California Tortilla joins Stamford fast-casual menu
A third way of eating out is catching on in downtown Stamford.
Workers and residents who want to grab a bite but do not have time to visit a traditional sit-down restaurant and want a more upscale alternative to fast-food options such as McDonald’s can choose from an expanding menu of options. The opening this week of a California Tortilla at 300 Atlantic St., highlights the local growth of the “fast-casual” market.
“The reason we wanted to do this area is because we noticed all the office buildings and people trying to get their food very quickly — especially quality food very quickly,” Gary Kanwal, franchise co-owner, of the Stamford California Tortilla, said in an interview Wednesday at the restaurant.
Speed and quality
California Tortilla has taken an approximately 2,500-square-foot space that previously housed a Subway sandwich shop.
The restaurant’s menu features burritos, tacos, fajitas, nachos, quesadillas and salads.
California Tortilla has opened at 300 Atlantic St., in downtown Stamford. For more information, visit: www.californiatortilla.com
Dishes are made to order. Popular items include Korean BBQ burritos, blackened fish tacos and the California Sunset Bowl, which includes grilled chicken and vegetables.
Like other California Tortilla locations, the Stamford establishment features a “Wall of Flame” with more than 70 hot sauces.
“Everything on our menu is customizable,” Kanwal said. “And there’s a diversity of people — vegetarians, people that want gluten free, people that want steaks, pork, quesadillas or salads. That entire group can come to our restaurant.”
Patrons can expect to receive their food five to six minutes after ordering, Kanwal said. Phone and online orders are bagged for pickup on a shelf a few steps from the front entrance.
Those with more time can eat in. The restaurant, whose interior was constructed by Stamford-based Design Build, seats 61.
Many of the customers come from neighboring office buildings. During the lunch hours on Wednesday, the official opening day, a line of patrons ran out the front door, along Atlantic Street.
Ajay Kumar, Suresh Kumar and Karthee Selvaraju walked from their offices a block away, at 400 Atlantic St., where they work for Charter Communications.
“The California Sunset is very good, and these (hot) sauces I like very much,” said Suresh Kumar.
Stamford residents Timothy Sims and Yvette Tyson said they appreciated the customer service.
“The food is awesome, and the people are even more awesome,” Sims said. “That’s what will keep me coming back.”
Headquartered in Potomac, Md., California Tortilla operates nearly 50 establishments on the East Coast, in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida.
A number of other fast-casual establishments have opened in the downtown in the past few months. The list includes Roasted Sandwich Co., at 148 Bedford St., and the Pieology pizzeria, at 230 Tresser Blvd, in Stamford Town Center’s restaurant row.
Meanwhile, the supply of potential customers for such establishments continues to grow.
Professional-services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers announced last week it would hire about 450 in the state in the next five years. Most of them would be based in the company’s existing offices at 300 Atlantic St., where PwC already employs about 530.
Across the street at 355 Atlantic St., the 325-unit Atlantic Station tower opened at the beginning of the year.
Other establishments have sought to capitalize on the neighborhood’s growth. California Tortilla’s next-door neighbor, at 268 Atlantic St., Bobby V’s Restaurant & Sports Bar offers a more traditional dining experience.
Kanwal said California Tortilla is not competing with the likes of Bobby V’s, which opened in June 2017 in its current location after more than three decades on Main Street.
“There’s a ton of mom and pop restaurants (in Stamford), and I love that,” Kanwal said. “But there’s not a lot of quick food in Stamford. We’re taking the whole fresh concept and bringing it to a personal level.”
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