Our house is a stones throw away from the Walt Whitman Bridge, so we can be in South Jersey in about five minutes. To me, however, New Jersey may as well be a foreign country. I generally get lost every time I go there and the rules against making left turns annoy me to no end. I would much rather stay on the “right” side of the bridge.
Chester and I made an exception recently, though, and ventured into Collingswood for dinner with some of my Drexel friends. Our pilgrimage coincided with Collingswood’s Restaurant Week, so we (me, Chester, Lara, Matt, Richard, Louisa, Darin, and Joe) decided to head to The Tortilla Press (703 Haddon Avenue).
Tortilla Press serves Mexican “influenced” food—familiar dishes fused with Mexican herbs, spices and sauces. It was pretty busy when we arrived around 7:30 on a Friday evening, but since we had more that 6 people in our party, we were able to make a reservation and were seated right away.
Collingswood is a dry town, all restaurants are BYOB. We all brought wine, but it would probably be fun to bring your own margarita mix to Tortilla Press, too. The restaurant was offering its full menu, in addition to the four-course, $30 Restaurant Week menu. Most of us opted for the latter. While we waited, we munched on chips, two kinds of salsa (one mild, one spicy), and black bean dip.
I started with the Pumpkin, Goat Cheese and Black Bean Quesadilla, which was served with a sour cream based chile sauce. This seemed like an odd assortment of ingredients, but the combination of sweet, savory, and spicy came together surprisingly well. I also sampled a bit of Chester’s chile rellano, it could have been a bit warmer, but I really liked the tomato broth and queso fresco that accompanied it.
Next, was butternut squash soup. After the excellent bowl that I had at Meritage earlier this fall, my expectations were high. Tortilla Press’ version fell short, unfortunately. It didn’t have the velvety smooth texture that Meritage’s had and it was sort of bland. A more liberal sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg would have kicked it up a notch.
For an entrée, I opted for the Chicken Milanesa, breaded chicken breast, topped with avocado, queso fresco and pico de gallo, served with rice and red beans. The chicken was moist and flavorful, but like the soup, could have used a bit more spice. It fared much better, though, than Chester’s entrée—the apple and chorizo stuffed pork loin—which was seasoned well, but bone dry.
Dessert was probably the highlight for me (isn’t it always?). I would love to try to recreate my pumpkin bread pudding with cinnamon ice cream at home, but I am sure I could never turn out anything close to what I had at Tortilla Press. It was served warm, and the cinnamon and pumpkin flavors kept it from being cloyingly sweet, like some bread puddings can be. Chester’s apple & walnut empanadas with vanilla ice cream were delicious as well. I liked how they soaked up the house-made cider syrup that accompanied them. We both would have just preferred them to be a bit warmer.
The atmosphere was relaxed, service was friendly, and the presentation of the food was very pretty. Overall, I enjoyed my meal, but the food wasn’t memorable enough for me to want to rush back.
On our walk to and from the restaurant, I noticed that Collingswood’s main street is actually pretty adorable. I noticed a bunch of cute little boutiques and restaurants that I would like to try. I never thought I would say this, but I’m actually looking forward to my next trip over the bridge.
(Side note–thanks, friends, for turning me and Chester on to American Horror Story on FX. We’re all caught up now, and I’m officially scared of my own house.)