Zoe and Perry Pittman serve high quality
Mexican food fast, but don’t serve fast food.
SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT
Tucked away in The Island Shopping Center at the corner of Gulf and Marina drives in Holmes Beach is a bright, tastefully decorated restaurant where aromas trigger salivary glands of all those who come near.
Tortilla Bay Southwest Grille is a mecca for those displaced western and southwestern transplants and visitors who favor Mexican or Tex Mex food with better quality ingredients and an eye on their health.
So how did Perry, who grew up in Athens, Ga., and Zoe, who hails from London, Pittman become owners of this popular establishment in this location?
"We chose this area because we used to holiday on Longboat Key from London and we loved Anna Maria Island," Zoe said. "We've lived on the Island for three years and we opened Tortilla Bay on May 2, 2008."
Perry has worked in food service off and on for the last 30 years – everything from dishwasher to manager– and he latched on to a unique concept that he calls fast casual.
"We serve the food fast, but we don't serve fast food," he said. "Fast casual is the fastest growing segment of the restaurant industry where customers expect food quality that's more in line with full-service restaurants, coupled with the speed and convenience of fast food," It's Tex-Mex cuisine with Island-themed menu items and the casual concept is more in line with a vacation destination like Anna Maria Island.
"During the summer, we get lots of people who come in off the beach and order," Perry said. "You eat here or take it home and you can phone in your order ahead of time for take-out."
The menu includes Beach Bum Burritos, Sunset Quesadillas, Gone Fishing Tacos, Shipwreck Nachos, Tex-Mex wraps and pirate's meals for the kids. Their Sunshine Salads are huge, nestled inside a tortilla bowl with your choice of meat and a hearty serving of vegetables and cheese. They also offer cookies, ice cream, homemade key lime pie, fountain drinks, bottled soda, iced tea, beer and wine.
The ingredients include choices of char-grilled chicken, char-grilled steak, braised pork, cheese and vegetarian. You can also choose whole wheat tortillas for your burritos or wraps.
"Some of the trainers have come in from the local gyms and gotten copies of our menu for their customers," Zoe said. "They know we offer healthier food."
In keeping with the high quality food concept, they make everything fresh. "We start each day cooking our meat, sauces and chips," Perry said. "We don't serve pre-processed food."
When you order your meal, you will have a choice of freshly prepared daily salsas (red or green) and they serve sour cream, guacamole, fajita vegetables, mushrooms or queso for 50-cents more.
In the past nine months, they have picked up a lot of customers.
"Some people eat here almost every day," Zoe said. "We've already seen some seasonal residents come back who ate here when we first opened."
Perry wants to attract more than the seasonal crowd, however.
"We want to appeal to the locals and we're a kid-friendly restaurant," he said, "We serve a very good meal and it's a bargain."
Indeed, the prices indicate you would have to work at it to pay more than $10 per person.
Open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Tortilla Bay is a great dining experience offering healthy food that tastes great. Whether you're on a lunch break or in a hurry to get to the beach or go shopping, you'll love their fast casual service.
Call them at 778-FOOD (3663) to order ahead.
Tortilla Bay Southwest Grille
5318 Marina Drive
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday
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