Restaurant Review: Johnny Manana’s (the Former Ortega’s) in Ocean Beach

by on August 25, 2023 · 46 comments

in Ocean Beach

“Carnitas Fries”

Johnny Manana’s
4888 Newport Ave
Ocean Beach, CA 92107

By Judi Currry

I have wanted to try this restaurant ever since it opened. Ortega’s was one of my favorites of Ocean Beach, and I was very curious to try the restaurant that was taking over for them.  Tonight Steve and I gave it a try.

Let me start by saying that the food was, for the most part, very good. However, there were certain “happenings” that make me unsure if I will go there again.  But first for the review.

When we walked in there were two groups sitting at two separate tables and one lady waiting for her order.  She stopped me and told me I would be absolutely “delighted” with the food and to tell all my friends about it. I heard her picking up her order and telling David, the cashier, that she was taking it on a bus home.  There was only one other person that came in while we were there, and she had a “to-go” order.

There were several laminated menu’s at the ordering location at the counter, and Steve and I each took one to look at before placing our orders.  (It is interesting to note that I thought I would take one home with me while writing up this review, and I would return the menu the next day after I wrote the review.  David told me that those were the only menu’s he had – there were about 15 of them, and he could not let me take one home. He suggested that I make a copy of it, which I had already done.)

The food menu was interesting – there are Starters, including chips and salsa, or guacamole, or dips, rolled tacos, chicken tenders and fries, and “Ceviche of the Day.”  I have won several contests with my Ceviche, so was surprised to see that it was $15 a serving.  I did not order it! There were separate items for Quesadillas, Enchilada’s, Entrees, Taco’s, Burritos, Sides and More, and a listing for “Johnny’s Kids” which listed chicken tenders and cheese quesadillas.  The prices varied, and were not horribly expensive, but were not inexpensive either.

Steve decided that he would have an order of “Carnitas Fries” which was described as “Mexican pulled pork, cheese, sour cream and guacamole.” It was listed at $15.50 and it was served on crispy French Fries.  It was quite large, and there was ample guacamole as well as the pulled pork.  Steve took almost half of it home for lunch tomorrow.

Shrimp Burrito. All photos by Judi Curry, except Google Map shot of Ortegas.

I fluctuated between the Shrimp Burrito, sustainable grilled shrimp, rice, black beans, salsa fresco, cheese and Verde Chipotle sauce ($13.50) and the Shrimp Enchilada, which was listed as “Sustainable grilled shrimp, cheese and red sauce” for $16.    I chose the Burrito, which was large, delicious, and a little bit spicy.  There is a salsa bar available to the diners, and I really did not need to use any more salsa because what it was cooked with was more than adequate.  I also took a great deal home for lunch for the next day.

In addition to the regular menu, Johnny Manana’s also has a drink menu, which consisted of 3 margarita’s; Michelada, Bloody Mary, Johnny’s on the Beach, Pina Colada’s, Coronarita, Moscow Mule and Paloma.  Steve and I decided to order the “Mexican Candy Margarita” which was made with Agave, Triple Sec, Lime, Watermelon Puree, Topatio, Chamay and Tajin Rim. It was $11 and although it was very tasty, it did not taste like a margarita. (Perhaps that is good!)

Over all the meal was very tasty; we both enjoyed all that we ordered BUT there were some down sides.  Let me tell you about them so you are aware of them.

“Mexican Candy Margarita”

The food was served on parchment paper.  Usually there is nothing wrong with that BUT as the paper got wet it gathered the liquid, and several times while cutting into my burrito the paper also tore and ended up on the underside of the burrito.  I needed to remove it, usually with my fingers.  The paper is unnecessary, and actually spoiled the meal for me.

But … it did not spoil it as much as the constant swatting of flies as both Steve and I tried to eat our meals.  The flies were all over – big ones, little ones, tiny ones, etc. They were on the food, in the food, on the plate, etc., and we spent a great deal of time swatting them away.  I am not sure what the answer to this problem is other than keeping the doors closed, but it was annoying and, in a way, upsetting because it was continual.  Every time Steve or I left our table to go to the salsa table one of us had to stand guard to swat at the flies that were landing on the meal.  One fly was so small it looked like a flea.

