Eating lunch or dinner at Tortilla Republic puts lovers of Mexican food in a blissful state of mind

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

This week’s report took me to Tortilla Republic, a firm favorite of mine for Taco Tuesday, however this was Wednesday – but it was also my parents’ last night in Laguna Beach before they headed back to England. 

I thought this place would be perfect, particularly for my dad, who has only recently developed a love for Mexican cuisine.

Tortilla Republic offers inventive modern Mexican fare with unexpected flavors, using all-natural meats as well as organic and locally grown produce. It offers a variety of gastronomic experiences, with updated Mexican classics made with fresh seasonal ingredients. 

The restaurant prides itself on signature dishes including tacos de jicama, duck confit enchiladas, and the ever-popular carnitas. All their dishes are seasonally inspired and they also offer a gluten free menu.

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Delicious ceviche consists of chilled citrus marinated swordfish and shrimp, with cucumber, avocado, cilantro and mango salsa, served with a crispy tortilla.

The restaurant layout is one of my favorites in Laguna, including a lovely off-center bar area, which is so nice to sit at and share an appetizer and sample a cocktail or two or three. The rest of the restaurant is laid out really well, with comfortable booths and large tables to accommodate its many customers. Even on a cold Wednesday evening in Laguna, this place was full by 6.30 p.m.

There are also large private dining tables situated in the back room, where I have personally spent time during events, and it is really great.

Our food journey at Tortilla Republic

We were greeted by the ever-charismatic Mike Murillo, restaurant manager, who showed us to our booth. Mike is such a great guy, funny, and a professional. I took my daughter on this tasting also, and straight away a fuss was made of her, offering her crayons and a kids’ menu – it is such a kid-friendly environment. 

We ordered drinks. Mum went for the Skinny Margarita with salt, which I know is delicious, Dad chose the Mexican IPA and Lula chose a Shirley Temple. I am having a January break so I stuck to water and occasionally sniffed my mum’s cocktail. Dad is an IPA fan, and thought the Mexican IPA he ordered was the best he’s had in the past six weeks (and believe me, he’s had a lot). 

We were presented with chips and salsa and while we browsed the menu, we also ordered a side of guacamole, my daughter’s favorite. The guacamole is so good here. 

Lula ordered from the kids’ menu. She chose the cheese quesadilla, a flour tortilla with Monterey cheese. She added shredded chicken and of course had extra guacamole.

The children’s menu is great, and the portions are generous. And Lula found a heart shaped chip!

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No surprise that the food at Tortilla Republic is great – but Lula did find a surprise in the form of a heart-shaped chip after ordering from the terrific kids’ menu

The adults at the table ordered the ceviche appetizer to share. This was delicious: chilled citrus marinated swordfish and shrimp, with cucumber, avocado, cilantro and mango salsa, served with a crispy tortilla. 

We then ordered two main dishes to share between the three of us.

From the enchilada menu, we ordered the suizas, which is an enchilada with pulled Mary free-range chicken, tomatillo sauce and melted Monterey Jack cheese, served with refried black beans and rice. This was really tasty. The homemade tomatillo sauce makes this dish, so that it is not too sweet, with a slight spicy kick.

We ordered the short rib chile verde from the principales menu, consisting of prime all natural short rib with spicy roasted tomatillo and jalepeńo roasted garlic potato purée. The meat literally fell apart, it was cooked beautifully. The whole dish was really tasty.

In addition I ordered a takeout of nachos de pollo for my son, who was sick at home. When I arrived home I checked the bag and they had also given me some chips and salsa, such a nice touch, and my son loved them.

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The Key Lime pie was outstanding: the pie looked great and tasted great

We then went for a dessert – I thought I’d treat myself as I’m not drinking cocktails for a while – and we ordered the Key Lime pie, which was outstanding, really creamy and delicious.

I was as always really impressed with Tortilla Republic. The interior is dark and sexy yet welcoming and warm. I love the kids’ options and Taco Tuesday, and happy hour is incredible value.

See you next week!

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Lynette Brasfield is our Features Editor.

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