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June 8, 2010 > Restaurant Review: The Mexico Tortilla Factory Deli & Grocery

Restaurant Review: The Mexico Tortilla Factory Deli & Grocery

By Denny Stein

Great food and good values need no translation

We have more than one factory to celebrate in the Tri-City Area. In 1972, before NUMMI opened its doors, Rogelio Collazo opened the Mexico Tortilla Factory Deli & Grocery in Newark. Unlike NUMMI, The Tortilla Factory has never laid off its work force nor closed its doors. In 1988, it moved from its original location to 71 Thornton Avenue and is still there today.

Find the Factory by looking out for Newark's Magnolia Plaza, fronted by a flowered pergola along Thornton Avenue. You can park in the back and walk past the dark red umbrellas shading outdoor tables that match the window awnings of the Tortilla Factory building. The sun and the breeze make it a cheerful spot, and your imagination provides the romance.

Last year, Don Collazo passed away, but his daughters, Sucy, Elsie and Gloria carry on the family business, taking pride in their products, their neighborhood, and the fact that their father was inducted into the Tortilla Industry Association's Hall of Fame just last month.

More than a taqueria and not just a grocery store, the Mexico Tortilla Factory is the only tortilla factory in the Tri-City area; it provides fresh tortillas and masa to much of the Bay Area. These are the tortillas you should be looking for as they are made from scratch with all natural ingredients right here in Newark. The daughters of Rogelio Collazo insist on preserving the traditional, fresh, and simple tortilla production started by their father.

Fresh dried California corn is soaked, in great vats, with just water and lime. It is then heated and when it has reached the optimum consistency, stone ground into masa, a corn dough. The masa is then processed through rollers that create various sizes and shapes, dropping the tortillas onto a conveyor belt which runs them through the oven. Out the other side come the tortillas and onto a multi-layered cooling rack, moving over and under each other until they are ready for counting, stacking, bagging and boxing.

You can buy bags of the Factory's tortillas right here, fresh off the "presses" or you can treat yourself to a crispy fresh taco filled with lettuce, tomato, cheese, beef, chicken, or chorizo. There are small deli tables and chairs inside by the window, and attractive metal patio tables outside in Magnolia Plaza. Have a seat and your order of tacos, burritos, enchiladas, nachos or tamales will be brought to you. Before you order, though, browse the shelves and coolers for vintage Mexican sodas. But wait... as you leave the counter, help yourself to newly fried taco chips and a multiplicity of fresh salsas at the salsa bar.

Finished? Want something sweet? There is a case in the back left corner filled with Mexican baked goods: Mexican candies and sweets on the grocery shelves. If you get carried away, take home a pinata from those hanging overhead. Because this is not just a taqueria, you can pick up that quart of milk you need, a box of cereal, a bag of flour, or last minute items you think of on the way home.

And since the Mexico Tortilla Factory is not just a grocery store, you can order fresh homemade rice, beans, cheese and salsa, along with guacamole, and meats (like carnitas and barbacoa) by the pound. Eat in, take-out, stock up; it's all possible at the Mexico Tortilla Factory Grocery & Deli.

On our visit we had a crispy-shelled shredded beef taco, uncomplicated smooth avocado-y guacamole, and a chicken enchilada plate, with rice and beans, which was cheesy with a spicy rich and delicious deep red sauce. The pork tamale was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and had a not-too-spicy chile rojo sauce. Everything was delicious, though the tamale was a real standout.

But there is something really special about this local Tortilla Factory, and that is the people who own it and who work there. Everyone was genuinely friendly, and helpful. Elsie, who is intelligent, caring and attractive, gave us a tour, twice, of the factory end of the business. She talked about her father, their loyalty to the neighborhood, working with the City of Newark to create Magnolia Plaza, and their commitment to family. Despite her self-deprecating, "I'm no good at PR. My sisters are better," I couldn't have had a nicer introduction to this family. We left happy and feeling privileged to have been so welcomed.

The Mexico Tortilla Factory is open Monday-Friday 8 a.m. - 7 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. -6 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.. Thus, everyone is encouraged to go home and spend time with children, spouses or parents. So, whether you want cene adentro or para llevar, make it a point to visit the daughters of Rogelio Collazo at the Mexico Tortilla Factory Deli & Grocery in Newark. Bring the family or take home your dinner. It will make you happy.

Visited May 29, 2010

Mexico Tortilla Factory Deli & Grocery
7015 Thornton Avenue, Newark
(510) 792-9909

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