Madge had not had a particularly good week. She has grown sweet on Boris, but Boris was sent out of town to the Carolinas for some business training meetings and left Madge here in Phoenix. At home. Alone. In the dark. Waiting. For the Apocolypse. Well, it hasn't been that drastic, but I am sure Madge felt that way with Boris so far away and gone for an entire week.
To get Madge out of the doldrums, I suggested with try someplace new. Madge liked the idea and I suggested the Old Town Tortilla Factory in Scottdale, just south of Indian School and just west of Goldwater Boulevard. I was anxious to try this place because several acquaintences have said they have had good meals here.
I picked Madge up and we headed to Scottsdale. Parking for the restaurant is meager and you can park on Main Street or try their little lot which holds a dozen cars or you can valet it for $5.00. Madge and I found a spot on the street and walked in. I was a bit surprised at how much of the restaurant is outside. I would say it is about 75% outdoors and then a smattering of tables indoors.
We were seated instantly at the far end of the patio next to Main Street. The patio is decorated with twinkle lights and a big fountain in the center. Music is piped in from from all angles. We took our seats and I have to say that the Tortilla Factory went out of its way to find the cheapest, most flimsy chairs and tables for patio furniture. These were Wal-Mart $3.99 specials. The legs of the tables were 3" PVC pipe. I kid you not. So, when you even touched the table, it all wobbled. I understand that plastic furniture is easier to deal with on a patio, but this stuff was pathetic. You would think a Scottsdale restaurant would have access to better and more comfortable furniture than that. Even Einsteins Bagle, Chipotle, and Starbucks have better outdoor furniture.
We reviewed the menus and the server took our order. Madge decided to drown her sorrows in a Raspberry Margarita ($6.95) and I selected a Horny Margarita ($7.95) which consisted of a Sauza Hornitas Tequilla, Triple Sec, Lime Juice and a splash of cranberry juice. We also ordered some chips and salsa ($3.95), two Diet Cokes ($1.95 each) and the Alitas de Fuego ($7.95) - Old Town's version of Buffalo Wings - for an appetizer.
The first thing to hit our table were the drinks. Madge had a smile cross her face as she tasted her Raspberry Margarita. She found it intense, fresh and tasty. My Horny Margarita was very nice as well. It was in a cactus novelty glass and had a nice dose of salt on the rim. The flavors were strong and the mix of lime and cranberry was a delicious treat. The fact that the shaker had an extra serving was an added bonus. The drinks were a success.
Our chips were brought shortly thereafter. They were light, crisp and not greasy. There was a good sized serving of them and we only wished they had been warm. Instead they were room temperature, but still tasty. The salsa was thick and tomatoey. It contained onions and cilantro, but the dominant taste was tomato. The salsa was also cold and fresh. It was a success.
Our waiter surprised us with a plastic container of homemade red pepper tortillas. These were on the house and came with an herbed butter spread. We each took one, slathered it with the butter and took a bite. Wonderful. Light and slightly chewy, the hot tortillas were heavenly and the herbed butter really made them shine both in taste and texture. They were excellent and a complete success.
Our waiter then took our order for entrees. Madge decided to go with the Red Chile Pork Chop ($19.95) and I was taken by the Pollo Margarita ($19.95). We also ordered salads. Madge wanted the House Salad ($3.95) because of the jicama and dressing, and I wanted the Tequilla Lime Salad because my Horny Margarita got me into a tequilla kind of mood.
Only a few minutes passed and we had our wings on the table. These smelled wonderful and looked great. About a dozen drumettes sat atop a heaping serving of cole slaw and then were topped with some sliced cucumber and jicama. It was served with a side of Ranch dressing. The wings were fantastic. They were red hot to the touch, but the sweet, smokey sauce was amazing. The chicken was tender and juicy, but the sauce on the wings was just incredible. They were not incredibly spicy, but had a nice kick. We feasted on these wings and even when we got to the last one, it was stil hot to the touch.
Unfortunately, the cole slaw suffered from it because it couldn't stand up to the heat of the wings. Sadly, the slaw had become a wet mess of warm cabbage and was dying a slow death. Still, the wings were wonderful and we considered them a complete and total success.
We had just finished the wings when our salads arrived. My salad was as pretty as they come, with a nice mix of field greens, a tomato salsa on top, sliced cherry tomatoes and slices of lime around the sides. The dressing was somewhat creamy in looks and texture. I squeezed the limes onto the salad and gave it a quick toss. I took a bite and really loved the tart and tangy flavors all the way around. It was a very well executed salad with one exception: the combination of sliced tomatoes and tomato salsa was a bit much. They should have picked one or the other because the acid from the tomatoes dominated. But, I would categorize it as a success.
