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La Tonalteca

/ Updated on October 29, 2018

Of all the landmarks in Delaware, the most ubiquitous are the La Tolteca and La Tonalteca Mexican restaurants. They split a while ago by making the minor changes in their names, but they're all pretty much the same.

My experience is limited to the La Tonalteca installation on Rt. 1 in Rehoboth Beach. I often go there with the same group of people and each person is stuck on his or her favorite dish. I get the #125 combo platter with the chicken burrito, cheese enchilada and a hard chicken taco. The chicken filling is shredded white meat and it makes all of their chicken dishes first-class. Another special feature is the queso. Introduced to me by David, the contractor who rebuilt my kitchen here in Rehoboth, it's creamy and rich. I suspect that it is Oaxaca cheese (also called Mexican melting cheese and pronounced “Wa-Hocka”). Try as I might, I can't get it to melt like that at home. I think they add milk or creme. Either way, it's great poured on top of that taco.

My only major criticism is that the waitstaff and the kitchen sometimes get overwhelmed when they are very busy. Several times I have had orders mixed up, sides missing or long waits for already-ordered meals when they are slammed. During high season, or when their lot is full, I just skip it and go the next night. I hate to ruin great food with spotty service. But I always go back. And you should too, because the place is worth it.

One of my favorite people with whom I dine alternates between the Pork Carnitas and the Chicken Mole. The Carnitas are chunks of seasoned, roasted pork. They are braised and darkly crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. The Chicken Mole consists of chicken breast slathered with the rich and dark Mole sauce. The signature ingredients of most Mole sauces usually include a bit of chocolate and a bit of peanut butter. It is important that neither dominate, and many restaurants get it wrong. Tonalteca gets it right. By the way, at the risk of further annoying the Chronic Complainers, they have the best salsa of any other local restaurant, Mexican or otherwise. I have spoken.

Another well-kept secret is the variety of reasonably priced lunch specials available at La Tonalteca. They are all around $6 and are quite generous. I like the Speedy Gonzales: A hard beef taco, a beef enchilada and your choice of beans or rice. Check out the gallery for a pic.

La Tonalteca is open year-round, with three local installations all with the same menu. The one I frequent is at 4578 Highway One in Rehoboth Beach, directly across from the Tanger Midway Outlets. They also have a location in Milford, on Rt. 113 (422-2111) and their newest in Millsboro just north of BJ's on Rt. 113 (934-9111).

They have special margarita nights, so give the Rehoboth branch a call at 302-644-3994 for details. See their website here.

Click here for a look at La Tonalteca's menu. (L., D., Bar) Price Range: Inexpensive.

Off-season Specials & Hours

Specials & Moods change quickly. Always call a restaurant first.

pp = per person.
BOGO = buy one, get one.
Bloody = bloody mary.
domestics = American-made beers (e.g., Bud).
imports = foreign beers (e.g., Heineken).
Rails = non call-brand alcohol.
Prix Fixe = one set price.
Mains = entrees.
Margs = margaritas.
Chix = chicken.
AYCE = all you can eat.
Lite = Miller Lite
drafts = draught beer.
Early Birds = arrive before a certain time.
Apps = Appetizers.
bottles = beer in a bottle.
à la carte = order off the menu (no prix fixe).
crafts = micro/artisanal brews (e.g., Old Leghumper Lager)

18659 Coastal Hwy.

Midway Center on Coastal Hwy.
(302) 644-3994

Open noon-9
Open 11-10
Lunch Specials
Call for details
Open 11-10
Lunch Specials
Call for details
Open 11-10
Lunch Specials
Call for details
Open 11-10
Lunch Specials
Call for details
Open 11-10:30
Lunch Specials
Call for details
Open noon-10:30
The Rehoboth Foodie

About the Author

"My goal is to promote Rehoboth Beach dining while remaining honest and impartial. I don’t gush unless a place deserves it, and I don’t pull punches, either. With so many good places to eat around here, it just doesn’t make sense to waste the calories — or the money — on anything less." View all articles written by The Rehoboth Foodie

Add Your Comment
  1. Avatar Great margaritas! says:

    Their Margaritas are terrific—best in town, IMHO—and pack a punch. And are CHEAP compared to other locales.

  2. Avatar kissangel says:

    Never had a bad meal here. Always consistently good.

  3. Avatar fightingbluehen says:

    As usual, I sit at the bar. The margaritas are the best in town. They also have Jose Cuervo Reserva De La Familia tequila. The best tequila you can buy in my opinion.
    My favorite dish is the carne asada with pico de gallo and a lime. The chile rellenos are quite good.

  4. Avatar Frank says:

    We had dinner there last night and our dinners were hot and very good! The service was great for a pretty busy night. The bill was very resonable.

  5. Avatar Lawrence McSwain says:

    My wife and I went there last summer to find all the doors all open and seemingly no A/C. After a few minutes of sweltering and swatting at flies, we got up and left. I’m not sure if this is a regular practice, or if the A/C had just gone out. During the winter we decided to give it a second chance. The food was pretty good, but our server spoke almost no English. Why would a restaurant located in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (or anywhere else in the U.S.) put a server on the floor who could not communicate with customers? So I would say that this place is hit or miss, with probably more miss than hit.

  6. Avatar Katie says:

    Ate there for the first time Memorial Day weekend. Chili rellenos were good, but the ground beef in the tacos was bland and suspect. What the heck is it? Maybe kept warm on a steam table? The cheese dip was good, with a nice bite that kind of snuck up on you, but I wonder if it has evaporated milk in it? Margaritas were pretty generic, as was the salsa. The sound of the heavy metal chairs as they were pushed back on the stone patio was grating.

  7. Avatar Andrea says:

    I LOVE their food, but you’re right, the wait staff can get overwhelmed. I usually never get a refill on my drink. Try the Milford La Tonalteca. The wait staff is better!

  8. Avatar Vetgirl1 says:

    Decent mexican food. I love the queso, always get it as my app. I have to disagree about the salsa, I think it’s about the worst salsa I’ve ever had, tastes like jar salsa. I’m probably spoiled by the amazing fresh salsa I make that is heavy on the onion, cilantro and jalepenos. I tend to stick with the chicken enchiladas, the red sauce is good, and I love the mexican cheese everything is topped with. I would love for them to use fresh tomatoes and lettuce for salads and garnish when in season, I hate the brown iceberg and pale mealy grocery store tomatoes that always come with the dishes. The guacamole is hit or miss for me, again, I make it better 🙂 My friends have enjoyed the friend chimichangas and the taco salads with chicken. I lived dangerously one time and ordered the mushroom quesadilla, huge mistake. Weirdly flavored mushrooms, greasy and made a sloppy mess out of the whole plate. Back to enchiladas for me~

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