Old Town Tortilla Factory offers Southwestern cuisine with a Mexican influence. They are located in the heart of historic Old Town Scottsdale at 6910 East Main Street (one block south of Indian School Road and two blocks west of Scottsdale Road).
In or out?
You can dine indoors or sit on their 1400-square foot open-air patio surrounded by greenery and 100 year-old pecan trees, misted in the summer and heated in the winter, next to a water fountain. If the weather permits, I recommend dining outside. It looks especially beautiful at night. The atmosphere is perfect for an intimate dinner for two, a casual meal with family and friends, or a dinner party for up to 200 people. They’ve received more than a dozen favorable magazine and newspaper reviews and they’ve been featured on the Food Network’s “Best of Show.”
Ordering a produce- and protein-rich meal
I find it easy to order a produce and protein-rich, wheat-free, gluten-free, mostly grain-free meals in restaurants. It’s easy enough to have them leave off the bread, substitute a gluten-free grain dish, such as whole corn tortillas, replace deep fried potatoes with baked or roasted potatoes, or request extra cooked vegetables or salad. However, for people with a wheat- or gluten allergy or intolerance, particularly those who have celiac disease or some other medical conditions requiring that no traces of gluten end up in their meals, dining out can be more daunting and potentially problematic.
Old Town Tortilla Factory made it easy for me to get what I wanted and for anyone with a wheat or gluten allergy or intolerance to enjoy a safe, clean meal. I was excited to see that they have a gluten-free menu. Some restaurants offer a very small gluten-free menu.
This place offers one of the most extensive lists of options for wheat-free and gluten-free diners that includes two appetizers, five salads, and 13 entrees, plus a variety of side dishes.
The gluten-free menu
The gluten-free menu tells you what to have your server leave off and substitute and which dishes cannot be made gluten-free. Some of your options include Red Chile Pork Chops, Pollo Margarita, Stuffed Filet Mignon, Carne Camerones, Pork Chile Verde, Carne Limon, and Achiote Ribs. Safe sides include garlic mashed potatoes, steamed seasonal vegetables, grilled vegetables, wild rice, whole corn tortillas with roasted red pepper butter, grilled corn on the cob, shoestring French fries, shoestring sweet potatoes, and Southwest slaw.
They will gladly make substitutions without charging you extra. So if you’d rather have grilled vegetables than the shoestring fries or prefer wild rice to mashed potatoes, that works. Their menu changes once or twice a year to reflect seasonal variations in produce and other ingredients.
Rather than serve complimentary chips as a starter, they bring warm tortillas and flavored butter to your table. (If you follow a gluten-free diet, let them know and they’ll give you corn rather than wheat tortillas.)
The first time
On my first visit, I started with their House Salad (photo upper right), field greens with thinly sliced jicama, mandarin orange sections, pico de gallo, and a tangy-sweet honey-balsamic dressing. I thought it was great: beautiful presentation, fresh ingredients, great texture, nice crunch, perfect mix of flavors. If I was planning to have that for lunch, I could easily have ordered a larger version with a side of chicken and made a meal of it.
For an entrée I ordered the Shawnee Sea Bass, pan-seared Chilean seabass served over a rock shrimp quesadilla with a drizzle of a tomato-vegetable sauce, topped with escabeche and shoestring sweet potatoes. I had them use a corn tortilla in place of the wheat tortilla and omit the cheese. I thought the fish had a nice crispy exterior and the meal had a pleasant mix of flavors and textures.
My second meal
My favorite entrée, however, was the broiled Pork Ribs glazed with Achiote BBQ sauce that I had the second time around. The ribs come with Southwestern coleslaw with a honey-mustard dressing and homemade shoestring fries. I had them replace the fries with grilled vegetables (thinly sliced carrots and summer squash), which I really liked. I love ribs but find that most restaurants make them syrupy sweet, which I don’t like, or they use wheat flour soy sauce that contains wheat, or some other gluten-containing ingredients that makes them off limits for people on a gluten-free diet.
Not so with Old Town Tortilla Factory. Their ribs can be enjoyed by anyone who follows a gluten-free diet, even people who have celiac disease. I found the ribs mildly sweet, tender but not greasy, and the portion was extremely generous. My order consisted of a 14-inch rack of pork ribs, a cup of coleslaw, and about half a cup of grilled, thinly sliced carrots and summer squash. I ate all of the vegetables in one meal and saved half of the ribs for the next day’s lunch. I would order them again.
My third meal
On my next visit I ordered the Grilled Salmon and had them replace the Apple-Soy Glaze, which contains gluten, with the Mango-Habanero Sauce. I had them replace the wild rice with the Southwest Slaw because I wanted more vegetables. Grilled vegetables also came with the meal.
My dining companion ordered the Achiote Ribs with the garlic-mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables (sauteed carrots, onions, summer squash, and grilled corn on the cob). He received a very generous side of vegetables. I thought the farmed Atlantic salmon was ok but it would have been much tastier if they’d used wild Alaskan salmon. (I might phone them to ask if they would consider carrying wild salmon.) I tried several bites of my friend’s garlic-mashed potatoes and thought they were really flavorful. They had a rustic, coarse texture, far more flavor, and less fat than mashed potatoes I’ve tried in other restaurants.
I didn’t take pictures of the meal this time. We were sitting indoors and the light was low. I find in more time-consuming and challenging to get a good shot of the plates under these conditions and we were short on time so I didn’t want to delay our meal.
An inside job
I learned that one of the restaurant’s employees has celiac disease and that several years ago he went over the entire menu, carefully analyzing it to see what he, and others like him, could and couldn’t eat. He catalogued these items on a special gluten-free menu, making sure that it accurately reflected the needs of people who must avoid all traces of gluten. It helps to have an insider like that to educate the kitchen and wait staff and to answer questions diners with special diets may have. I hope that more restaurants will be as careful and thorough. He delivered my meal to my table on my first visit and we chatted briefly. On my next visit, he was my server so I had a chance to chat with him again and to let him know how much I appreciated their having so many options for gluten-free diners.
While they don’t currently offer a special, gluten-free kids menu, if your children are open to eating the many dishes on the adult menu or the side dishes, they’ll be fine.
I found the staff at Old Town Tortilla Factory friendly, knowledgeable about the food, and attentive. I would go back.