Thursday, March 1, 2012

Brunch at Tortilla West

If there are two things I love, they’re trying a new restaurant, and having Sunday Brunch. This past Sunday I did both. My Expressions in Food class and I went to Tortilla West—a Mexican restaurant here in west Ghent.

Tortilla West is classified as “Mexican,” but really is a Mexican-American restaurant—not that I mean that as an insult. If you’re looking for one of those Mexican restaurants where you must know Spanish to get by, and even Mexicans recommend it—Tortilla West isn’t for you. But if you enjoy a Mexican-inspired menu, a staff of hipsters, and a Bloody Mary bar—Tortilla West is your place!

Those of you from coastal cities will relate with me on this, but I found T-West to have a “beach vibe.” A restaurant doesn’t have to be on the boardwalk to have that surfers-welcome atmosphere. T-West is actually located 30 minutes from our oceanfront. But in certain cities, the waterside lifestyle really encompasses everything. I know this to be true for Virginia Beach, and I’ve seen it in other cities like Charleston and Los Angeles. Restaurants take on a similar coolness: many of shades of blue (at T-West, alternating with their flame-painted walls); exposed ceilings; broken-in furniture that says they don’t mind if there’s still sand in your shoes and your backside is a bit damp; a menu with a great selection of beer and seafood; and a staff of servers that are in no rush.

This is obviously not characteristic of all our restaurants, and it’s not something I want on the regular, but being in T-West on Sunday, sipping a mimosa and chatting with my foodie classmates while classic rock played in the background felt strangely reminiscent of Saturdays at the beach—something I hadn’t realized I missed.

I ordered huevos rancheros, and their classic mimosa. They have multiple variations of each, but for a first visit to the restaurant, I wanted to start with brunch staples, so I could accurately gauge things.

The mimosa was nothing fancy. The orange juice did taste fresh-squeezed. Fancier versions come with side shots and such, but the classic mimosa is satisfying—and sufficient—if you’re driving.

The huevos rancheros, as the menu describes, “bean and pork tostada topped with cheese, two eggs and enchilada sauce served over a bed of rice and beans.” And it was divine. I had my eggs scrambled (the only way I’ll eat them), which is the first thing you smell as the server puts the dish down. … then the fresh cilantro … then the cheese melted on the pulled pork, and that’s about the same order that the flavors hit your tongue when you taste it.  That medley of flavors, all tied together by the enchilada sauce, is meaty perfection for a hungry Sunday morning.

Other offerings by T-West that I’d like to try in the future include any of the variations on huevos rancheros, shrimp and grits (my other brunch fav.), a large array of local beers on draught, and the Blood Mary bar.
I didn’t have a Bloody Mary, but Patrick Evans-Hylton did. The first one he brought to the table had what looked like an entire side-salad atop it. Of things I could spot in his drink, it looked like olives, artichokes and peppers. For his second, he had simple bleu cheese and celery. I wasn’t personally in the mood for a Bloody Mary, but had I been, the whole thing looked very enticing.

T-West is a perfect brunch destination. Or better yet, come on down to Virginia Beach, spend the morning swimming, and after you’ve worked up an appetite, stop in at T-West and help yourself to huevos rancheros and Bloody Mary—you pass it on the way from the oceanfront to my house anyway.

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