be about a 35 minute wait, and that was about how long it took before we were seated. When we got to the front of the line, we were asked to step inside to wait while our table was set up, and I noticed that they have a little gift shop set up. I also was a bit surprised at that, especially with the t-shirts available for sale bearing the Tortilla Jo's name and logo. I've not seen anything like this in any of the other Patina Group restaurants I've been to. The hostess took our party of 5 adults and 1 child to a booth that would have been cramped if we'd just been 5 adults. We told the hostess that we weren't going to fit at that table, so after a minute, they took us back up to the front and we waited a few minutes more as they put two square tables together for us, which worked out much better. Shortly thereafter, chips and salsa were brought to the table. The chips were freshly made and still warm, and the salsa was quite tasty. As we perused the menu, our server came around to take our drink orders. While we were waiting, we looked around at the new restaurant. I'd been in the facility once before when it was run by Y Arriba Y Arriba, and I definitely like the look of the place now much better. It was pretty dark then, whereas the space looks much more open now. It was also nice to see a few familiar faces on the staff, so during the course of the meal, we chatted with a few people whom we had met from our many visits to Catal Restaurant, which along with Naples/Napolini is also run by the Patina Group.
My husband loves ceviche, so he had ordered the sea bass ceviche as a starter. I tried some and found that I liked it very much. The combining taste of mango and green olives was a pleasant if unexpected surprise.
As we were waiting for our entrees to arrive, we noticed a mariachi band consisting of three musicians making their way around the restaurant. They sounded very good, but we laughed when we noticed that one of the songs they were playing was "It's A Small World".
It did take a while for our entrees to arrive, but when they did, they arrived a bit sporadically. Three of the people had ordered combination plates, but since the runners weren't familiar with what was exactly in which combination plate, there was a bit of confusion, which resulted in my husband not getting his order and having to wait a while for them to re-make it. Another person had ordered the tacos but had discovered that the tortillas were a bit cold, and they had neglected to bring the salsa for the tacos. The reaction from our group to the food was mixed. A couple of the people enjoyed their combinations, though they did observe that while the sauces on the items were very tasty, they were also fairly spicy, which wasn't a problem for them since they like spicy food. For another member of our group, though, that did serve to be a problem. She had asked whether the sauce was spicy and when told that it was a bit spicy, she had asked for it on the side, but when it arrived, they had neglected to actually put the sauce on the side. I expect she hesitated to send the dish back to the kitchen as it had taken a while for us to receive our entrees in the first place. She also commented that she thought the rice was a bit too dry and that the cheese enchilada she had ordered contained very little cheese. I apparently made the correct choice of the day, because my steak fajitas were very good. They were very good quality, generous slices of beef, and the marinade was delicious as well. A few of the people who tried a bite of my dinner expressed the same sentiment.
We noticed that there were many parties with children in the restaurant, and Tortilla Jo's seems to have more of a family atmosphere. While some of us appreciate the spicy sauce, having only spicy sauce would seem to be a bit limiting to the general clientele, some of whom wouldn't like very spicy food. We figured it would seem to make sense to have two or three different levels of spiciness in the sauces, which would be more of a hassle for the kitchen but which would seem to better serve the patrons.
The restaurant offers a children's menu (burrito, tacos, taquitos or quesadilla) that seems to be fairly reasonable on paper. No one at our table ordered off the children's menu, and we didn't see anyone else nearby order it, so we didn't get a look at a children's meal.
For the adults, the restaurant offers an extensive selection of tequilas with which one can order margaritas, ranging from a regular margarita for $5.50 to a $304 margarita made with 1800 Coleccion. I opted for a frozen mango margarita which was delicious.
While our opinions of the food varied, we were pretty much all agreed on the service. Everyone we dealt with was very nice, but there is a lot of improvement that needs to be made. We understood to some extent as servers and runners are still getting used to being at a new restaurant, and we weren't in a terrible hurry, so it wasn't that much of a concern, but there was quite a bit of time between our drink orders being taken and our dinner orders being taken and our dinners actually arriving. That's going to be a concern as we figure most people will be stopping in for a meal and then wanting to go back into one of the parks, so a quicker turnover is what they'll be expecting.
