New Mexican restaurant in Exton to open Wednesday with free offerings

Franchisee Sean Gray at the new Exton location of the fast-casual Mexican-inspired California Tortilla restaurant.
Franchisee Sean Gray at the new Exton location of the fast-casual Mexican-inspired California Tortilla restaurant. PETE BANNAN – DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA
California Tortilla, a fast-casual Mexican-inspired restaurant, is opening a new restaurant in Main Street at Exton today. The Exton California Tortilla is the eighth location in the Philadelphia area.
California Tortilla, a fast-casual Mexican-inspired restaurant, is opening a new restaurant in Main Street at Exton today. The Exton California Tortilla is the eighth location in the Philadelphia area. PETE BANNAN – DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA

WEST WHITELAND >> Sean Gray is preparing for a rush when he opens his new California Tortilla in Main Street at Exton today.

Free food tends to attract the crowds.

The new fast-casual Mexican restaurant is giving away a free burrito and drink to all guests who visit the store on today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5 to 8 p.m., at the California Tortilla of Exton in the 200 block of Main Street in the shopping center, next to Massage Envy. Additionally, the first 10 guests in line will win free burritos for a year and others can sign up for other promotions.

“We did this when I opened in Royersford and we had people line up overnight,” said Gray, who is opening his third California Tortilla in the area. In addition to Exton and Royersford, Gray is the franchisee of the Concordville California Tortilla; in all the chain has eight Philadelphia area locations.

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Gray, 46, of Pottstown, said he plans to open another in March in Phoenixville, in the Westside Center.

“I’m looking to open one a year,” Gray said.

California Tortilla serves fresh, made-to-order burritos, bowls, street tacos, quesadillas and salads grounded in a foundation of Mexican cuisine with what Gray calls “imaginative flavor combinations from around the world.”

The big difference between California Tortilla and competitors, he said, is California Tortilla’s commitment to fresh ingredients and its unique take on Mexican cuisine, such as its Korean BBQ Burrito, signature blackened fish tacos and the California Sunset Bowl. Each restaurant features a Wall-of-Flame with more than 70 sauces “ranging from mild to tongue-melting.”

“Customers are so well-informed these days,” said Gray, a veteran in the food service industry who began his 26-year food service career working in restaurants in Philadelphia that he chose based on his desire to work for the chef.

“Gone are the days when people are willing to stand in line for poison – and that’s a good thing,” Gray said Tuesday as his Exton crew went through rehearsals for the grand opening. “We pride ourselves in not owning a microwave or freezer.”

California Tortilla is BYOB, in case patrons wish to enjoy a cold one with their burrito.

Each California Tortilla employs 15 to 25 people in a combination of part-time and full-time jobs. The restaurants cost $500,000 to $750,000 to open.

“It’s a sizable investment,” Gray said.

In addition to the restaurant operation, California Tortilla offers catering for groups of 10 or more, with options for a taco, burrito or fajita bar and customized lunch boxes.

Founded in 1995, Rockville, Maryland-based California Tortilla has around 50 total restaurants on the East Coast.

– On the Web: www.californiatortilla.com/locations/exton.

– To contact Business Writer Brian McCullough, call 610-235-2655 or send an email to bmccullough@21st-centurymedia.com.