Bill’s Bites is back to give readers a taste of what’s good to eat in the local food scene. We’re on the hunt for (and stop me if you’ve heard it before) restaurants, drive-ins, and dives we may have missed in the nearly decade we’ve traveled the road with a fork in hand.
But along the way, we’ll be returning to some places, to check out new menu items that have popped up since our last visit. And that’s what’s on our plate this week.
In this case, Torti Taco Bar and Grill has reinvented itself with its new location in downtown Battle Creek. Torti Taco had become a fan favorite with its tacos and burritos at its Beckley Road location and will continue to serve customers there. However, the new Torti Taco is something completely different with an elevated menu and a one-of-a-kind oyster bar.
Which made a second visit a must.
The best time to eat here is when you want to be transported to Mexico
Torti Taco always aims to bring some of the best Mexican cuisine in the area to Battle Creek, as it already has a reputation for having the best tacos in town, based on various local outlets. But in this reincarnation of Torti Taco, tacos and burritos are on the back burner. The stars of the show are the high-end starters with four-star flair and presentation.
When you see ingredients like peaches, pears, and candied fruit in Chili Nogada, or zucchini blossoms in Pipian Verde, you know you’re not at a “taco stand” anymore.
With several entrees to choose from, the Bill’s Bites team asked the staff for suggestions and were directed to the Pollo de Rancho. A tender, grilled half-chicken dominates the plate, blazed in a burnt red mole sauce with ancho mulato peppers. It sits on a bed of plantain puree and is accented with fresh asparagus. The reason this dish sings is the way the deep flavors of mole sauce and ancho peppers blend with the sweetness of mashed plantain. With a few corn tortillas brought to the table on the side, use them like bread to scoop up any extra sauce at the bottom of the plate to get every morsel of flavor.
We also tried the Arrachera, which featured a tangy orange-herb marinated steak served with beans, rice and tortillas. A piece of meat as tasty as anywhere in town.
If you like that kind of thing, Belly at the Oyster Bar
A big draw to the new Torti Taco is the Oyster Bar. During the pre-opening of the restaurant, the main dishes for dinner are available from 4 p.m. However, the oyster bar opens at 2pm, as well as the fully loaded cocktail bar.
The highlight is, of course, the freshly shucked oysters, which you can get by the half-dozen or dozen. But there are more than oysters. Coctel de Camarones offers fresh shrimp with lime, jalapeno, cucumber and tomatoes. If you want a bit of everything, try the Torre de Mariscos, made with shrimp, tuna, octopus, avocado and cucumber, with a tortilla fresca sauce.
Not wanting to choose between the oysters and the long list of cocktails, we went with the most talked about item at first – the Oyster Shots. With tequila, the oyster shot starts with Clamato, which is tomato juice, and includes chunks of cucumber, red onion, and tomatoes. With a rich, salty mix around the rim of the shot, the appetizer drink is addictive and a perfect way to warm up for the rest of your meal.
I’m no food critic, but if you asked me I would describe this like a great dinner downtown
The new Torti Taco Bar and Grill bills itself as a destination restaurant, the kind of place you plan to go for a good night out. With this idea in mind, he definitely achieved his goal. Everything is top notch, including starters, like the Sopa de Hongos, which is wild mushrooms with epazote in a lean chicken broth. And ask about dessert, which isn’t on the current menu, but we were brought a Tres Leches cake that was so light and flavorfully sweet it would be worth it for the trip to Michigan Avenue.
The Bill’s Bites team have been long time Torti Taco fans and we were delighted to see grilled chicken tacos and shrimp tacos, as well as barbacoa tacos, also available on the menu and reminiscent of the original location.
With a fine dining atmosphere, downtown views and authentic Mexican flavors, the new Torti Taco Bar and Grill took us once again to an international venue right here in Battle Creek.
Bill Broderick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @billbroderick
This week’s restaurant: Torti Taco Bar and Grill
Or: 80 Michigan Avenue West
Items: Pollo de Rancho/Oyster Shots
In line: Watch the video of Bill’s Bites’ visit to Torti Taco Bar and Grill on battlecreekenquirer.com.
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