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La Tolteca in Wilkes-Barre

Mosca Nov 8, 2004 10:08 PM

First I researched a little bit, and for those of you in Delaware yes this is the same mini-chain that you know of.

La Tolteca is on Mundy Street, near the lower entrance to the Wyoming Valley Mall. The location is definitely second tier compared to the spots grabbed by the Ground Round, Smokey Bones, Olive Garden, Outback, etc, but it's on the same strip, so it's a player.

I went in expecting a Chi-Chi's/Don Pablo type place, but it seems a little less formula. It has more of a local pizzaria feel. And, most of the employees are Hispanic. (A word here: NE PA is a tough place to be any race other than white. Heck, it's a tough place to be white and other than Irish, Italian, or Polish. I've lived here 17 years and I'm an outsider. This is a place where the Irish Catholic church is right across the street from the Polish Catholic church. It's very heartening to see jobs being held by young Hispanics.)

It being lunch, I ordered a combination platter #11, a taco, a burrito, and an enchilada, all beef. The meal came with homemade chips, hot and slightly oily from the fryer, and a thin salsa. The salsa was too thin, almost watery like tomato juice. The chips were chips, a little bit sweet and not salty. As a lunch combo, it came without sides.

The food was pretty decent. The ground beef was nicely seasoned and without any chile powder, the burrito and enchilada were covered with a nice adobo sauce and topped with cheese. The corn shell for the enchilada was soft and a little bit spongy, just right. The portions weren't too much, and weren't too little.

And the bill for this pleasant feast, with a 20 oz iced tea, came to $8.96 including tax but before tip.

Shoot, that's not bad. I'd eat there agsin.


Link: http://www.lastoltecas.com/

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  1. s
    Stan RE: Mosca Nov 9, 2004 07:09 AM

    We were out shopping Saturday afternoon and noticed they were finally open, so we scrapped the take-out plans for pizza and went in. At 5:45pm, it was VERY crowded and we were told to expect a "15 to 30 minute wait". It was more like ten.

    My wife ordered beef tips in a red sauce, delicious. I had a marinated pork dish, something I normally don't order---they were tender and enjoyable. I found the salsa tasty, but a little runny also. The sides were really tremendous---fluffy rice and a lighter than usual batch of refried beans with cheese. The pico de gallo and guacamole were fine too.

    The waitstaff worked their tails off---they were rushed but courteous. With that location, Chi-Chi's gone and a worthy first round, I think they'll make it, unlike La Esperanza downtown, where the quality of the food was often better (and sometimes not).

    Tom, it's funny that you mentioned the NEPA composite---that's me! Catholic, Italian, Irish, and Polish! No kidding. I grew up in Exeter where we have three churches. "The Italian, The Irish and The Polish Church"! NEPA better get over its bigotry. I think at least 2/3's of the population is tolerant enough. As for the rest. Screw 'em!

    4 Replies
    1. re: Stan
      dpw206 RE: Stan Nov 9, 2004 10:22 AM

      Not to start a thing here, but whether or not the citizens of NEPA are bigots is probably not the reason for the lack of diversity. There really hasn't been an economic reason to move there since King Coal left. The Catholic Irish, Ukranian, Lithuanian, Italian, and Polish were just the tide of immigrants seeking jobs/better life at the period of the area's boom- not a bigotted group seeking to set up an enclave. Were some industry to boom in NEPA, I am sure you would see an influx of any number of immigrant groups du jour- whether or not the residents of NEPA like or not. In fact, the area has diversified greatly particularly to the eastern part of the state as the area slowly tries to place itself as an NYC exurb.

      In addition, was the salsa chunky at least or was it just a thin cooked puree? I have become quite fond of the salsa fresca style served in the Mexican restaurants in my neighborhood in Queens that is almost watery, but filled with chunks of onions and cilantro and fiery hot.

      1. re: dpw206
        Mosca RE: dpw206 Nov 9, 2004 11:31 AM

        The salsa was thin, not fresca style; it was more like the juice from fresca style. Still, everything else was pretty good.

        What I meant by what I wrote was that this is a hard area to break into, and being from a different culture only makes it harder. For me, it was very strange to go to mass in St Stanislaus and get asked why I wasn't going to St Leo's; I didn't know that the divisions extended inside the culture to country of origin. I still get asked my last name, and when I answer I get a stink-eye and "That's not a Hazleton name. Where are you from?" With the implied, "And why did you come here?" I see young Hispanics working and laughing with NEPA residents as a sign of hope. This is a strange part of the northeast, with people who have never been more than a couple miles from where they were born, people who have never left the county. I work with a woman who had never been to Scranton until she was 35.

        The people of this area are salt of the earth types. What they need to see to welcome others is others' willingness to be as they are themselves. I guess that's pretty universal... and when it happens, hopefully the newcomers will bring their cuisine with them, and we'll have more than pasta houses to revel in!


        1. re: Mosca
          dpw206 RE: Mosca Nov 9, 2004 01:17 PM


          I wasn't referring to your post, but the one below it. I didn't want to seem whiny- I just wanted to point out why I felt the area was so homogeneous due to economics and migration patterns. I grew up in a town down in Schuylkill County where we used to joke that the town was made up of bar, pizza, church- bar, pizza, church..etc. We had 2 Polish churches (and an Irish, an Italian, a Lithuanian, another Irish and a few I wasn't ever sure about.) When I moved up to the Scranton area, it took my family a long time to be accepted into the town, and we were Catholics with Coal Cracker names from 60 miles down 81. The people are slow to warm up to outsiders, but when they do, you find out they are pretty good folks. As well as looking forward to new foods from migrants being added to the area (I know Indian restaurants have been cropping up more regularly), it would be great if some of the other groups (besides the Italians) who have been there since the beginning, opened a restaurant or two. Not everyone's Polish or Ukranian grandmother is going to be able to cook for them forever, and I would hate to seem some of the traditional foods fall out of the area's vocabulary. As an aside, I consider you and your opinion the best from that area and always look forward to your posts on new finds-thanks.

          1. re: dpw206
            Stan RE: dpw206 Nov 9, 2004 02:11 PM

            DPW is right, unfortunately. Some towns still frown on you for your last name, when (AND IF) you move in--at least that's what I've heard. If true, this is ridiculous!!

            As for the salsa, I'll second Mosca. It did have traces of cilantro and hot pepper, but was runny and not as tasty as I had hoped.

            By the way, the Amber Indian Restaurant in Moosic is exceptional!

    2. d
      Dennis RE: Mosca Nov 9, 2004 07:44 AM

      I'll have to remember this when I'm up in the area. When I moved to Philadelphia from Texas, I searched and found La Tolteca in Wilmington and used to make the drive all the time...good spot!

      1. l
        Lee RE: Mosca Nov 12, 2004 08:30 AM

        Does anyone know when the La Tolteca in West Chester is opening? Do they have a website somewhere?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Lee
          lsvos RE: Lee Feb 18, 2005 11:24 AM

          Just south of w.c. on Rt 202 (S High Street if you are familiar with w.c.)
          open without a liquor license, last I heard...

        2. funnyfarmmeats RE: Mosca May 5, 2011 03:17 AM

          Unless you are there to consume alcohol, the food is horrible and far from authentic. I have had better service at Taco Bell. I would never go there again, waste of time and money the wait was certainly not worth it. And really?.....friggin American cheese on Chimichangas? This place should be ashamed of themselves.

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