The biggest problem we discovered is that our water glasses weren't being filled nearly often enough. With the chips and salsa and the spicy food, it's essential that water is kept refilled. The water glasses weren't that big, so that contributed to the problem as well. In other restaurants, it seems that it's usually the runners and bussers who refill the water, but in this case, our server was refilling the water. With her other duties as well, she wasn't available as often as necessary to do that. It would seem to make sense to have more runners and bussers available who can be more attentive to making sure that water glasses are kept full.
The prices in the restaurant aren't inexpensive, but I don't think the prices are unreasonable given the portion size of the entrees and location of the restaurant. Some of the appetizer prices are a bit higher than I would have expected in a restaurant like this though, with appetizer prices somewhat comparable to what one might find at Disney's Napa Rose, but with entree prices more comparable to those found at Catal.
It seems there should be a better method of waiting for a table than just standing in the line, but we weren't sure what that would be. There are usually musicians playing in that area, and coupled with being right next door to the House of Blues, I'm not sure people would be able to hear their names being called. They could go with the beeper/buzzer method, but I'm not sure how well that would work as I could see people just walking off with them if they changed their minds about eating there. The restaurant isn't necessarily designed to accommodate the most number of tables, probably because when it was constructed, it wasn't intended to be a regular restaurant. If the building were to have been built from scratch to accommodate Tortilla Jo's, I'm sure they would have asked for a different configuration, but they're making do with an existing structure in this case. The upstairs area of the restaurant is for private parties but can also be used for overflow, so perhaps once that's put to use, the waiting won't be as much of an issue.
We looked at the menu for the cantina, and we plan to try that sometime as well. The menu is similar to that of the dining room, with the soups, main course salads, combination plates and most of the main platter entrees excluded.
We confirmed that reservations are not being accepted directly by the restaurant, though we were told that reservations can be made through the Disney Dining line as well as through the Open Table reservation service. I checked with Disney Dining and was told that while they're not currently taking reservations for Tortilla Jo's, they expect to in the future. I also checked Open Table and while most of the other Patina Group restaurants are listed, Tortilla Jo's is not currently included in their restaurant list.
Tortilla Jo's offers a 20% discount in the dining room, the cantina and the taqueria to Disney Cast Members. At the moment, the discount is being offered every day, though it's expected that as the restaurant gets busier, the CM discount policy will be modified to exclude Fridays, Saturdays and possibly Sundays, mirroring the discount available at Catal and Naples.
Tortilla Jo's also offers discounts to annual passholders. In the dining room, for every two annual passholders who order an entree, they will receive a free appetizer. In the cantina, for every two annual passholders who order an entree, they will receive a free dessert. The taqueria does not currently offer an annual passholder discount.
While I enjoyed the food and enjoyed our dining experience even with all the mishaps, I don't expect we will be in the dining room very often until some of the bumps get smoothed out unless we know that we have time for a long dinner when no one is very hungry already when we sit down and we're prepared for things to not go entirely smoothly. I expect that we're more likely to find ourselves in the cantina (which didn't seem as crowded as the dining room) or getting something from the taqueria.
For the current menu offerings in the inside dining room, please click here.
For the current menu offerings in the cantina, please click here.
For the current menu offerings in the taqueria, please click here.
Tortilla Jo's / Downtown Disney District
1510 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim, California 92803
Note that the restaurant is not currently accepting reservations.
Hours of Operation
Sunday - Thursday 11am - 10pm
Friday - Saturday 11am - 11pm
Sunday - Thursday 11am - 11pm
Friday - Saturday 11am - 1am
daily 3pm - 1am
To see Tortilla Jo's specific webpage in the Patina Group website, please click here.
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