The Skinny: Ortega 120 is a Mexican restaurant located in Redondo Beach. It is headed by Thomas Ortega who has been featured on Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen” and according to LA Weekly, his restaurant has the best margaritas in Los Angeles. The style of the food can be described as traditional and simple Mexican fare but with the use of alternative methods, like Duck Confit in an enchilada.
The High: I went to Ortega 120 for the first time with my older brother and cousin. The interior and decor of the restaurant had a hip and colorful Dia de los Muertos celebration feel to it. As we sat down we were served warm chips and salsa that were endless and tasty. They even had a spicier version of the salsa that the waiter challenged me to try, but it wasn’t that bad. It had a nice heat that lasted, but it didn’t make me regret using it over and over again.
While I should have ordered something more traditional in the Mexican sense, I saw that they had an American Kobe Burger. At that time I was on a “Great Burger Hunt,” so I went with that dish. My “Ortega 120 Kobe Burger” came packaged in an 8oz beef patty, lettuce, tomatoes, Ortega chiles, queso asadero, spicy mayo, and on a pan de leche bun. It also came with crisp skinny fries that were good even though they came out a bit cold. The medium well Kobe Burger itself was nice and beefy while the bun was squishy and quite sweet. All the extra fixings within the burger were subtle but added welcome complexities to the patty, especially the Ortega chiles. I can’t say it’s the best burger I ever had but it was solid and delicious.
My brother had the “Tour de Tacos” and my cousin ordered the “Duck Confit Chilaquiles.” I didn’t try my cousin’s dish but I did take a bite from one of my bro’s tacos. The “Tour de Tacos” came with 5 street style tacos topped with pastor, carne asada, shrimp, carnitas, salsa, and on top of flour tortillas that were preferred by my brother. I nibbled on the shrimp taco and it was quite tasty. I can’t say I remember exactly how it tasted, but at the time I was tempted to steal the rest of it away. However, the flour tortilla did change the texture a bit, giving the whole bite a nice extra chewiness. The Duck Confit Chilaquiles my cousin ordered is casserole styled “with green enchiladas, corn tortillas, roasted poblano chiles, queso oaxaca, onions, cilantro, Mexican sour cream, queso cotija, and salsa verde.” While I didn’t get a chance to try it, my cousin did mention the duck wasn’t as tender as the last time he had it, but he did finish it all….again.
The Low: While the interior was pretty cool, it did have that Buca Di Beppo feel of trying too hard to be authentic and yet commercially corny. Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as the Italian latter thanks to the deeply dark wooden chairs, tables, and bar.
I also wanted to get one of their margaritas but I was persuaded by the waiter to try their tequila taste test special where they infuse 3 blanco shots with bacon, pineapple, and jalapeno. So I gave it a go and it just reminded me of flavored rum you can get off the shelves at supermarkets. It was a waste of booze space, but it wasn’t horrible.
Would you come back again? Yes, the place has a fun atmosphere and the food is good. They even have a patio section to hang out on for summer nights. There are also more dishes I need to try out.
More Info: 1814 S. Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach, CA 90277. Credit Card Friendly. Full Bar! Expect to pay $10-25 for food and around 10 bucks for a margarita.