Broadway, Rensselaer, 434-1080. Serving Mon-Sat 11-8:30. D,
Tex-Mex and a light fare mix
price range: $1.75 (single taco) to $5.50 (almost everything
intimate, with kitchen view
What do you need?” The take-out orders were coming in at a
steady rate as we doffed our jackets and settled in at one
of the half-dozen tables in the tiny space. The menu is chalked
upon a narrow blackboard that runs the width of the room;
behind it is the spacious kitchen.
Too spacious, but that was the work of the previous owner,
who ran the short-lived Empire Lunch Co. and installed a huge
stove and hood assembly in the middle of the place. “I’m just
going to work with what’s here for now,” says current owner
George Miller. He ran a far fancier place in the Purple Pepper,
in Valatie, an area puzzled by fine dining. He went on to
work with Ric Orlando at New World Home Cooking Co. in Saugerties
before returning northward and settling on a spot in Rensselaer.
think this is the place to be right now,” he says, “with all
that’s going on both in this town and in Albany.” It’s easy
enough to get to Tortillas from Albany: Take the train-station
exit off 787, turn right at Broadway. It’s a couple of blocks
up the street.
As far as developing a menu, “We decided to see what people
weren’t doing in the area, and decided it would be a unique
concept to put together a few different things, keeping a
focus on global cuisine.”
The printed menu, which is easier to study than the blackboard,
notes the restaurant’s culinary theme: burritos, gyros and
burgers. And so we sampled one of each, skipping, for now,
the daily specials (including an enticing-sounding chipotle
chicken preparation for under $7) and the fajitas, quesadillas,
wings, pulled pork, nachos and more.
Salads include a Greek mixture ($6), with olives and feta,
and a Caesar ($5), which we also ordered, and which, when
you look beyond its styrofoam container and the fact that
it’s untossed, with dressing on the side, was a better-than-average
mix of romaine, croutons and cheese. (Add chicken or beef
to the salad for a couple of bucks more.)
Burgers start with a whopping nine ounces of beef, shaped
on the premises, served on a plump kaiser roll—or substitute
a chicken breast for any of the listed versions. Those include
plain ($5), topped with cheese (the usual choices, $5.25),
prepped with a Cajun rub ($5.25), or topped with varying combos
of chili, bacon, mushrooms, feta, salsa, peppers and more
There’s no mistaking the heft of a nine-ounce burger, and
when you drape it with added items, its presence becomes more
profound indeed. I’m not convinced that feta works well with
burger or omelette—the texture of the cheese resists heat
and remains uncooperatively crumbly—but the flavor it adds
makes the occasional mess worthwhile. Add to it the vinegary
heat of pepperoncini and the sour tang of tzatziki, and you
have the flavorful Greek burger.
Like the other sandwiches we ordered, it’s served with tortilla
chips, which we added to the basket previously arrived with
an order of chips and salsa ($3). The tomato-intensive homemade
salsa is sweet, with a generous presence of cilantro, but
you’ll want to try one of the hotter brews. I went straight
to the hottest, which is thick, fiery and sweet, the last-named
quality derived from a combo of pineapple and mango.
A burger without fries is naked. Fortunately, a half-dozen
styles of french fry are offered ($1.50-$3), including toppings
of cheese, Cajun seasonings and, per my order, chili, a surprisingly
well-crafted stew of beef and beans and appropriate spices.
My wife shares none of my stubbornness when it comes to pronunciation.
The pressed-meat sandwich is spelled “gyro” and sounds like
“hero,” but she asked for a “ji-ro,” which Craig, who cooks
and serves here, discreetly repeated in the correct manner.
I gloated quietly.
Ideally, the meat continually toasts on a rotisserie; failing
that, frozen patties approximate the flavor. Although Tortillas
offers the latter, the beef-lamb mixture is tender and crisp
and stacked in enough quantity on an outsized disc of pita
that I’m willing to forgive. Dressed with tomatoes, onions
and tzatziki, it’s a massive meal. Gyros also are available
with a filling of veggies or chunks of chicken breast ($5.50
Burritos are clearly a signature item here. The $5.50 sandwich
is another meal-in-itself dish, a massive flour tortilla wrapped
around ground beef or chicken and dressed with rice, beans,
lettuce, salsa and cheese. As humble looking as the serving
may be—nestled in butcher paper in a plastic basket, more
tortilla chips on the side—the flavors blend nicely, with
bolder strokes than is often the case.
Tortillas, which has been open for about eight months, is
the kind of culinary crutch communities thrive on, with good,
unpretentious food, low prices, and a cheerful ambiance. We
were well-fed and warm as we punched into our jackets and
heard, as we left the restaurant, “Tortillas. What do you
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
on the Lake (251 Stafford Bridge Road, Saratoga
Springs) is hosting its third annual “Married
with Singles” pre-Valentine’s Day party at 8 PM
on Feb. 9. Married couples are invited to bring
their single friends, and new friendships are,
of course, encouraged. With belly dancers and
a tarot card reader on hand, how can you miss?
Stations of the restaurant’s signature food will
be provided, along with entertainment by the band
Groove Syndicate—all for $30 per person. Reservations
are required, so call 581-3928 or visit www.cha
meleononthelake.com. . . . What better way to
celebrate your special someone than with a wine-tasting
event paired with aphrodisiac foods? That’s the
theme of the Feb. 5 dinner at Parisi’s Steakhouse
(11 N. Broadway, Schenectady), with a five-course
meal and an international selection of wines.
Oysters, of course, with a sparkler, as well as
braised lobster, espresso-cured beef tenderloin
and a finale of a chocolate ménage a trois.
Reservations are required. The dinner starts at
7 PM and costs $55 plus tax and tip; for more
info, call 374-0100. . . . Ready for a trip into
hell? Ric Orlando, chef-owner of the New World
Home Cooking Co. in Saugerties, announces
the first-ever Hell Night at 6:30 PM on Feb. 2.
It’s a hot-luck wine dinner in which each course
is hotter than the last, with added hot sauce
available if your eyeballs aren’t perspiring yet.
And the wines are presented in reverse order,
with the biggest reds to start and sweet whites
to ease the pain at the end of it all. Courses
include smoked duck and sausage gumbo, lamb vindaloo
and Trinidad oxtails from hell with a red hot
habanero mash; to finish, hottest of all, a dessert
of passion fruit-habanero jiggle. Dinner is $49
per person plus tax and tip; reserve seats by
calling (845) 246-0900. . . . Remember to pass
your scraps to Metroland (e-mail food at
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..