Madge loved her salad. Field greens had been tossed with a honey balsamic dressing, mandarin orange segments, and jicama. It usually comes with Pico de Gallo as well, but Madge is picky. It looked as lovely as mine, and Madge was well on her way to Happyville with the combination of flavors. She said the salad was fresh, tasty, tangy and delicious. She was pleased, so I know it was a success.
As we waited for our entrees, we were hyped up on how great our meal had been. We raved about the wings, the salads, the tortillas, the drinks and everything else in between. We even got over our disdain for the bad patio furniture.
Too bad our good time was hopelessly dashed by the entrees.
My Pollo Margarita was problematic from the first bite. The menu described my dish as "Chicken breast stuffed with cheese & roasted peppers and onions, topped with tequilla citrus sauce, and served with Sonoran potato cakes and seasonal vegetables." Technically, they were correct, but this entree was just a horrible disappointment. The "stuffed chicken breast" was actually a breast that had been pounded down to about a 1/4 inch thickness and then had the cheese, peppers and onions placed in it before the breast was rolled up and then sliced. The problem was that the breast had been clearly cooked well ahead of time by either being baked or put in a boiling bag or some other cooking method that did not leave any browning at all on the chicken. No grill marks. No char. Nothing. The chicken was cold and rubbery. The filling wasn't much better. The cheese, peppers and onions were tasteless. All I got was salt with some crunch. Yuck.
The citrus sauce was tepid, but did have a nice taste. I tried to mop it up with a bit of the chicken to moisten the bird, but it was a pointless endeavor. The Sonoran potato cakes was actually one potato cake and was a hockey puck. The potatoes has been mixed with some sort of filler (I am guessing flour) and were thick and pasty. Truly dreadful. The seasonal vegetables were okay, but had been overcooked. All in all, this dish was a disaster and after a couple of bites, I abandoned it.
Madge apparently was not faring much better with her pork chop. As I picked at my meal, I could see Madge slicing pieces of the chop off and setting them aside. Piece after piece was cut without her taking a bite. I finally asked if there was a problem. "Fat," she said. "A lot of it." I looked at the pile of fat and it was substantial. When she had trimmed off the fat completely, only a small disk of pork remained. She cut a piece and bit into it. The look on her face explained it all. The meat was tough. I am no expert, but I would think that you would want the fat from pork to be in the form of marbling instead of keeping the fat around the exterior of the meat. Be that as it may, Madge wasn't happy with her pork chop.
On the other hand, she loved the mixture of potatoes and the ancho chile raspberry sauce. She said it was absolutely delicious and gobbled it up quickly. Her veggies, like mine, were standard. What we didn't quite get, however, was the corn cob addition. Basically, the restaurant had taken an ear of corn and cut it in half. Then, they took that half and cut it lengthwise and then set it on top of the vegetables. Um. Okay. What exactly were we supposed to do with that. There was no way to hold it or cut it. If it was meant to be garnish, it was a bizarre attempt at... something.
I can't even begin to say how disappointed we were at the entrees after such a wonderful set of appetizers, drinks and salads. Madge said it was like doing an hour of foreplay and then when you get to the moment, someone declares they have a headache. (I so love Madge's outlook on things!)
The waiter returned and I mentioned the issues at the table. He was gracious enough to remove one of the meals from the check. I am glad he gave that option because for $19.95, that chicken should have been stellar. We got our bill and the total was $63.20 including tax, but minus my chicken dish. The service was very good and I tipped the waiter based on what the bill would have been with my supper included because he did do a fine job.
I am not sure what to think about Old Town Tortilla Factory. It seems to be of two minds on what it wants to be and how it wants to operate. How can you have a beautiful patio setting in downtown Scottsdale and then populate it with the cheapest lawn furniture you can find? Additionally, what is going on in the kitchen where for $7.95 you can get some of the best wings in town but for $19.95, you get a tough chop or a plate of chicken something?
We left the Tortilla Factory trying to focus on the wings, the drinks, the chips and the tortillas. That gave us some smiles.
That was hard to do considering the last tastes in our mouths were of the deplorable entrees.
Old Town Tortilla Factory
6910 East Main Street
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Dress: Smart Casual
Notes: Go for appetizers and drinks. Skip the entrees.
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