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Restaurants & Bars 9

[Centralia/PDX] La Tarasca, Apizza Scholls, Pix--long

Evan | Apr 28, 200504:21 PM

Several weeks ago, I and an extremely cute fellow hound headed south on a road trip to Portland and points beyond. We stopped off at La Tarasca both coming and going, and visited Apizza Scholls and Pix while staying in Portland.

On the way south, we started out a little late and weren't sure we would make it to La Tarasca before they closed. We pulled into their parking lot five minutes before closing, anxious about whether they'd still be willing to seat us--no problem. Our server told us that they had almost closed up before we got there, but "something" made them stay open a few minutes longer. "God was watching over you," she told us, and this life-long atheist is inclined to agree.

La Tarasca is still my very favorite Mexican restaurant, although Muy Macho certainly is a worth second. I would go there for the tortillas alone--I don't understand how they get a corn tortilla to taste so fluffy. I've eaten at a few high-end Mexican restaurants (notably Topolobampo) and would choose La Tarasca over any of them even if money was no object.

Enough extraneous information, on to the food. On our first visit we ordered the mole and the carnitas. Both were excellent. I've had better mole, but this was quite good and benefited from the accompaniment of the phenomenal tortillas to chase the sauce around with.

On our return trip, we ordered tacos (adobada, pollo and carnitas) and pozole. If La Tarasca is my favorite Mexican restaurant, the adobada tacos are my favorite dish at my favorite restaurant. If I found out that had two weeks to live, I would want to euthanize myself by eating adobada until I burst. The pollo is really flavorful and tender, and the carnitas I can't remember clearly, but that's more because I was so infatuated with the other two meats than any failing of the pork.

I think in future visits I'm going to have a harder and harder time exploring their menu, because the entrees are good, but the tacos are spectacular.

The pozole was decent--I was hoping for a slightly more flavorful broth, but I haven't eaten enough pozole to know whether this was blander than usual or if this is how pozole just is. I did find that I enjoyed the leftovers more than I enjoyed it initially--maybe it was just too hot at first for me to really taste it.

During our one-night stay in Portland, we rounded up a bunch of college friends and headed to Apizza Scholls. Confronted with a one-hour wait, we put our name on the list, gave the hostess a cell phone number and retired to the Bar Of The Gods just up the block. One hour later, we hadn't been called, so we checked back to find out that the hostess had forgotten we were at the bar and had given our spot to someone else. In the end it didn't matter, because a large table was just being vacated and she kindly seated us there.

Salads were gigantic. The meat plate was really quite good, probably my favorite part of the meal. The pizza was really good, but was a bit inconsistent in terms of crust--our margherita was much crispier than the sausage pie was (the sausage was quite floppy). I liked it a lot, but probably not so much that I'd want to contend with an hour wait for it. To make a completely, completely unfair comparison, I didn't find it as earth-shatteringly awesome as something like a Lou Malnotti's in Chicago or a Totonno's in Coney Island. Obviously that's unfair, though, because they're not even the same style of pizza. To make a more fair comparison, I thought it was on par with most of the pizza I had in Italy, and it's certainly as good as the best pizza in Seattle.

After Apizza Scholls, we headed to Pix and boggled at the cornucopia of astounding beautiful sweets in the case. In the end I had to get two of them, because there were two that I desperately wanted to taste and nobody else in our group had ordered them.

The visual artistry is quite impressive across the board; flavor-wise I wish that most of the offerings were less focused on sweetness and more on other flavors, although that's kind of a stupid criticism of a dessert place. For example, the pear, rosemary and milk chocolate tart was a really fascinating flavor combination, but the chocolate itself was pretty boring--I would have preferred something darker and more intensely chocolatey, although I'm willing to concede that the chef might have tried that and found that that flavor didn't marry well with the rosemary. I was also suffering a little from food burnout at this point, having eaten out every meal for the last four days, so maybe the issue was more with my palate.

Regardless, it was very nice to finally get to some of these places that I've heard so much about from Portland hounds, and I'm very impressed with Portland as a food town on the whole, from experiences on both this and other trips. I'd love to come back and try to get to a Low BBQ night sometime.

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