So overall, again, I would say that the food was quite tasty.  The drink was different, and I would not order it again, but that would not stop me from ordering a different one.  The cost of the meal was more than I expected – $67 and I left an  additional tip.  I know that all restaurants have raised their prices but I am not sure that I would go back to this one soon.  Yes, it was good – but…..

And I have to say that the attitude shown me when I said I was taking a menu that I would be returning left much to be desired.  He told me that he could not let me take it; that he only had a few.  I told him I would return it “tomorrow,” but that was not approved.  I have not experienced that attitude before, and it did not leave a pleasant feeling.  But I must reiterate again that the food was good; the over-all ambience left something to be desired.

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie August 25, 2023 at 9:55 am

I don’t remember Ortegas with a full bar, but Johnny’s apparently has one.


Judi August 25, 2023 at 10:12 am

Two thing I want to clarify: there were 10 items on the cocktail menu. They may have other items as well. In looking over the cocktail menu there is no mention of tequila in the ingredients but the Michelada does contain Mexican Beer . It is possible that they have a beer/wine license and no liquor license and I will check to clarify this.

The second item I want to mention is that I paid cash for our meal. I did not get a receipt nor did I ask for one. However, in retrospect I think I may have been charged more than the menu indicated but cannot prove it. Please make sure if you eat there – or out anywhere – you get a receipt to check the prices you are charged


Paul Webb August 25, 2023 at 10:16 am

I’ve noticed that flies have been very bad lately everywhere. Lunch at Haru Mama included numerous winged dining companions.

I’m wondering if it is a result of the new food waste disposal rules. My green bin is certainly visited by little fliers of all sizes and shapes.


Will August 27, 2023 at 8:24 am

The OB fly population exploded for us during and after the recent storm. I probably killed a couple dozen in our house in the day after the rain.


Debbie August 25, 2023 at 12:06 pm


Thank you for your reviews.

I have thought about trying this restaurant many times. The decor is what discouraged me since I loved the hominess/interior of Ortega’s. Plus I am not a fan of TV’s while dining out.

I checked another online review and noticed that 20% tip was added to the bill so perhaps that is why yours appeared to higher than expected.


Judi August 25, 2023 at 12:55 pm

Hi Debbie,
You are certainly right about the decor. It is very sparse and does not give you the same feeling as Ortgega’s did, but it was relatively comfortable and the chairs were easy to get out of to go to the salsa bar.

IF there was a 20% tip added to the bill I didn’t see it – again because I was not shown the bill before – or after. And there was a tip jar on the counter that was filled with money, and I added $5 to that pile!

I do not remember a TV on while we were there. They was music being played, but quite honestly the noise from outside permeated the inside and both Steve and I had to speak loudly for us to be heard. And again….I have to say that the food was good; it was just everything else that was a downer for me.


GML August 25, 2023 at 4:06 pm

Thanks for the review as always. That being said, I have no idea how you could state “…the attitude shown me when I said I was taking a menu that I would be returning left much to be desired.”. You made a request and they told you no along with a good reason. I’m not sure why you would harp on that or even put it in your review.


Jenny B August 25, 2023 at 6:11 pm

GML I regularly write reviews. Trying to navigate through photograpghed menus isn’t always easy. I agree with Judi because the attitude shown over the menus will permeate across interactions throughout the restaurant. I want to be met with “So glad you are here. How can I help?”


GML August 26, 2023 at 8:10 am

Really, it is tough to navigate through an photographed or online menu? Again, what “attitude” was shown outside of the exception that they did not have that many laminated menus and did not want to have them removed from their restaurant? I would think it is a lot more difficult to successfully run a restaurant and avoid negativity.


JM August 26, 2023 at 6:57 am

If I had only 15 menus and someone wanted to take one home, I’d say no as well. This is 2023. Maybe snap a picture? Super strange. Glad the food was good!


Chris August 26, 2023 at 8:46 am

Or just go on their website.


