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New Hilltop dining spots tempt appetites

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Helio Rodriguez, Ixtapa Mexican Restaurant's owner, and his niece, Jessica Barajas, greet customers.Two new restaurants opened at Oregon City’s Hilltop Mall in November: Ixtapa Mexican Restaurant and Jimmy Johns Gourmet Sandwiches. Both face busy Beavercreek Road, and managers at both eateries say customer response has been good.

Ixtapa

Owner Helio Rodriguez has been in the restaurant business for 27 years, but this is his first outpost in Oregon City. He has owned El Toro in downtown Silverton for 14 years, and before that worked in Mexican restaurants in Vancouver, Wash.

He likes his new space, he said, because there are a lot of people in the area and it has high visibility from the street.

Because Ixtapa is a locally owned family restaurant, the menu features family recipes and specialty plates that are not served at other Mexican places, he said.

Customers have been particularly fond of dishes like mi gusto, a dish with chicken, steak and four pieces of shrimp, served with rice, beans and tortillas, for $14.95.

Two soups have also been favorably received — the classic sopa de tortilla, with chicken, avocado, tortilla strips and shredded cheese; and 7 mares, a hot, rich soup with crab legs, tiger shrimp, octopus, scallops, clams, chunks of fish and vegetables.

Server Jessica Barajas is Rodriguez’s niece, and she said her favorite dishes are the fajitas and the fish and shrimp tacos.

The fajitas are served on a sizzling plate, with rice, beans and tortillas.

Ixtapa offers a lunch special, Monday through Friday, usually featuring two items, such as a taco and enchilada, with rice and beans for $5.95. Dinner specials start at 3 p.m. and are most often one of the Mexican plate entrees, served with rice, beans and tortillas for $10.50.

Vegetarian enchiladas and burritos are available, all in the $10 range.

Barajas said that a favorite customer dessert consists of “six pieces of churros, which are like fried bread. We roll them in cinnamon and sugar and serve them with whipped cream, blended strawberries and chocolate.”

The restaurant is open on Monday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. Ixtapa is at 407 Beavercreek Road in the Hilltop Mall; call 503-305-6261.

Jimmy Johns

The first thing customers notice about Jimmy Johns, a national sandwich franchise with its first outpost in Oregon City, is the enthusiasm of the employees.

“We have a friendly, interactive staff; we want you to enjoy your experience here,” said manager Brandon Thompson.

What does Jimmy Johns do better than any other sandwich joint?

The sandwiches are ready in 30 seconds or less, and they can be delivered to your door in about five minutes, making them popular with busy shoppers and college students at nearby Clackamas Community College, he said.

But, Thomson added, “This is not fast food; it is good food that is fast.”

“If you are hungry now, we’ve got you covered,” said Mark McLean, assistant manager. “We bake our own bread and also process our own vegetables, meat and cheese here.”

Two types of bread, a French roll and seven-grain sliced wheat bread, make up the foundation of the sandwiches, but there is a lettuce wrap for gluten-free and low-carb options, Thompson said. Sandwiches come with Jimmy Johns own brand of chips and an “outstanding” dill pickle, McLean said.

More than 20 varieties of sandwiches are offered, but two seem to be favorites: the Italian night club, featuring real Genoa salami, ham and provolone cheese; and the beach club, with turkey, provolone cheese, avocado spread and sliced cucumbers. Both are $5.75.

“Here in Oregon City the hunter’s club is popular with meat lovers,” Thompson said, noting that this sub comes with one-quarter pound of fresh, sliced medium-rare roast beef.

Vegetarian sub and club sandwiches are also available, and Jimmy Johns is very big on catering, Thompson said, noting that employees can produce a large sandwich platter in 20 minutes, that would be perfect for an office party.

Both Thompson and McLean have several years of Jimmy Johns experience between them, since both worked at the site at Bridgeport Village, before coming to manage the Oregon City restaurant.

“We get a lot of return business, because this is a fun environment and we make it fun so our employees will enjoy coming to work,” McLean said.

Thompson added, “If we treat our employees right, then they will be happy and our customers will be happy. We want to be fair to everyone.”

Jimmy Johns is at 431 Beavercreek Road, in the Hilltop Mall. Store hours are: Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call 503-905-3131.

Fast Facts

The Hilltop Mall is in Oregon City between Warner Milne Road, Beavercreek Road and Molalla Avenue. Tenants include: Animal House Pet Shop, Ashley’s Footwear, Beyond Beauty, Bugatti’s, Coffee Rush, Designer Nails, Herbst Florist, Hilltop 9 Cinemas, Hilltop Smiles Dentistry, Honey Baked Ham (opening later this year), H&R Block, Islands Tanning, Ixtapa Mexican Restaurant, Jimmy Johns, John L. Scott, Key Bank, Laurie’s Paperback, Max Muscle, McDonald’s, Papa Murphy’s, Safeway, Sprint Store, The Barbers, U.S. Bank and Willoughby’s Hearing Aids.

Visit danielsons.net to see a list of addresses and phone numbers for the mall’s businesses.



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