One recent evening, this tired mother just couldn’t muster the energy to put together a suitable dinner for my family. I fetched the children from daycare, and, equally daunted by the fast food options available to us, headed for the closest sit down establishment. I wanted something relatively cheap with a vegetarian option and a kid-friendly atmosphere. La Tolteca (on South High Street) seemed like a sure thing.
In the past, my friends have raved about La Tolteca. I never really got the hype, but at the time I wasn’t exactly open minded when it came to trying new restaurants. Years later, every bit of a foodie and lover of cuisines a-plenty, I thought I’d give it another go.
I should preface this for the sake of fairness, with a disclosure of my relationship with (located in Gay Street Plaza). You see, I’m what restaurant employees call a ‘regular.’ When I walk in, Carmen, the owner, recognizes me. Many of the servers know my order. I haven’t had to crack the menu in years. I have recreated their pineapple salsa, to varying levels of success, simply on taste recollection and guessing….because I have eaten probably gallons of it.
Now that I have cut meat from my diet, I settled in to my booth at La Tolteca with a three-year-old on either side of me, and started scanning the menu for anything frijole. The server arrived promptly with hot, fresh chips and smooth salsa. Right here, in those two sentences, I summed up everything great about La Tolteca: kid-friendly, fast service, bangin’ chips and salsa that even a texture-phobe could love. And, this is about it. The actual food we were served was, frankly, subpar. The beans are refried (and I highly doubt the lard-less, vegetarian variety), and the enchiladas made with them were like something thrown in a microwave with some cheese-flavored sauce on top.
Over at Señora’s, the enchiladas are perfection. As a matter of fact, as dedicated as I am to avoiding meat, the enchilada’s lure made me FORGET all about it as I morphed into a pollo loving zombie and placed my order. It wasn’t until I was driving home, belly full of goodness, that I realized it--enchiladas de pollo con guajillo salsa has chicken in it! Well, it was too late (and too good) to let it upset me for too long.
While the tri-color chips at Señora’s aren’t served out-of-the-fryer warm, they are served with an array of their house made salsa. From their pico de gallo to the green chili to my favorite pineapple salsa, each one is better than the next. The beans look like beans. The tortillas transport you to some abuelita’s cocina. The quesdadillas are no frills, perfect for finicky toddlers. Aside from their lack of booth seating, the atmosphere itself is kid-friendly and the service is efficient and friendly.