For an explanation of the Bowie Restaurant Project, look here.
For a collection of all the Bowie Restaurant Project entries, look here.
California Tortilla, 3941 Evergreen Parkway
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 7/5/2011
Total Foursquare Check-ins: 92
Pre-Foursquare Visits: Countless
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars
From the moment I decided to review all of Bowie's restaurants, I knew I had to start with California Tortilla. Not only have I eaten there more than any other Bowie restaurant, I've probably eaten there more than all other Bowie restaurants combined.
What do I love about California Tortilla? First of all, it's fairly nutritious. You can use their on-line nutritional calculator to count calories. Getting their burritos in a bowl (as I always do) is a great way to trim calories from your meal. Skipping the chips and queso is another good way, but I never seem to be able to manage that.
Which brings me to the second thing I like about "Caltort" -- the food is quite tasty. I don't love everything on their menu (the "California Screamin" burrito doesn't do it for me, especially in bowl form), but they have enough consistent hits (the Havana burrito and Sunset Bowl are two of the better lower-calorie options, and the Blackened Chicken Caesar is a nice indulgence). The fish tacos are pretty good -- not quite San Diego authentic, but a worthy substitute. And when I just don't feel like having a burrito bowl, the quesadillas are a nice change of pace.
The third thing that brings me back are the specials. They range from the prosaic (the "Burrito Elito" card's rewards turn into an effective 10% discount) to the wacky (the annual Free Pop Tart day is a must-visit event).
OK, so it is a chain. It is, however, a local chain, headquartered in Rockville and numbering 36 locations in Maryland, DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Based on the few I've visited, the Bowie location appears to be one of the better-run franchises.
Since I'm considering effect on the Bowie restaurant landscape, I have to dock California Tortilla a star simply for being part of a chain. If it didn't have a Bowie restaurant, you could still go to College Park or Laurel or wherever. But it gets half a star back for the new Coke Freestyle machine. Want to try a Raspberry Coke Zero or a Vanilla Sprite? Not a problem with this machine that mixes your soda on the fly and is worth a visit for its own sake.