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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Storefront Report: The owners of Echo Park’s Cortez call it quits

Echo Park, restaurantsECHO PARK —  The owners of Cortez, which was praised for its cuisine but criticized for its pricey small portions, have sold the restaurant that  opened only 18 months ago.

Co-owners Marta Teegan and Robert Stelzner did not explain why they sold the restaurant when they announced the sale in an email to customers and supporters:

We write to let you know that we recently accepted an offer to purchase Cortez. We look forward to cooking for you over the next few weeks – please join us for dinner or a glass of wine soon! We will now have an opportunity to pursue the long list of projects that we’ve been eager to work on – please stay tuned. With many thanks to all of you for your kindness & support over the years.

The restaurant  won many fans,  but, only a few months after opening, influential L.A. Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold took the restaurant to task for the small size of the portions,  saying the restaurant may have taken the small plates concept to a pricy extreme.  Said Gold:

Tiny portions are great in principle and on tasting menus, but there may be a reason so many of the regulars at Cortez fit nicely into skinny jeans. And by the time you finish ordering, you are going to have spent a shocking amount of money.

Rumors of the sale have been floating around for weeks, with some people saying Cortez would become a Japanese restaurant.  Teegan and Stelzner, who also own the gourmet grocery store Cookbook on Echo Park Avenue, have not responded to emails seeking comment.



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36 comments

  1. They were rude people as well. Bye!

  2. Marta and Robert are wonderful people! Sorry it didn’t work out for them. Best of luck to them in their future projects.

  3. The whole Small Plates thing is a scam embraced by too many restaurants. Let’s hope the new owners don’t make the same mistake.
    Sorry for you, Cortez, but kudos to those who refuse to be ripped off by this.
    Alumette, you are next (hopefully).

    • wait i am confused, so if you shop at the super king and serve large plates the food is good?

      marta and robert are great people trying to do the best job they can. jonathan gold wrote a bad review, but has anyone seen jonathan gold lately. if you eat the way jonathan gold likes to eat you will end up looking like him too.

      best of luck to marta and robert in the future and i will support what they do in the future whether i can afford it or not. you two are making a difference!

      while i like jonathan gold and think he is a great writer sometimes for his health i wish he stuck to music.

      • Here’s an interesting fact about Jonathan Gold (I’ll ignore the ad hominem attack that gowesty leveled against him): Former Heal the Bay president Mark Gold is Jonathan Gold’s brother.

    • Loved AYC, got priced out by Allumette. Price aside, nothing there looks good to me anyway.

      • Echo Park resident

        I loved AYC, too! The prices weren’t cheap, but they were very reasonable for the food. Two people could get out of there for $40 total, even less at happy hour. Allumette is pricey — and you’re right, nothing on the menu looks that appealing. (And I like “weird” haute food!)

  4. I can’t say I’m surprised it is closing….I am surprised it lasted as long as it did. $12 for a pinto bean salad, and it being my first visit I paid it. It was my last visit. I could have had a V8. I hope Trencher on Portia sticks around and doesn’t fall victim to its prices. $8 & $9+, and even $12 for a banh mi sandwiches with potato chips is a bit much especially when you add french fries for $3 and they don’t give you the potato chips that come with your sandwich…. get it together Trencher

    • Agreed…..My old roommate and I went and while the food was great the prices were WAY inflated. Spending close to $20 dollars on a sandwich, side and drink is a little too steep for me.

      • Grahm Wellington

        You think $20 for a sandwich, chips and a drink is too steep? Wait till they raise the minimum wage. HAHA

        • Maybe if they raised the minimum wage I could afford that sandwich……get off the web and turn on you 1150am THE PATRIOT.

          • Grahm Wellington

            Never made it past minimum wage huh? Perhaps you should apply yourself, work a little harder, focus on gaining a skill or perhaps an education.

            What is sad is the lack of understanding of the real economic impact this has on people earning minimum wage. Yes you’ll be making $10 per hour instead of $7.35 but the cruel joke is on you because EVERYTHING ELSE GOES UP IN PRICE! So you think you’ll be able to afford that sandwich if they raise the minimum wage? Think again. The sandwich maker has to raise his prices too.

            Do you think a 30% jump in food and service costs will hurt someone making 6 figures? Nope. It is just another tax on the poor and uneducated. I didn’t have to listen to a right wing radio station to understand the concept, just an economics professor.

          • Graham, you are a troll.

            I graduated college in 2010 from a very prestigious school. Do you know what the hourly rate was for the first three entry-level jobs I was offered? $10/hr. That’s it. These were all jobs that required college degrees and required specific skills I gained through my major and my internships. Oh and lemme see your little checklist…yup, did all those things — worked hard, gained skills, got an education and busted my butt — and still was getting offered $10/hr.

