Happy Birthday Las Tortugas!
Today is Las Tortugas’ ninth birthday, and when I stopped by for a late lunch, Pepe was in a fine mood. “Nine years on June 16,” he said proudly. “And on March 17, we had our millionth customer. It’s a miracle.”
If you’ve visited Las Tortugas in Germantown even once, you are bound to know Pepe Magallanes and his lively storytelling from a stool behind the cash register. On Saturday, he was particularly excited and lobbing praise for the restaurant’s success to his son, Jonathan Magallanes. “It’s Jonathan’s restaurant. I just work for food,” he said, beaming. “Jonathan says God gives us the opportunity to do something people will embrace. And that is why we are here.”
Then he challenged me to guess how many customers eat at the restaurant every day. “Maybe 200,” I answered. “Ha! 500 a day, and our best day? 750. Look at the photo I took this afternoon to show my wife,” he said, pulling out his phone. “The line of customers filled up the restaurant, and there was so much talking and the music. I am very proud.”
I think Pepe and Jonathan should have their own television show because it’s hard to imagine a more engaging and handsome father and son team. And then, of course, there is their food. Newcomers should remember to check the chalkboard specials, which on Saturday included rock lobster tortuga and Newman Farms pork tacos. For me, I went with a favorite stand-by: grilled fish tacos plated with small, warm corn tortillas, shredded lettuce, slices of fresh avocado and lime and the restaurant’s unbelievably wonderful green spicy sauce made with avocados. I swear. I could drink this stuff and die happy.
At Pepe’s urging, I also ordered a sweet specialty tea from Mexico City made with freshly squeezed citrus. It was good, but too sweet for me. And I left, as always, with my only regret: I wish Las Tortugas served plain old brewed tea. Unsweet, and Lipton will do just fine.