Moses roses August 26, 2023 at 10:02 am

First of all the name itself implies a racist and derogatory term for Mexicans Johnny manana implies that Mexicans don’t want to do things on the spot on the moment it implies that they’re going to do it tomorrow tomorrow so right away I am not interested in eating there because of their racist name secondly just by reading your reviews and seeing how expensive the food is I don’t know maybe it’s because I’m Mexican and I have home cooked Mexican meals that it doesn’t sound appealing to go there. I love Mexican food restaurants, the ones that taste authentically Mexican with Mexican spices, Mexican flavors one restaurant in OB that I do frequent is Roberto’s Taco shop it has authentic flavor the cooks and everybody there are always happy they’re always joking around and you know what I would want the person making my food to be happy laughing and just being joyful I just wanted to express myself thank you for allowing me to express myself peace and love.


Chris August 26, 2023 at 12:04 pm

Despite the racist name, what if the owner is Mexican or of Mexican decent?


JUDI August 26, 2023 at 7:56 pm

OK Guys – here’s why I asked for the menu: What they have on-line is not what they have on the in-restaurant menu. And…when I took photographs of it parts were missing. I took 7 pictures and either missed prices or descriptions because of the way the menu is printed. It is virtually nothing to running off a menu from the restaurant’s printer but I told David that I would be returning it tomorrow. True he had no idea that I was a restaurant reviewer, but he knew I was a customer and if he wanted my repeat business then he should have allowed me to borrow the menu. And…the fact that I was charged more than the menu indicated is also a disturbing fact. In spite of the fact that there were only four tables being occupied in the 1 1/2 hours I was there , one would think that a new restaurant would do everything to get patrons to return.
In doing the review I did not want to miss anything about the menu, the ingredients, the prices, etc. The only way to be sure of that was to have a copy of the menu that I ordered from. And…I would suggest that in the future they have take-out menu’s for all to take out with them; that’s one way to insure returning customers.


Chris August 27, 2023 at 9:02 am

Fair enough. On another note, perhaps the lack of printed menus they have is just a kink that goes along with a brand new establishment. Hopefully the works those out. If the food is good, they at least have that going for them.


Ben August 27, 2023 at 6:57 am

I was prompted to read through the comments as I wanted to see if anyone else took exception to points of the article.

First, if you don’t really know about how a restaurant works and what it REALLY costs today, stick to the comments about food and service quality. Labor pricing is up 30% and food costs have soared 35% over two years. Minimum wage is not accepted by any worker today.

Next, why would you take a menu with you? That’s not a thing. It goes beyond the “cost of a copy”. What about the lamination, the time to do it? It’s not like you’re a regular; you’re some rando off the street asking to take a “fixture”. If you don’t know how to take glare-free photos, the restaurant is not there to enable you. Besides, I was easily able to look up the menu online from other reviewers as well as get a complete online menu via the Clover online ordering portal.

Now let’s talk about the bill. According to what you claimed to order (although you didn’t specify what Steve drank, if anything. I’ll assume two of the same drinks) your subtotal should have been $50.50. plus tax. That would be $3.91 sales tax for a total of $54.41. You said $67 which doesn’t really calculate to a 20% tip. I would have questioned the tab but let’s move on to the fact that you didn’t know if you tipped or not in the $67 so you tipped in cash. $5. FIVE DOLLARS? Simple math would show that for average service a 15% tip would be about $10. Good service at 20% would be about $13.

There is an entire conversation in the zeitgeist right now about tipping because most patrons don’t understand how to do, when they are supposed to do it and how some greedy industries are asking for gratuities without providing a service for that gratuity.

Tips go to employees, not employers (although one should educate one’s self about the policies at each venue regarding gratuities.) You are sustaining the living wages for serving staff by tipping. You are showing gratitude for service by tipping.

I guess I can sum it up by saying, thanks for the food review. I did learn that they have tasty, generous portions for average prices. I would follow by saying you need to educate yourself about the restaurant business before you criticize how it works and what it costs. Oh, and unless its a wet burrito, it’s intended to be eaten by hand, not with a knife and fork.


Judi August 28, 2023 at 10:20 am

Hello Ben. I was not going to post an answer to your comments but have been encouraged to do so by three other people. After all , you are entitled to your opinion as I am to mine. Firstly my former in-laws owned a restaurant in Hollywood that I frequently worked at on the weekends. I am well aware of how taxing it is to run a successful restaurant and placate the employees as well as diners.

I wanted to take the menu with me because I noticed
what was on line was slightly different than what was available. I try to be as accurate as possible and would not want to do a disservice to the restaurant nor to those planning on eating there. Items and prices change and it is important to be as accurate as possible. AND I said I’d bring the menu back the following day.

