California Tortilla

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California Tortilla
GenreFast casual Mexican-style food
FoundedAugust 4, 1995; 24 years ago (1995-08-04)
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
FounderPam Felix and Alan Cohen
Potomac, Maryland
Number of locations
39 in U.S. as of May 2019; franchised since 2003
Area served
DMV area
ProductsBurritos, salads, etc.
OwnerCalifornia Tortilla Group, Inc.

California Tortilla, also known as CalTort, is a chain of franchised fast casual Mexican-style restaurants, the first of which was opened in August 1995 in Bethesda, Maryland by business partners Pam Felix and Alan Cohen.[1] The chain's menu, which features Mission burritos, is comparable to that of its competitors, such as Baja Fresh and Chipotle Mexican Grill.[2] A typical restaurant has 2,500 square feet (230 m2) with seating for 75 people.[1] California Tortilla was voted by readers of Washingtonian magazine as having the best burritos in both 2009[3] and 2010,[4] and "best Mexican" in 2014[5] and 2015.[6] The chain sold its 5 millionth burrito on August 22, 2007.[7]


California Tortilla has 39 restaurant locations in six states (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) and the District of Columbia, with another planned in Connecticut,[8] and various locations in the State of Qatar.[9] Some airport locations are branded as Burrito Elito.[8] The chain is headquartered in Potomac, Maryland.[10]


The interior of a California Tortilla restaurant

California Tortilla's staff members are encouraged to be "unique" and "fun", which can vary by location. A monthly Taco Talk newsletter was published online and in print for 20 years by co-founder Pam Felix, whose picture appeared for years (along with partner Alan Cohen's) on some of the restaurant's paper goods. With Issue 245, dated December 1, 2015, Felix retired from writing Taco Talk.[11]


Patrons of California Tortilla experience a variety of promotions that offer free food or discount coupons. Some of the promotions are typical of restaurants, such as a free taco to those who join the email list. Other promotions are somewhat unusual, such as Free Pop-Tart Day. In 2008, California Tortilla attempted to break the record for the world's largest rock, paper, scissors game.[12] Subscribers of the email newsletter receive occasional "secret" promotions, and a "Burrito Elito" loyalty program allows registered customers to receive points, based on pre-tax totals, with each 75 points resulting in a $5 discount.

Year-round promotions include the "Monday Night Mystery Prize Burrito Wheel", where any customer who purchases a regular-sized burrito every Monday night after 5:00 p.m. can spin the wheel and win a prize. The prizes range from a free cookie or brownie to $1 off their next purchase or a free signature salad.

Grand openings[edit]

People in line for a restaurant opening

At most California Tortilla restaurant grand openings, patrons who stop by between 11 am – 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm receive a free burrito of their choice and a soft drink. The first ten people in line at 11:00 AM receive one free burrito every week for a year at that location.


  1. ^ a b Kretikos, Eleni (May 14, 2004). "California Tortilla franchises into N. Va. and beyond". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  2. ^ Heath, Thomas (October 22, 2007). "Tortilla Franchise Growing Up". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  3. ^ "Best of Washington: Readers Pick Their Favorites". Washingtonian Magazine. July 2009. Retrieved July 31, 2009.
  4. ^ "Taco Talk July 2010 Issue 180". California Tortilla. July 2010. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  5. ^ Spiegel, Anna (August 11, 2014). "Free food alert". Washingtonian Magazine. Retrieved February 18, 2015. Washingtonian readers voted California Tortilla 'best Mexican' in our 2014 Best Of Washington survey
  6. ^ "We asked readers what their favorite spots in the District were. Here are the winners". Washingtonian Magazine. July 2, 2015. Retrieved December 3, 2015. Best Mexican: California Tortilla This fast-casual chain offers burritos both traditional (mesquite-grilled chicken) and trendy (Korean barbecue).
  7. ^ Eckert, Barton (August 27, 2007). "That's a wrap: 5 million burritos sold, California Tortilla says" (PDF). Baltimore Business Journal. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
  8. ^ a b "Locations". California Tortilla. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  9. ^ "About us - California Tortilla - Qatar". Roots for Hospitality & Services LLC. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  10. ^ "Contact California Tortilla". California Tortilla. Retrieved April 29, 2018.
  11. ^ Felix, Pam (December 1, 2015). "Taco Talk Issue 245". California Tortilla. Retrieved December 1, 2015. This is my last Taco Talk.
  12. ^ Monroe, Ashlee (July 18, 2008). "Steve Miller Band fans rock Guinness record". WTOP. Archived from the original on January 12, 2013. Retrieved February 15, 2015.

External links[edit]