liveonearth (liveonearth) wrote,

Mexican food in Portland: Cha Cha Cha in Sellwood

The other night Suzanne and I went out for Mexican food. She's originally from Globe, Arizona, and I have lived in the desert southwest for a chunk of my life, so we have an appreciation for good tortillas, chile verde, pinto beans and adobado. We cook Mexican at home all the time: beans & rice, tortillas and cilantro are are staples. So we already knew it might be hard to find Mexican food to meet our standards. People seem to prefer bland food here. We like it HOT.

But we are hopeful because there are quite a few Mexican immigrants around town. They must have some good home-cooked food, somewhere. We ended up going to a place called "Cha Cha Cha" in Sellwood. It's in one of those oriental-looking houses and it is painted all shades of red, pink and green.

Once inside we found that it is mostly a carryout business, and that you order at the front counter before you sit down. We ordered a chimichanga and some enchiladas and sat down to munch our chips and sip margs. The chips were good, but cold. There was no salsa, only pico de gallo. The margaritas were heavy on the corn syrupy mixer. Then the food came out. Really fast. That's authentic. But it wasn't even hot--temperature or spice-wise. In a real Mexican place the plates are kept so hot that you can't touch them, and the food is simmering on the plate when it comes out. The lady also brought some "salsa" in plastic squirt containers, red and green, flavors: OK. The sauce on my enchilada was not so good. The restaurant itself was cold. I didn't have the occasion to give any feedback to the lady of the house, but if I had I would have said NEEDS HEAT. Everything. Building, food, spice, chips, etc.

We've seen many restaurants, they're all over the place, but none of them have anything external to recommend them. Who ever heard of a Mexican restaurant named "The Iron Horse"? There is one called San Felipe's, but it looks like a carryout place too. We're hoping for a place where you can get real chile rellenos, and where they serve homemade salsa. Looking, still looking. Got any suggestions?

Rated with stickler checklist as devised on 3/7/08
1) free hot crisp chips (.5)
2) free with choices of salsa, one of which should be HOT (.5)
3) margarita with tequila and lime in it, no high fructose corn syrup (0)
4) food and plate temperature sizzling hot (0)
5) menu: simple, fresh, authentic, not "creative" (1)
6) good sauces/beans/tortillas (.5)
7) good entrees (.5)
8) reasonable price (1)
9) pleasant space, warmth colors, lighting, smells, service, etc. (0, cold, Asian building, fast food service)
10) "Sopapilla o' tortilla?" (0)
Tags: food, mexicans, oregon, portland

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