Thirty years ago this summer, my husband was being interviewed for a job at American Newspaper Publishers Association in Reston. Part of the interview was lunch with executives at a "new" Mexican restaurant that had opened in Herndon. Tortilla Factory.
He raved about the lunch, with unlimited salsa and chips and refreshing margaritas. Since it's opening in 1975, this restaurant has endured at the same location—so they must be doing something right. (Think about it, how many restaurants in Herndon have been at their same location for 30 years?)
If you have children under the age of 10, every Thursday kids eat free with a paying adult. This is a great deal, and when we were there on a Thursday night, the place was packed! Kiddie beef tacos, and cheese, beef, or chicken enchiladas are served with Mexican rice and refried beans, and unlimited chips and salsa at the table. Regular kid's meals are $5.25 each and include a kid-size soda with unlimited refills. (They also have the usual kid fare of hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken tenders, in case some of the little ones do not care for Mexican food.)
To save some cash, visit their website at www.thetortillafactory.com and you can print out coupons before your visit (10 percent off your dinner, or buy one get the second entrée half off).
People flock to this homey Mexican restaurant for the food—it is not a fancy restaurant. The quantity of chips and salsa they provide free every evening would sink most restaurants' profits. Portions are large and satisfying, and even their sides of seasoned rice and cooked black beans are surprisingly good.
Lunch specials draw crowds of diners, where you can get the same portions as with the dinner menu for a reduced price. Their large taco salad is only $6.50. It is a huge bowl of lettuce topped with your choice of chicken, beef, or beans topping, plus shredded Monterey Jack cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, jalapeno slices, corn tortilla chips and their signature creamy jalapeno dressing. The flavor of the chicken topping was exceptional—I would order that again—laced with fresh tomato sauce, cumin and onions. (I am getting hungry as I am writing this.)
Fajita platters are very generous with their side toppings. Most places only give you a tiny amount of beans, tomatoes, cheese and lettuce, while Tortilla Factory gives you an entire platter full of toppings, plus a side of guacamole and sour cream. Their California Enchilada is fantastic—a soft, folded flour tortilla stuffed with green chilies, cheese, onions and your choice of fillings. The machaca filling is the best (a shredded seasoned beef). It is topped with lettuce, cheese and sour cream. I would definitely order this again. Try their fabulous Carne Asada—three generous skewers of marinated, grilled sirloin topped with a spicy tequila-ancho chile sauce. This is also served with a generous side of black beans and Mexican rice.
Looking for local entertainment? For more than 25 years the Folk Club of Reston/Herndon (a volunteer organization) has hosted a Tuesday night "open mike" night at Tortilla Factory. Music starts at 7:15 p.m., so come a bit early and get a table and enjoy dinner and music. Look at their website for a listing of events.
Skip the beers here, unless you want to pay $5.95 for a bottle of Dos Equis that you can get for $1 at the grocery store. Their margaritas deserve a standing ovation—$7.95 for a large lime, strawberry, peach, or raspberry flavor. Don't worry if you do not have room for dessert. Our flan was tough in texture and flat in flavor. Their walnut cake was average in flavor.
And finally, as you are leaving and paying your bill at the front counter, grab one of their green lime and coconut mints, and note their sign of "one per customer." This was a delightful ending as we paid our bill. Look in the refrigerator case and make sure to pick up a pint of Chile Con Queso and a bag of their homemade chips for the weekend.
Join me in thanking the owner, Chuck Curcio, for his long-standing support of Herndon community causes and fundraising events.