Why would you assume that Steve had a drink when I didn’t mention it? He DID NOT have anything but water because we were going to share the drink I ordered since he was driving .

There was virtually no service to speak of. Our order was given at the counter. Yes David brought it to us , but it was not a “waitperson” activity. I left $5 in the tip jar because that was more than the 15% of what I thought the order should have been. It was put in the jar BEFORE david gave me a price. I am a reviewer- I do not want to cause any difficulty when reviewing a restaurant!

The food was very good. I stated that several times. But to be successful it takes more than just good food. I appreciate your comments – I am not a novice. I’ve been in charge of culinary schools; I’ve written 3 cookbooks; there needs to be some upgrading for this restaurant to be successful. Their other restaurant is a success – this one may be too, shortly .


Ben August 28, 2023 at 12:41 pm

Thank you for responding. You were most definitely overcharged. I guess the only question I have remaining is why you didn’t get a receipt if you’re doing a professional review?


judi August 28, 2023 at 1:39 pm

Thank you, Ben. As a reviewer I try not to do anything that calls more attention to me than to any other diner. I was afraid that asking for a receipt before the meal might set off a signal I didn’t want noticed. (My neighbor told me yesterday that she did not receive a receipt either. I did not know that.) I try to be as inconspicuous as possible when doing a review.


Gs3464 September 1, 2023 at 6:21 pm

Judy: You seem to be worried that asking for a receipt might call attention to yourself. Please rest assured that everyone deserves a receipt. Asking for one – when one is not provided – will never make you conspicuous or make anyone think you are a restaurant reviewer.


Amber August 28, 2023 at 1:16 pm

What exactly does, “I’ve been in charge of culinary schools” mean? Just curious.


Amber August 28, 2023 at 8:12 pm

If you’re going to censor my comment, please don’t bother printing any of it.


Sam August 28, 2023 at 3:23 pm

Tipping is toxic and needs to go away, especially if there is no service being offered, I don’t tip the cashier at Ralph’s or the gas station, do you? The cost of labor should be a burden on the business owner and if that person needs to raise prices to offer a living wage, then so be it.


JM August 27, 2023 at 8:11 am

Judy-L-Menus ??????????


retired botanist August 27, 2023 at 5:58 pm

A previous comment of mine on this review was not posted, fair enough, it was on the negative side. But again, this drill down on the menu spat?! Honestly? I wouldn’t even know how to use a QR code or whatever these recent phone menu things are, but the menu issue wouldn’t supersede the review of food!
I’m a septuagenarian, and I don’t eat out often, but when I do, I try to avoid the classic whines of my generation re menus, noise, waiting, and price. Its a new world. And it needs to be viewed from those eyes. In support, Judi’s review was clear: she wasn’t a fan of the ambience, but she liked the food. Just a shame that a simple, innocuous request from the owner went so sideways!
But also want to say thx to Judi for adding to the “unplugged” tip jar, regardless of what the bill gratuity reflected- way to be on that one, Widder! There are so many people making a living behind that meal :-)


Chris August 27, 2023 at 7:15 pm

“I wouldn’t even know how to use a QR code or whatever these recent phone menu things are”
Not meaning to come off rude but really?


retired botanist August 28, 2023 at 10:45 am

Chris, no offense taken! I know I am somewhat of a luddite when it comes to smartphones! :-) I’ve had 1 for a couple of years now (you would be aghast at how old my flip phone was, haha), but I really only use the phone and facetime features. Partly b/c phones are small and hard to read/write text, and partly b/c I don’t walk around (or sit in a restaurant) with a phone in my hand. I’ve been to several restaurants that use the QR menus, and simply asked to see a paper copy, which they always have. Perhaps menus are sort of like books? Some folks prefer a hard copy, others love e-reading! Its all good! :-)


Chris August 28, 2023 at 1:20 pm

No worries. In case you wind up at a place that only uses QR codes (there are several in my area), first make sure you either have your data on or are hooked up to the establishment’s Wi-Fi. Then just use your camera app as if you are taking a picture. Hover it over the QR code and a PDF will appear. Simply click on that.


sealintheSelkirks August 28, 2023 at 2:58 pm

Chris: She’s not the only one. I have zero idea how to use that stuff.

