Sunday Brunch – La Tortilleria

La Tortilleria
1040 St. Clair Avenue West
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and hot chocolate: $30

Rubbernecking as the St. Clair West bus rumbled eastward on a Saturday morning, the hungry husband and I both see the sign at the same time “Now serving weekend breakfast”. So we pass up the roti at the Green Barns Farmers Market and walk back to Dufferin to La Tortilleria. Because we loves us some Mexican food.

However, when we arrive we realize that our knowledge of Mexican food really only involved the more typical dinner entrees – what the heck do they eat for breakfast in Mexico anyway?

We almost bail – the place is hot and a constant loud creaking noise comes from the huge tortilla press at the back of the bright space. While this location of the local tortilla chain has plenty of seating, the fluorescent lights and sunny yellow walls can be a bit overwhelming. Most people seem to grab their grub to go.

We skim the breakfast menu posted on the front door: there’s plenty of eggs – sunny side up in the huevos divorciados ($7.69) or scrambled and served with a morita chili sauce ($8.96), and most dishes seem to come with sides of rice and refried beans. Chorizo also makes an appearance in several dishes including molletes campiranos ($8.94) which is a selection of Mexican chorizo, cheese, and pico de gallo – sort of a Mexican Ploughman’s Lunch.

We head to the counter to place our order but are told to have a seat. Apparently, for breakfast, there’s table service in this otherwise counter-service restaurant.

We place our order and ask for horchata ($1.50) to drink; this traditional Mexican aqua fresca is made from rice water and cinnamon and is wonderfully refreshing. Instead our server appears at the table with two cups of hot chocolate ($1.99). Horchata and hot chocolate sound the same under the noise of a creaky tortilla machine, I guess. At first we consider sending it back; we’ve walked about 12 blocks and the restaurant is hot and we really want something refreshing. But one sip and we realize this is the best hot chocolate we’ve ever had. Smooth, sweet (possibly too sweet for some) and spiced with cinnamon and a touch of chili. We ask if it’s from a mix and our server explains that it’s real Mexican chocolate, comes in a disc, and is blended with milk. It’s brilliant. Until our food comes.

My choice from the breakfast menu is the chilaquilas tradicionales ($9.79). This is a pile of La Tortilleria’s fabulous corn tortillas, cooked in a green salsa with chicken, sour cream and cheese. Except what I get is made with red salsa. And it’s hot. Way too hot for my super-taster gringo mouth. And it gets worse, not better, after a sip of hot chocolate. It’s good, great even, and I would love to finish it, but it just about kills me.

I pass the chilaquilas off to Greg (who can handle the chili even less than me) and dig into the quesadillas de la Sierra ($9.39). Now this I can get into; cheese, squash, potatoes and spinach inside those fabulous tortillas. There’s no sign of the salad, though, although the tasty refried beans are present and we finish them off.

When we go to pay, we figure out the mix-up: the chilaquilas can be served with red or green salsa, even though the menu just says green. Next time I’ll know to ask because it was a really awesome dish, just… burny.

I cool off my burning tongue with a horchata to go, and we can’t pass up a bag of la Tortilleria’s corn chips and a couple of conchas – Mexican sweet buns – hot off the tray from Pancho’s Bakery.

Despite the order mix-ups, we’re still pleased with our meal and will come back. I’d have likely never bothered with the hot chocolate otherwise, and now it’s a must have. La Tortilleria isn’t perfect, but the great food, and friendly, happy service make up for the flaws.