Orlando’s New Mexican Café, at 1114 Don Juan Valdez Lane, opened just short of 25 years ago. Over the years the Taos favorite has served thousands of blue corn enchiladas, chile rellenos, burritos and other culinary delights.
Orlando Ortega is the owner and namesake of the restaurant. Ortega said the formula for the restaurant’s success is hard work, a good menu, reasonably priced food and a great atmosphere conducive to fun.
“We want our customers to feel we have consistency in our food, the best service that we can provide in a very comfortable, relaxed atmosphere. We also want our customers to know that we are pricing menu items as best as possible to keep Orlando’s affordable. We want to treat our employees as if they were all family,” said Ortega.
Ortega’s wife, Yvette, was born and raised in Taos, “a true local girl,” explained Ortega. “As for myself, I’ve been in Taos since 1986 after traveling with my parents in the National Park Service. I came back to experience my roots with my grandparents and family. We love Taos.”
The food served at Orlando’s is sourced from a number of providers. “Our suppliers vary from large food purveyors to smaller providers of specialty items. We get our chile from a lady that brings it up from the Hatch (Hatch Valley) in powder. We get our beans, chile Caribe, from a man in Colorado. We have our avocado pies made by my sister Roberta.”
Ortega said his favorite on the menu is “to create your own bowl. When I was first designing the menu, there were just a few items on it – those I wanted, liked or inspired me. So I initially priced these bowls of favorite foods which became many people’s favorites at $3. I soon realized that we couldn’t continue to cover rent with this limited food offering and pricing. The food and beverage menu both expanded. The adult beverage menu now includes local craft and Mexican beer and wine,” Ortega said. “We thought we could do a restaurant without a beer and wine license for quite a while. And we did. But the public wanted beer and wine so we applied for the license and it was a great decision. We didn’t take credit cards for many years. Our beverage menu consists of a couple local beers plus imported Mexican beers. It goes with the place.”
Ortega said a friend, Nona Wesley, who has since died, with the help of his wife, Yvette, designed the restaurant space. Together they created a beautiful color scheme representative of both Northern New Mexico and Mexico.
“Over the last 24 years,” said Ortega, “Yvette and I have become a talented team in decorating everything from restaurants to properties.”
There are between 35 and 40 people from the Taos area who work at Orlando’s. “During the winter, when school is in session, our numbers drop a little and in the summers they grow. Over the last 24 years we have seen many, many employees graduate and kids of our employees now work for us. Many of our employees begin to work with us when they are in high school and continue throughout college and when they are back in town. I especially like to train our younger employees when they are in high school. Some of our employees have been with us for 20 years.”
Orlando’s supports many causes in the area. “We have donated to just about every cause there is including a cheerleader going to camp, a student going to another country, our local homeless shelter, Habitat for Humanity, nonviolent and other causes. But I think the best thing we do to give back to the community is to teach young people how to get out of their shell and to learn skills they can use the rest of their life.”
Orlando’s New Mexican Café currently provides a takeout menu only. Like other restaurants in Taos, Orlando’s complies with both local and state public health requirements.
While Orlando’s has always been vigilant about keeping everything clean, there is greater awareness with the pandemic – to ensure health and safety of customers as well as employees.
For current information go to the restaurant’s Facebook page at:
or call (575) 751-1450.