Dining with Dave… Don Tortaco in Las Vegas

Sometimes you just have to have the fix.

For one of my friends, he’s always jonesing for the Enchirito, a favorite of the Taco Bell set for many years. It was a flour tortilla served essentially in a foil boat, loaded with ground beef, beans and onions, swimming in red sauce and covered with grated American cheese.

Another friend loves the two tacos you can still get at Jack in the Box for a buck. My wife loves the Classic Del Taco Taco, served on a hard shell, loaded with ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes and of course, topped with that same grated yellow cheese.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, these Mexican food inspired classics are a staple on many a fast food diet here in the states.

Which is why I decided to check out a growing member of the Mexican fast food scene here in the Las Vegas Valley, Don Tortaco.

Old School. The Taco de Carlos logo from days gone by.

Straight up I will tell you, the name of the place is a trip. By merging the names of two Mexican food classics, the torta and the taco, Don Tortaco has already earned a place in the annals of fast food Mexican restaurants, right alongside the long gone Taco de Carlos, a creation of Carl’s Jr founder Carl Karcher.

Sadly it’s going to take more than a catchy name for this place to achieve cult like status for the Don. Or maybe not, because the food was so, not not Mexican, but perhaps, just not edible that it sent me to Yelp to see if I was being too harsh. I don’t think so.

When I walked in the place was bright, clean and inviting. They were even playing the classic El Aventurero by Pedro Fernandez. Things were looking good. I was quickly greeted with a smile by the girl upfront. Looking over the menu, I asked how big the burritos were. She said they were regular size, whatever that meant, so I ordered a machaca burrito with rice and beans and a mineral water to drink.

Taking a seat I waited less than 5 minutes for my food, one of the biggest strengths listed in the various Yelp reviews.

Don Tortaco, Dave Millers Mexcio

My machaca burrito, rice, beans and the ever popular yellow cheese

I think the burrito weighed in at about a pound, a good sign. Digging in before adding salsa, I was surprised to find my tortilla stuffed not only with beef, but eggs. Instead of the classic machaca experience, what they had done was wrap all the ingredients of the machaca breakfast into a gigantic tortilla and call it good. Which it was not.

Adding the red salsa made it almost inedible. Some might call the salsa earthy, but I was left wondering if the chiles had been properly washed before being used. Scraping that off I went back to the burrito and upon closer inspection here’s what I found. Don Tortaco has a recipe that has little taste difference from Aunt Hazel’s Sunday afternoon pot roast!

Now Aunt Hazel’s pot roast is not bad at all, it’s just not something you’d expect to find in a Mexican restaurant. The rice was the rice, nothing special, nothing bad. The beans could have been canned before being topped with the classic grated yellow cheese. Again, they were nothing special.

Dave Millers Mexico, Don Tortaco

The beef and chicken tacos at Don Tortaco. Fried hard with lots of grease.

I also ordered a beef taco and a chicken taco. These were served fried hard and covered in grease. The chicken taco had little or no flavor and the beef taco, which I expected to come with ground beef, came with the same pot roast from Aunt Hazel.

Aye caray!

Look, I get it that restaurants like Don Tortaco have a place. If you don’t believe me, just take a read of Taco USA by Gilberto Arellano and see how he understands the place of restaurants like Taco Bell, and I would suspect, Don Tortaco. I don’t go into these places expecting the traditional flavors like I will find at El Naranjo or Frontera Grill. But I don’t expect to be disrespected by the food and that’s how I felt eating at Don Tortaco. Simply serving food in a tortilla does not make something Mexican food.

I always ask myself at the end of a review if I would eat there again. In this case, not a chance!

When I want my old school So Cal 1970’s Mexican food experience, I’ll just look for the place that wraps their hard shell tacos in the classic yellow waxed paper. The ones that were always on sale every Wednesday… 5 for a dollar!

Don Tortaco… all around the Las Vegas Valley.

Lunch or dinner… about $7.00 per person plus your drink.

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