Tortuga’s Mexican Village
44 Leigh Ave, Princeton
Hours: Lunch: Daily, 11:30 am-2 pm; Dinner: Mon 5-9 pm, Tues-Thurs, 5-9:30 pm, Fri-Sat, 5-10 pm, Sun, 4-9 pm.
Style: A popular spot off the beaten path in Princeton, this cash-only Tex-Mex nook is brightly decorated with lanterns and ponchos, a mural of a Mexican village on one wall, and a sombrero-wearing, maraca-shaking turtle on another.
Don’t Miss: When you get to your table, a carafe of ice water and a bowl of chips and salsa will be waiting for you—the first batch of chips and salsa is on the house, seconds are $2.50. Get started with red jalapeño poppers stuffed with cream cheese ($8) or the calamares sautéed in a spicy ink sauce ($7). For dinner, try the chili pollo, a boneless chicken breast marinated in a spicy red chili sauce ($16), or one of the especialidades de casa, the chipotle shrimp, which are sautéed and marinated in a smoky jalapeño-chipotle cream sauce and served over brown rice and sautéed vegetables ($18). Tortuga’s also does classic chiles rellenos, two sweet red peppers stuffed with cheese and your choice of beef, chicken, or spicy vegetables, then dipped in an egg batter, broiled, and served with sauce and melted cheese ($15). Egg dishes such as huevos rancheros—fried eggs served in a fresh vegetable sauce—or huevos con nopalitos—scrambled eggs with cactus pads—are also featured (each $9.50) . If you’re overwhelmed by the extensive selection of Mexican classics such as enchiladas, flautas (a stuffed flaky fried tortilla), fajitas, tamales, chimichangas, and tostadas, the platos combinados lets you create your own combo by choosing from various items and fillings. End the meal on a sweet note with the dulce de leche, a caramel-flavored concoction that means “milk candy” in Spanish.
Heads Up: The two-room hot spot fills up quickly with locals and Princeton students, so be prepared for a long line. Tortuga’s is BYO, so bring some bottled margaritas or beer to enjoy while you wait.
The Scoop: Tortuga’s was called Mexican Village when we reviewed it in April 1984. Highlights—such as the gratis salsa, the calamares, and the chiles rellenos—have been menu staples for the last 26 years.