WASHINGTON - Could it have been Tex-Mex cuisine, margaritas and a south-of-the-border ambiance that helped put an end to the partial government shutdown?
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, met with about 15 House Republicans in a late-night and potentially heartburn-inducing meeting at a Capitol Hill restaurant and watering hole Tortilla Coast Monday evening. While the specific topics of their conversation are not known, the strategy session may have focused on the government closing, the budget and the debt ceiling, according to Roll Call.
Tortilla Coast, located at 400 1st St. SE, is just three blocks from the Capitol and is "beyond convenient," GOP fundraiser Lisa Spies told The Washington Post. The Tex-Mex restaurant even pegs itself as a "fun, festive and unique spot from which to watch the capital's movers and shakers in action," according to its website.
The restaurant has been in business since 1988 and ranks as one of D.C.'s top seven busiest venues for political fundraisers, the Post says, citing the Sunlight Foundation. House campaigns spent more than $208,700 on events at Tortilla Coast in the 2011-2012 cycle, according to the Post.
For many, Tortilla Coast may seem like a puzzling choice for leaders of the U.S. government. Free chips and salsa, moderately priced entrees, worn booths and neon beer signs are just some of the eatery's signature descriptors. Cruz reportedly hosted the meeting in the Rio Room -- a windowless dining room in the basement with green carpet and, as the restaurant's website describes, "décor with warm tones of the Southwest."
One Yelp reviewer said the restaurant didn't stack up because of "uncomfortable seating" and "extensive water damage/cracked plaster in the ceiling (not usually a stickler for that stuff, but it was noticeable enough to distract from the otherwise pleasant ambiance)."
But another on Yelp praised the food and noted, "A perk is that after a long work day, it's nice to have my choice of underpaid hill staffers to flirt with."
Restaurant management wouldn't say much to the Post about Cruz's secret-or-maybe-not-so-secret meeting, other than that it was scheduled on relatively short notice.
However, the restaurant's Twitter account had a little fun referencing the rendezvous.
Democrat, Republican or other We're open for lunch, dinner, happy hour and meetings (secret or otherwise).— Tortilla Coast (@tortillacoast) October 15, 2013
I guess our secret lower level dining area is not so secret anymore— Tortilla Coast (@tortillacoast) October 15, 2013
But while Tortilla Coast may be getting some headlines for the Hill hangout, Spies said it's not the most ideal location for a covert conclave.
"Everyone goes there," she told the Post. "You go there to see and be seen."
Below is a map with Tortilla Coast's location:
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