Mexican food and I are relatively new friends. Growing up, I loved a good plain quesadilla as much as the next kid (occasionally I would even put shredded chicken in it), but beans and tomatoes and onions? Gross. Hated it. Blech. The texture of beans in general is still something I’m working on. But Mexican food has slowly creeped in to my life in the past 6 years or so. In high school, I would’ve way rather gone to Vietnamese or Indian than Mexican.
Here in Portland we’ve got some killer Mexican food. You want a hole in the wall with the most amazing tacos you’ll ever have? Go to Tienda y Panaderia Santa Cruz in St. John’s. You want a line out the door for a delicious bowl of rice and beans and meat and some mystery amazing sauce? Go to Porque No. You want a crazy good Mexican style brunch? Definitely go to Autentica. But a relatively recent discovery has made my go to Mexican list: Que Pasa Cantina.
First let’s talk about the margaritas. Because, let’s be honest, margaritas (margs for short) are delicious, thirst-quenching, and I love the combo of salty and sour. The margs at Que Pasa were great – strong, sour, and just straight up good. Could you ask for more? Yes – at happy hour their house marg is only $5. Don’t want to go traditional? Don’t worry, they’ve got margs with jager, seasonal fruit, grapefruit juice, jalapeño, and of course all different kinds of tequila.
Before I get to the food, I want to tell you about one of my favorite parts of going to Que Pasa Cantina. Aside from the Potatoes Olé (you’ll read about them later), this restaurant also has possibly my favorite waiter in town. He has served us both times we’ve gone to the restaurant, and I don’t know his name, but he’s hilarious. He’s a little quiet, but very suave and with a stellar sense of humor. You can tell the guy is having a great time and doesn’t take anything too seriously. I want to be his friend.
The first time we went to Que Pasa, I had recently discovered pastor (thanks Eliza!), so I ordered their traditional pastor tacos. Pastor is thinly sliced pork that has been marinated in a spice rub of chilies, cumin, and other delicious herbs. The bonus is that these tacos came not only with pastor, but also with pineapple (not uncommonly served with pastor), which is a serious weakness of mine. I have a tendency to, if there’s pineapple around, eat so much that my tongue starts to get numb and little bumps appear. This may be because I have a geographic tongue… but we’re getting sidetracked. Anyway, these tacos were awesome. First, any good Mexican restaurant knows to double wrap their tacos – 2 tortillas please! That way if one ruptures, you’ve got a backup. Makes the whole affair far less messy. Second, the pastor was so packed with flavor and had the nice fruitiness from the pineapple – I was in heaven. My next trip I ordered some chorizo tacos, which were super tasty, very flavorful, and spicy. Loved it.
The first time we went to Que Pasa was with Peter, the producer of Jonah’s new album. Peter told us the greatest secret of Que Pasa. With your dish, don’t get the usual side of rice and beans. Why? Because you can choose to replace those beans and rice with their Potatoes Olé, mashed potatoes with carrots, sweet white corn, jalapeños, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and jack cheese. These potatoes are to die for. I know, they aren’t super healthy (potatoes, sour cream, and hella cheese), but hot damn. I now have bouts of serious cravings for these potatoes. They are so creamy, and I love the occasional crunch of the corn and carrots, and the little bit of spice from the jalapeño. These are definitely on my list of dishes to attempt to recreate.
So there you have it, folks. If you want some bomb.com Mexican food with a side of probably the best mashed potatoes you’ll ever eat, do me a favor, and visit Que Pasa Cantina (just north of the Hawthorne food carts on 12th ave).