            Luckily, I eventually found a job that offered a more reasonable hourly rate — but a lot of my friends, also college educated, were not so lucky. $10/hr is the average rate most entertainment industry assistants or PAs make here in LA. You might want to better educate yourself on what entry level jobs for people with degrees are ACTUALLY paying before you tell someone — whom you’ve never met — they should have “worked harder.”

          • Grahm Wellington

            Sooo… You can call someone names out of one side of your mouth and preach your personal experience as gospel out the other? Wow now that is the very nature of this self-entitled batch of people coming up today. At the same time, too dumb to see that you made my point for me.
            You knew that $10 per hour wasn’t going to be enough so you continued to work harder to find another position that would pay you more. VOILA!!! MY POINT EXACTLY!
            Minimum wage should be (as it was for you) a motivator to be better and try harder just like you did sweety.

            By the way, just because you disagree with someone’s point of view does not make them a troll.

          • @echo park : also, not all degrees are created equal, as far as entry level pay is concerned. Many liberal arts degrees do not pay well out of the door. These starting salaries are well published, and had you done your research a priori, you would have known what kind of pay an “assistant” would earn.

            MBA’s and engineering degrees will get you big bucks out the gate. From this article: http://career-advice.monster.com/salary-benefits/salary-information/best-and-worst-paying-masters-degrees/article.aspx

            There is a key quote: “Education is like any other investment, in that one needs to do some cost-benefit analysis before taking the plunge,”

            Getting a degree in “Library and Information Sciences” is much lower down on the cost-benefit scale …

            Don’t blame the world because the market does not value whatever degree it is you earned from whatever prestigious university it is that you went to. In school-boy parlance: “you should have done your homework”

    • Speaking of banh mi sandwiches, I don’t understand how shops like Banh Mi Che Cali in Alhambra can afford to sell three tasty sandwiches for under $6.00 (buy two, get one free), but no place in Silver Lake or Echo Park comes close to offering such a value. (There’s one banh mi place in Chinatown I’ve read about, but I haven’t been there.) Are rents that much cheaper on Valley Blvd.?

  5. I’ve walked by, driven by and have biked by countless times always wondering what it was and now I find out it’s closing. From a branding standpoint they didn’t do a very good job attracting my attention or telling me what they were other than a brick building next to a hair salon.

    Maybe I should finally check them out now that they are closing. Or maybe not?

  6. Cook Book is also expensive.

    • they should call it scorpion tires and sell shitty hormone injected meat tacos to guys in skinny jeans and ironic t shirts. then they would be “authentic”

      cook book is expensive, right. the same price as farmers market. isn’t that terrible

    • Cookbook is definitely overpriced and has a crappy, useless selection. I want dinner. Not a baguette, cheese, some barley and a turnip.

      • OMG, truer words have never been posted on the Eastsider. It’s like Cookbook only stocks food that’s popular on Pinterest.

  7. Rumor mill has it that they are opening a restaurant in Highland Park @ 5215 York Blvd in Highland Park, next to the excellent store Shopclass,

  8. Two rude owners glad your leaving ! ! This is EP not NY !

  9. Come to HLP but leave the rude attitude there is enough of it at Cafe De Leche..rude staff

    • Try Cafecito Organico on Colorado in Eagle Rock; great coffee, nice, friendly staff, and no lines (at least, not when I’ve gone there).

  10. Good god, I hope they don’t bring this obscene business model to highland park. If it didn’t work in echo park, it certainly won’t work here. Maybe they’d be better off next to the urban taco fabricator

  11. This all started out as a notice about a restaurant closing and devolved into name-calling and arguments over minimum wage economics. No wonder the Eastsider has done staged readings of these responses, and they’re super funny! As for Cortez, I went there once with two friends when it first opened, walked out still hungry and wondering where all my money went. Gould hit the nail on the head in my opinion, and I’m not surprised one bit that this eatery closed down after 18 months. I couldn’t fathom then how they would sustain a business model with such high price points for the quantity (not quality) of food they were serving; a lesson in restaurant economics right there other places in the neighborhood could learn from. What new(ish) Echo Park restaurant serves excellent food at reasonable prices, offers friendly service, and has people lining up to get in? Guisados. Sure, it’s a different eating/dining experience all together, but more suited to the neighborhood than all that petite plate nonsense. I think most people in Echo Park are looking for both value and taste, and when those two factors are way out of alignment (taking into consideration all factors that go into spending money for eats prepared outside of the home) something has got to give or it will inevitably go under.

  12. This must be because I’m new to LA, but I thought this was one of the best restaurants in the neighborhood with quality food and normal portion sizes. Everyone working there was cool and nice. Sad to see it go.

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