Steppin’ Out – Tortilla Flats Cantina, Placerville

Last Saturday Russ Salazar and I met at Tortilla Flats Cantina, which is at 564 Main Street in Placerville. It was a “last minute idea,” since I needed something to write about and the miserable weather for the previous week had kind of kept me in.

Russ, as you know, is my Mexican food expert, having grown up in a household where that was the rule.

In my household the only thing we ate that came anywhere close to Mexican was occasional tamales and a great dish my grandmother made, Tamale Pie. That dish, which was full of black olives, was always our choice for pot luck dinners.

We had decided to eat earlier than our normal 1 p.m. and both of us arrived at the restaurant a few minutes before 11:30 a.m., which is their opening time.

Surprisingly, there were a number of other people waiting, like us, checking the time.

In a few minutes they opened the door, greeted us and graciously seated Russ and I in what I would call the main dining room. Other people were seated in he room where the bar is located, but they weren’t using the dining room in the back. The whole place has a very nice, and very clean, dining atmosphere.

The room with the bar seemed to be the most popular as it filled up with singles, couples and families while we were eating. We were joined in the main dining room by several diners during the same time. The restaurant appears to be very popular.

Our silverware, wrapped in colorful bandanas, which were our napkins (very clever) were on the table and very soon our server brought us complementary chips and their house salsa.

Neither of us had been there since the latest owners took over about a year ago, and had no idea what to expect as we opened the menu.

I remembered my favorite dish for many years at the old Tortilla Flats, had been their machaca burrito, which they filled with shredded beef and what Russ called delicious “fat, sloppy tacos.” There was also the crispy, cheese covered flour tortilla that they brought to each table when you first sat down and I will never forget all the pinatas hanging from the ceiling.

Well, for good or bad, all those things are no longer, but you can order the crispy, cheese covered flour tortilla from the appetizers menu and they do offer a “Tortilla Flats Original Foot Long Beef Taco” which, for some reason, neither of us recalled.

The new menu was obviously foreign to us, as we had not seen it before, and we needed some time to figure out what we would order.
We immediately noticed that they now serve Nieman Ranch beef and both free-range chicken and pork. We also noticed that the dishes are now a bit pricy.

As you know, both of us are Mexican food fans and lean towards the hotter and spicier dishes, usually served at taquerias. Unfortunately, most people prefer blander food and many restaurants tend to serve that.

We finally settled on me ordering a Pork Chile Verde plate, with red chile rice and black beans (vegetarian) and Russ ordering their “Three Item combination,” with refried pinto beans and their green poblano rice. He had two tacos and a tostada. The tacos were carnitas (pork) and fish, the tostada was pulled chicken.

Since we planned on sharing everything, we asked if they would cut the tacos and tostada in two so we could share them, but they said we would have to do it (if you have ever tried to cut a crisp taco, you know why).

While waiting for our food to arrive, we munched on their chips and salsa. I liked both, as did Russ. The chips were paper thin and fresh tasting, while the salsa had a nice bite to it.

When our food arrived, the presentation was very nice and my plate was very hot, I was warned. Having once actually blistered my hand on a plate of Mexican food at another local, but now out of business, restaurant, I took their advice.

My large portion of chile verde was very tender and flavorful, we both agreed, and both the rice and beans were good. However, the rice and beans were a bit bland and required the addition of some of their salsa and, in the case of the beans, a bit of salt.

Russ’ refried beans were good, as was the green rice, but I felt they were also a bit bland. For both of us, the tacos and tostada were somewhat disappointing.

The carnitas taco came in a regular folded crispy corn shell with lettuce and tomato. It was not very big and needed an addition of some of their house salsa to get more flavor.

The fish taco was, according to the menu, beer battered rock cod. It came in a soft corn tortilla with cabbage and a sauce. It was a very small portion of fish, but it did have good flavor, we agreed.

The chicken tostada, which came on a small, flat, crispy tortilla as expected, contained beans and chicken, along with lettuce and tomato. It too was bland and kind of boring.

Overall the food was good, but, in both of our opinions, somewhat overpriced compared to our usual taqueria fare.

The menu is large and, in addition to what we have mentioned, they have many more items on their menu, including nachos, taquitos, fajitas, burritos, a chile relleno, salads, soups, desserts and more, including an interesting, half-pound El Rockero Burger. They also have a full bar.

Weekdays, from 11:30 until 2 they feature Lunch Specials, “Ten items for $10.” There are burritos, burrito bowls, tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, salads and more to choose from.

Weekdays from 3 until 6 they feature a Happy Hour, with good prices on appetizers, beer, margaritas, Sangria and house wines. On

Wednesday, there are half price on bottles of wine all night long.

Their hours are, Monday through Thursday from 11:30 until 8 and until 9 on Friday and Saturday. For more information call (530) 295-9408 or visit their webpage at www.tortillaflatscantina.com.

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