Dining Out: Customers remain loyal to La Tolteca

 

Maybe the best part about eating at La Tolteca is the enticing Mexican food. Or, it could be the merry décor, festive music or amicable service.

“Well, it’s all of that. Mexican food is very tasty. It tastes really great. You can put spices on it, make it spicy if you want to, and it’s something prepared fresh. People like it,” said Ernesto Camarena, who has owned the Truitt Street establishment 16 years.

“I like to see the people. They really like the food. They tell me it’s wonderful and it tastes good. They leave happy and they’re full,” Camarena said.

The restaurant opened 19 years ago and had other managers for three years, although he owned it. Ten years ago, a fire upstairs caused the establishment to close for three months, but it was repaired and reopened.

Named for a group of Mexican Indians, to maintain its unique national image, the restaurant is popular for fajitas, especially the shrimp, steak, chicken and grilled vegetable one.

Also on the menu is a Hawaiian fajita, served in half a fresh pineapple.

There are fish tacos and other seafood dishes, mango chicken and vegetarian selections. Any item on the menu can be made meatless, with ingredients cooked separately from meat.

Also popular are enchiladas, rolled corn tortillas filled with meat, vegetables, seafood, cheese, beans or seafood, with sauce on top. A fajita “is completely different,” Camarena said and is made with a flour or corn tortilla and beef, shrimp or vegetables.

A burrito is a flour tortilla folded so that it completely encloses the filling.

La Tolteca has children’s selections and a full bar.

Desserts include flan, popular in Mexico, and churros, deep-fried dough with sugar, cinnamon and chocolate on top.

“Our price range is real reasonable,” the owner said, with lunches costing $6.25 to $9 and dinners from $6.50 to $13 for generous servings.

A native of Mexico who came to the United States as a child, Camarena lived in California before settling in Salisbury 16 years ago.

“I’ve cooked. I’ve done everything. We have about four chefs here and I cook, too, if I need to, if it gets crowded,” he said.

He started as a manager and learned the restaurant business while working in California and Maryland. La Tolteca is the only restaurant he has owned in Salisbury.

“When people come in they say they like the service and the food and the people who work here. We have a very friendly staff,” he said.

“Everybody likes the murals on the walls and the music playing. It makes you feel like you’re on vacation in Mexico. We just keep adding new things on the menu and new decorations here and there. We have some great customers here who have been with us the whole 19 years. A lot of them are regulars. They keep coming back. Otherwise we wouldn’t have been successful all these years,” he said.

Other Mexican restaurants have opened in Salisbury, but Camarena isn’t concerned.

“We don’t feel it when they open up,” he said. “Our customers stay with us. We’ve been lucky here.”

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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