But I absolutely dislike what cellphones have done to what used to be called common courtesy. Being in a conversation with someone who constantly checks it or turns away from you while you are talking because ‘it rings’ is about the rudest thing a person can do. One suddenly becomes dismissed and ignored much like what adults do to little children. And as a former ECE teacher, I know how that impacts humans. Cell phones do the same thing.

Cell phones, of course, were designed to addict people. That’s what the telecommunications industry paid the psychologists to figure out, what the best design for that was.

And isn’t there a new ailment being called ‘cell phone neck?’ You know, the head-down of people walking into traffic or bumping into somebody on the sidewalk (which I have had happen). But always having a bent neck has got to have some kind of physical consequences besides the mental ones associated with addiction!
My house has a no cell phone rule. Come to visit this house and they are left outside in a basket just as cig smokers have to go outside to get their fix. I can tell when people are starting to ‘need’ their fix, too, for both. Weird! Both are addictions I don’t have but I do grow really good cannabis…
As for restaurants, I pay cash when I eat at one and have never owned a cell phone so have no idea what people are talking about with that technology, and I never eat in a place that has TVs mounted to the walls because that would be like eating on a tv tray in your living room.

As for 20% tipping, that’s a added-on tax. Imagine if the government did that to gasoline? There would be howling at the pump. And yes, I worked restaurants all over the beach area as a poor teen and young 20something so I do tend to tip larger, but I don’t have to like it nor accept that it’s right and ‘normal’ when owners should be paying their employees a living wage instead. Walking in to buy a $25 pizza should be $25, ya know?
But I REALLY miss good Mexican up here. Used to be a place called Mi Casita about 15 miles north in the nearest town owned and staffed by Mexican folk but it was raided by La Migra a bunch of years ago… Still an empty building, too, a decade later.



Chris August 28, 2023 at 9:12 pm

That’s a personal Choice Seal. Despite the negatives of what cellphones/smartphones and technology have done to society, I’m not going to give them up. They are hear to stay. While I don’t need to keep up with every new bit of tech that comes out and goes viral, I do not want to some day be that 70 something year old who constantly needs help from younger people on how to do what to must is a basic every day task. So yes, for as long as I have my full wits about me, keeping up with technology, at least to some degree is a personal priority.


lyle August 28, 2023 at 5:02 pm

I used to ask my waiter to show me how to do that. They were always glad to help. Young people expect us to be computer-illiterate, so helping us is like helping Grandpa or -ma. Once you figure this out, you can get them to do lots of stuff for you.


Vern August 29, 2023 at 10:41 am

lyle, you are correct. Generally, waitstaff likes to help. Just ask them!


JUDI August 28, 2023 at 1:51 pm

There is a letter coming shortly from Amber that I will answer now. It has gone to Word Press for approval from the publisher of the OBRag. In it she asks “what exactly does ‘I’ve been in charge of culinary schools'” mean? Let me answer this way: I am a retired educator – a teacher, Principal, Director, Manager, Vocational Director, etc. As an educator in a vocational establishment we had culinary arts programs – beginning at the very basic running of a restaurant – to the advanced programs which included starting up an establishment; making gourmet food; writing recipes, etc. I have been in charge of those educational endeavors, basically from the very beginnings of a career in the culinary field to the extraordinary completion of famous establishments. And yes, Amber, I realize that when a word is capitalized it has a stronger meaning that one that is not capitalized. You may look upon it as yelling; I look at it as EMPHASIZING a point. I do not yell, but I do frequently make a point. And to answer your question as to why did I tell you that one of the flies was the size of a flea? Because I think it was a FLEA, not a fly, and was afraid that when I got home I would have a bite. (I did, by the way.) I was pointing out that the insects that were in the restaurant were annoying, and could be more bothersome than just to swat them away. Certainly anyone with an organic background would be wary of the insects that surround you while eating a meal. And let me say again….the food was good. It was the other aspects that worried me.


Amber August 28, 2023 at 8:24 pm

this got boring really fast.


Chris B September 13, 2023 at 2:59 pm

Really fast!


kh August 28, 2023 at 2:31 pm

Oh the controversy! First of all, if you order and pay at the counter and they bring you food on throwaway dishware, and you take it to the trash cans yourself after, that is not what I call table service. Do you tip at Carls Jr because they bring you your food?

