Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Cha Taqueria and Bar

Cha! Taqueria and Bar
305 NW 21st Ave.
Happy Hour 3-6 p.m. daily, 10 p.m.-Midnight Friday and Saturday

Most people in Portland who like Mexican food know about Cha! Cha! Cha!, a local chain with multiple locations. Cha! Taqueria and Bar is like Cha! Cha! Cha!'s more sophisticated older sibling. This is one of my husband's favorite spots to go for a late night happy hour after a Timbers game, and I have joined him on many occasions for dinner and happy hour as well. Even though we both love it, I just never got around to doing a review. I recently realized that I have collected pictures from three different visits over many months, and I should probably finally post them! This also means that I will be able to comment on the quality of the cocktails even though I am currently unable to partake...and the cocktails here are GOOD!

Lots of restaurants in Portland focus on local and organic ingredients, and Cha! is no exception. You can really tell they use quality, fresh produce and meat in the flavor of their food. I have tried so many different items here, and I have enjoyed every one. It is Mexican food with a twist. Instead of chips and salsa to start, Cha! offers blue corn chips with a creamy, spicy green sauce with black beans and sprinkles of cheese on top.

While I enjoy trying happy hours in NW Portland, this side of the river can be pretty pricy when it comes to cocktails. Luckily, Cha! is a restaurant that offers discounts on food and drinks. They have daily mojito, margarita, sangria, and wine specials for $5.50, and they have Dos XX on tap for $3.50. They even have a tequila shot for $5.50 if you want to go that route. I have only ever tried the mojitos and margaritas, and both are really, really good. They often have unique flavors for both (sadly, I have been pregnant for so long that I no longer remember specific flavors).

Another pre-pregnancy treat that I love from their happy hour menu is their house ceviche ($5.95). I first tried ceviche last year when I was in Mexico for my wedding. I never thought it sounded very appealing, even though I do enjoy sushi. Once I tried it, though, I became addicted to it! Even if it sounds unappealing, I would definitely give it a try if you like salsa. Cha!'s version rivals some of the best ceviche that I had in Mexico--it is extremely fresh and doesn't taste "fishy." I can't wait until I can eat it again!

Another thing that Cha! does well is nachos. They offer a large portion of nachos with carnitas (or vegetables if you prefer) for $5.95. Many of the dishes on the happy hour menu come with a delicious spicy crema sauce, and the nachos are no exception. My husband often orders this dish.

On my most recent visit, I ordered the Picaditos de Morelos ($5.95). This would be great for my vegetarian friends, but I enjoyed it a lot, too. This dish includes corn cakes topped with greens, black beans, and a generous amount of avocado. Again, this seems to be a unique take on a more traditional Mexican dish.

Service here has always been quite good, whether we were seated at the bar, in the restaurant, or outside on the patio. From what I remember, you are also allowed to have happy hour anywhere (not just in the bar). Hopefully that hasn't changed, especially now that the weather in Portland is so toasty!

With lots of food options for under $6.00 and great drink specials, this is definitely one of those happy hour favorites that you can use to make happy hour into dinner. I will definitely be back!

Food: Exceeds
Drinks: Exceeds
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets


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