We’ve got 2 ways to get a free taco tomorrow, Wednesday, August 3rd: Either say the secret password “SHARK” to the spunky cashier OR wear your unbelievably popular (to put it mildly) Discovery Channel shark fin hat from last week’s promotion and you’ll get a FREE TACO with any purchase. It’s just that simple. And fashionable.

*Shark Week is happening as we speak on the Discovery Channel. To learn more about Shark Week, visit


On August 4th we’re celebrating our 16th birthday–can you believe it? (President Obama’s birthday is also August 4th. Do you think he runs around yelling Yee-ha! on his birthday like we do?)

Anyway, because I know you’re dying to know, I thought I’d give you a highlight from each of the past 16 years. (Pretend that doesn’t sound too long and boring.)

Here goes…

1995: The first California Tortilla opens in Bethesda, MD. Our first newspaper review says “You’d have to be an idiot to open a restaurant in Bethesda.” Apparently the reviewer has met us.

1996: The Monday Night Mystery Burrito Wheel debuts. Customers love the discounts but are slightly frightened by the disco ball.

1997: We get labels made for the burritos; parties of 2 or more no longer have to bite each one to see what it is.

1998: We have a hot sauce naming contest and 12 year old Josh wins with “California Screamin’.” Josh couldn’t care less.

1999: We get our first email address. We can’t wait to find out what an email is.

2000: We host our first Doggy Yappy Hour on our patio. At one point 50% of the dogs have thrown up.

2001: We spend thousands renovating the restaurant. Everyone asks if I got my hair cut.

2002: We add coffee to the menu. Nobody buys it but our employees start working really fast.

2003: We feature a “Mystery Burrito” as our monthly special. We won’t say what’s in it and we black out the cooking line with construction paper. It flies off the shelves. We consider blacking out the entire menu.

2004: We receive a cease-and-desist letter saying we must immediately stop using the slogan “Cal Tort: Burritos as Big As Your Head.” We desperately search for other body parts to compare ourselves to.

2005: We have a Tort slogan contest (see above). And although we don’t end up picking a winner, my personal favorite is, “Cal Tort: Friendlier than grandma with less ass pinching.” I like it because this person seems to have such an interesting grandmother.

2006: Nicole Kidman uses the bathroom at the Cleveland Park California Tortilla. Who knew?

2007: We do a “Scratch Off Card” promotion. We buy approximately 14 billion too many scratch offs. All of which expire in a week.

2008: We launch the Burrito Elito card. We give away millions of dollars in Burrito Bucks in a very short time. We did not see that coming.

2009: We retire our mascot “Chippy” because everyone thinks he’s a piece of pizza.

2010: We add fish tacos and carnitas to our menu. The crowds (and chickens) go wild.

2011: We’re slated to open our 40th Cal Tort sometime this year. We’re hellbent on making sure that you’re never more than a block away from a spunky cashier.

Thanks for making it such a spectacular 16 years! (And for all you regular readers of Taco Talk, do you have any idea how happy I am that I got to use the line about the Yappy Hour dogs again?)


This month’s winner of a Mexican catering party from California Tortilla is the Utility Maintenance Division Crew of Leesburg, VA. Carol Nylander submitted a loving/very descriptive poem of what these guys do (which should make us all very appreciative of maintenance crews) and even better, the picture below. And while we loved the poem, I think the fact that they have someone on the maintenance crew who calls himself “Mr. Fun” is really what tipped the scales in their favor. (Do you think Mrs. Fun’s on board with that moniker?)

Congratulations you guys—if anyone deserves a Cal Tort creative catering party it’s you!

If you’d like to party like the Utility Maintenance Division Crew of Leesburg, just call1 855-CALTORT (1-855-225-8678). Cal Tort catering experts are standing by with hard hats on.

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