La Familia Restaurante: Serving up tasty Mexican food

By Staff
RESTAURANT OWNER – Joel "Shorty" Ortiz stands in his spacious 198-seat Mexican restaurant, La Familia. The eatery originally opened in Collinsville; it moved last year to Acme Plaza in Meridian. Photo by Penny Randall / The Meridian Star
By Penny Randall / staff writer
Aug. 28, 2002
The scent of lemon, lime and freshly prepared salsa welcome visitors as they walk through the doors of La Familia Restaurante.
Hungry customers are more than likely greeted by a member of the Ortiz family asking, "Table for how many?" Once seated, tasty salsa and hot chips arrive at your table, with appetizing Mexican cuisine not too far behind.
The restaurant's name is self-explanatory: It means "family" in English. The feeling of home is felt throughout the restaurant.
Working alongside owner Joel Ortiz is his wife of seven years, Francine; her mother, Sandra Wolff; and Wolff's two nieces, Shonda Gomez and Tammy Whinham.
Ortiz, 25, originally opened La Familia in Collinsville in 2000. Last year, the 198-seat Mexican eatery relocated to Meridian's Acme Plaza in July.
Enchiladas to salads
There's something for every appetite at La Familia.
Favorite dishes include Taco Salad Fajitas, a crispy flour tortilla topped with a choice of chicken or steak sauteed with onions, bell pepper and tomatoes. Everything is covered with lettuce, cheese, sour cream and guacamole.
Also a favorite is Steak Mexicano, an 8-ounce rib eye steak topped with cooked onions, tomatoes, jalapeo peppers and served with rice, beans and tortillas.
Lately, the Anafres, a sizzling skillet with strips of steak, chicken, shrimp, chorizo sausage and pork, has become popular with many customers.
The dish is topped with red onions, green onions and cheese. It is served with rice, beans, flour tortillas, lettuce, pico de gallo and sour cream and is enough for two people.
Children aren't left out of the mix. They can munch on cheeseburgers and fries, Mexican pizza or even a hot dog.
Lively atmosphere
The restaurant has a clean and lively atmosphere. Mexican artwork and murals line the orange and red walls.
And that sentiment carries into the food, which is as close to Mexican as you can get.
A native of Oaxaca, Mexico, Joel Ortiz came to Mississippi to live with his uncle at age 16. He grew up in the restaurant business, working at San Marcos Mexican Restaurant for several years.
He then partnered with friends and opened El Norte in North Hills.
Ortiz and his wife have one daughter, Gabriela, 4, who often can be seen playing in the restaurant. They also are raising Joel's 10-year-old nephew, "Chico."

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