Excited about the prospect of a new restaurant outside of downtown Ashland, my dinner date and I settled in to a booth at Torero’s in the Rite Aid shopping Center.

The interior of the restaurant has not changed, it is still clean and bright; the owners have changed since the restaurant’s original incarnation. The menu is new to this location. This is the first Torero’s to open in Jackson County by the Ayala family. You may remember a Torero’s in Grants Pass near the DMV that was also owned by the Ayala family. This is the same Torero’s, the family closed that location in order to focus on the Ashland location. The Ayalas also operate a Torero’s in Brookings, Or and Cazadores in Crescent City, CA.

David Ayala, Gabriel’s brother, graciously served us.
I began my dining experience with a regular margarita on the rocks and my date ordered the Torero’s margarita which is made with Cuervo 1800 and Grand Marnier. His was clearly the better choice and worth the premium status. My margarita was also good, and came in a big schooner, which I prefer to a highball glass. Its more fun to drink from a big, round glass.

The menu offers a full selection of Mexican favorites but I know that to find out if a Mexican restaurant is worth its salt order the chile relleno and/or tamale. I have found that different Mexican restaurants make these two items in their own way. Torero’s offers a combo plate with one chile relleno and one tamale, so that made my decision easy. After discussing many options, my date chose the fajita burrito. Also tempting were the fish tacos ofr $11.50, and the Carne Azada for $12.50.

Our dinners came promptly, the Torero’s kitchen is really quick.

The portions were larger than expected. I knew there was no way I could finish all that was on my plate, there was enough there for two full meals and my combo plate totaled $9.75, what a deal.

My date’s fajita burrito consisted of lean strips of marinated grilled steak, rice and pinto beans rolled up in an over sized flour tortilla with grilled onions and green peppers on the side, as well as three large scoups of guacamole, sour cream and salsa. The food runneth over the plate. I like that the steak strips were cut small enough to bite. Sometimes fajitas are cut in large strips that make eating sloppy. The steak was still juicy and easy enough to eat. His huge dinner was all of $11.00.

I really like the style in which they make their chile relleno: the taste of the fire roasted chile really comes through, it tasted fresh and not greasy. I commented to David that I prefered this style of chile relleno to the usual breading and frying of the chile, or the casserole layered style that some restaurants served. He told me they call this type of chile relleno “omlete style”, which is a good descriptor since the chile is inside an omlete with melted cheese surrounding it. I would order the chile relleno again but ask for less cheese next time so that I can taste even more of the freshness of the chile. The tamale was stuffed with shredded chicken and looked and tasted homemade; with lots of masa surrounding the chicken, a very good sized tamale. It seemed to me I had twice the amount of beans and rice on my plate that I would receive in most Mexican restaurants. My date agreed that his burrito and accompaniments were of much larger portions than what was expected.

I asked David if he still managed the Brookings restaurant since he lives in Grants Pass and works in Ashland. He told me that both he and Gabriel manage the Brookings and Ashland restaurants, trading off the days they are at each location.  The Crescent City restaurant has its own manager. In addition, the Ayala’s also own a carpet cleaning business. The dedication of the Ayalas to their family businesses is impressive and humbling.

I inquired about a Torero’s lunch menu and David showed me their lunch line up which is most of the dinner offerings only smaller portions and the prices average $5.25 per plate. My date remarked that its incredible they could offer lunch so affordably in Ashland and even a smaller portion of our dinners would have been plenty for one meal. The dinner menu prices range from $9-$13 and the portions are so large that you can count on getting two meals out of your entree. Torero’s also offers two specials daily that are priced even lower than the already rediculously low menu prices.

Listed under “extras” on the menu are items that can be ordered ala carte. This is how I like to dine with my children since they like to order just one or two items without the side dishes. This is an extremely reasonable way to dine, as a tamale ala carte is only $3.95 and a taco is only $2.95.

If I had room for dessert I would have tried the deep fried ice cream: ice cream rolled in cereal crumbs and deep flash fried, served in a fried flour tortilla bowl topped with honey, strawberry sauce and whipped cream. Torero’s also offers flan for dessert and sopapilla which they serve topped with ice cream.

My date and I both remarked that we would be back at Torero’s in the near future, especially for lunch since the prices are so reasonable and the kitchen is so speedy. Torero’s also is a great stop after skiing Mt. Ashland or before taking in a movie at Ashland Street Cinemas. Or rent a movie and order your dinners from Torero’s to go. Torero’s is located at 2345 Ashland Street in front of Rite Aid. Call 488.2610 to order your meal to go.

The Brookings location is at 777 Cottage Street. The Crescent City location is Cazadores at 1461 Northcrest Drive.

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