Now, throwing some cash in the tip jar on the way out is appropriate, but for me that takes some planning as I usually don’t carry cash. And I don’t like tipping up front to a place I haven’t even been to before. But if it’s a place I frequent, I’ll tip some upfront with credit card on the next visit.


Ben August 28, 2023 at 2:35 pm

See, there’s always somebody out there who wants to take it to the absolute extreme. No, you don’t tip for fast food at Carl’s Jr or McDonald’s or Jack in the Box or Taco Bell or any of your other favorite hangouts.

From what I can tell they have dinnerware that is served with a parchment.

It’s counter order and table service. 15% is appropriate for half service. If Judi had been charged what she should have been, the five bucks would have been just fine.


Sam August 28, 2023 at 3:13 pm

It is ridiculous to tip 15% for no table service. Tipping for table service is meant for actual service where the server comes to your table to get your order, brings you food and drinks and then clears the table. All of these tip jars all over the place are silly and frankly should be banished.


Ben August 28, 2023 at 4:24 pm

I don’t tip the President of the United States either. I get so tired of these strawman arguments that are meaningless.

Tipping is etiquette that used to be taught in families and society. I guess all that is gone and we are left with troglodytes and greedy corporations.

I’m so happy that I put myself through college in the service and hospitality industries where we were partly compensated by gratuities.

You’re not my child so I can’t teach you when it’s appropriate to tip or not. Figure it out or someone may spit in your drink.


Sam August 28, 2023 at 4:39 pm

I think you’re missing the main point, which is that tipping is for service jobs where they actually supply a service and last I checked being a cashier is not a service job, period. BTW – I worked in the restaurant business for almost 20 years, and when I started tipped staff only made $2.00/hour not $15.00!


Chris August 28, 2023 at 5:18 pm

A knowingly lame argument on your part.


Chris Kennedy August 29, 2023 at 9:51 am

I walked into this place several weeks ago thinking I should try it, but after seeing the (to me) high prices on everything, and looking around at the overall “scene”, itself, I decided this was probably going to be a forgettable dining experience and left. Reading through the lines of many of these comments I’m glad I did.
/s/ Chris Kennedy


TacoLady August 29, 2023 at 10:39 am

Love their fish tacos! Only $3.50 and they are huge! Great salsa bar also. The vibe is ok, so we always take them next door and have a drink at Cali Wild Ales. They are even nice enough to bring your food next door and deliver it to you.


Chris Kennedy August 30, 2023 at 9:03 am

In fairness to the restaurant I went by it again last night and think I may have confused their prices with another similar restaurant nearby. My apologies.
/s/ Chris Kennedy


Chris B September 13, 2023 at 2:56 pm

Hi Judy.

You can’t fault the restaurant for flies. OB is full of them.

I assume the price you were charged at this place was dependent on the method of payment. Many restaurants in the general vicinity charge an additional 3% or so to cover credit card fees they are charged. You should be told, but an extra 3% really is negligible isn’t it?

Finally, their menu is available online so there is no reason for you to take one. I do suggest they get paper menus to appease those without internet access.

I get the feeling you were a big Ortega’s fan and are unhappy the owners retired. If this is the case, it’s petty to take it out on a new establishment. I miss Ortega’s but am fine with the replacement. Well, sort of fine. I guess we didn’t really need a new Mexican joint.


retired botanist September 13, 2023 at 3:48 pm

Oy! Haha, circling back here to the review, and looks like a spat storm got brewed!! Honestly, and I am pointing NO fingers, my daughter (33) has worked in the restaurant service industry for ca. 10 yrs now, and so we both laugh out loud at the behavior of we Boomers- my generation! From Boomer memes with slogans like “You want to know how old I am? I’m ‘I want a paper menu old!’ ” to the chestnuts of loud music, wait times, “I know you aren’t open yet, but can we come inside?” among many others… Seriously, we are apparently the most annoying customers! So lighten up everybody, maybe put your phone away when you eat, tip generously, and realize that chances are your “issues” don’t have as much to do with the establishment, the food, or the ambience as they do with your personalized habits, whatever they are! LOL! :-)


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