Cha Taqueria & Bar
Last week I had margaritas in the rain. Literally.
Normally I’d get a kick out of saying this, but the situation felt ridiculous because it was still technically summer. Clearly Portland didn’t get the memo. But – I’ll admit that it was fun to officially record my first true margaritas in the rain experience. Up until this point, the blog has only documented margaritas in the sun. Which, let’s face it, isn’t an accurate account of my life in Portland.
After a pretty good soak walk, I joined up with two of my loveliest lady friends on a stormy summer afternoon to try Cha Taqueria & Bar. I had heard that this swanky-looking Mexican joint in NW Portland had a great Happy Hour, and I’d been dying to try it. If you were wondering, Cha is the upscale sister to Portland’s Cha! Cha! Cha! restaurants. Owner Javier Hurtado was born and raised in Mexico, and has been perfecting “Mexican food for busy Portlanders” for years through these casual restaurants, located throughout the city. Cha Taqueria, the slightly more formal and authentic eatery, places an emphasis on healthy, organic and sustainable ingredients in a more upscale environment.
|A little mood lighting in Cha’s outside seating area|
Cha is located on the corner of NW 21st and Hoyt and has a super cute outdoors dining area with plenty of seating for sunnier days. Given the unexpected weather conditions, we opted to sit inside. The interior didn’t disappoint. Bold colors, couch-like seating with cushions and some very cool modern art pieces make for a grand entrance. But don’t let this fool you; the attitude at Cha is anything but swanky and frou frou. Instead, it’s inviting and comfortable.
We received a small plate of blue tortilla chips with green salsa and queso fresco to nibble on as we analyzed the Happy Hour menu and filled each other in on the latest and greatest. With 10 items for $5 each that all looked incredible, I ended up asking the waitress for suggestions. After she described her top picks – ceviche, empanadas and nachos – we ordered the Picaditas, the Santo Burrito and the Nachos for $5 each.
|House appetizer: tortilla chips w/ salsa & queso fresco|
Cha’s Happy Hour does feature several drink specials, including their Margarita del Dia (or Margarita of the Day for those of you like me, who embarrassingly asked what this meant) for $5.50. The special of this particular day was Prickly Pear. I decided to be adventurous and order one, knowing that when it comes to flavored margs, I’m normally a guava or mango kind of girl.
I was surprised to see that when the drinks were served, the Prickly Pair Margarita was bright, bright pink. I actually liked the flavor quite a bit, but I couldn’t get over the color. I figured it had to be something artificial, and inquired about the ingredients from a nice man who made the rounds to check on us several times during our visit (who, I believe is the owner, although thanks to the margarita, I didn’t connect the dots until after I left). So the nice man brought me a carton of prickly pear puree that’s used in the homemade margaritas – proving that the actual purée is truly naturally hot pink!
|Prickly Pear Margarita|
He proceeded to tell me about Cha’s margarita selection, and I learned that they serve many flavors including coconut, passion fruit, guava, mango and others from the same all natural fruit puree. Happy Hour and house margaritas use Sauza Gold tequila. The owner’s favorite, which he recommends, is the jalapeño infused tequila guava margarita. I promised to try it, next time.
We were all impressed when the food came. Sometimes you just know something’s going to taste good based on its presentation. The Picaditas consisted of three corn masa cakes topped with beans, sautéed veggies, queso fresco and avocado. I loved how this dish was literally piled with grilled vegetables – zucchini, broccoli, carrots, peppers and more.
The nachos, a ginormous plate filled with super crunchy corn chips, guacamole, meat, pico de gallo and cheese, were by far the best nachos I’ve had in a while. Somewhere in the process of drinking, tasting, and drinking some more, we coined the nachos as “bomb diggity.” Enough said.
And last but not least, the burrito was filled with black beans and rice, some grilled veggies, salsa , chipotle crème and queso fresco. The salsa and chipotle crème gave it a really nice kick – but perhaps what was the most surprising was that it looked like the size of a typical entrée. In fact, all three of the dishes were ordered were impressively sized for Happy Hour, and after sharing the three plates, we were all totally satisfied.
Sitting at Cha with my besties, listening to the rain pouring outside, I was reminded of why it’s important to drink margaritas in the rain: it automatically makes a gray day that much more colorful.