Tuesday, May 5, 2009

First Bite: The Local Taco

Posted By on Tue, May 5, 2009 at 6:59 AM

Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, we scouted the margaritas at The Local Taco at yesterday's inaugural lunch. I'm not saying they were too strong or anything, I'm just saying that after one frosty blend of well-balanced sweet and citrus tones topped with a generous drizzle of Sauza, I forgot to take a photo of the restaurant, which was pretty much the reason I went there in the first place.

So here's what it looked like: Cute, clean, festive, understated. Clean white, crisp blue, cheery yellow, stainless steel. Comfy plastic chairs, pendant lights made of Mason jars. Expanded covered patio perfect for whiling away an afternoon with a basket of chips, some tacos and a few margaritas. (Fortunately, someone at my table had the presence of mind to take a photo of those things.)

click to enlarge local_taco.jpg

Beware: Chips and salsa aren't free. A basket of chips with red and green salsas is $3.25. Homemade guacamole is $4. Tacos are $2.50 a piece, with varieties including fish, barbecue, vegetarian, brisket and fried shrimp. If you like spicy, ask for the "Bang Bang," and you'll get a ramekin with a thin blend of citrus and peppers, which was a refreshing and picant supplement to just about everything we ordered.

Among the tacos we sampled, Korean BBQ was the standout, with tender beef strips in a sweet-and-salty marinade served with shredded cabbage, toasted sesame seeds and green onions. Our major complaint was that the tiny portion of beef got suffocated inside the flour tortilla. (In fact, a lot of the tacos were a little light-weight, but it was Day 1, so we'll reserve judgment and hope they get fattened up.)

Not surprisingly, the most disappointing of our orders was the vegetarian enchilada with sauteed vegetables and beans under a blanket of lemon cream sauce. While fresher than a standard bean-and-cheese meatless option, the enchilada lacked any distinctive flavor or brightness.

As we discussed the lineage of the Sylvan Park address, which over the years housed Red Rooster, Goldie's Deli, Murphy's Loft and Portland Brew, someone asked if it was simply a cursed location. Maybe in the past, but the redesign of the room and the expansion of the patio could go a long way toward breaking the spell. Cheap and cheerful Mexican could be just what the neighborhood is looking for. Especially today--of all days.

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