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La Tarasca in Centralia. What to order there?

I have read so many reviews about this little gem in Centralia. My mom and I are going to visit the restaurant this week, my question is what to order? I love pozole, and I hear it is great. What are the best bets?

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  1. Ooh, ooh, get the adobada tacos. They will rock your world. And the beans! My god, the beans! Sayeth one of the fine ladies of La Tarasca, "you can't have good beans without lard!" I had no idea refried beans could be that good. Really.

    And it's worth the food coma to finish the flan. This is no texmex restaurant flan. Mom in the back really knows how to make a nice caramel.

    1. With all due respect, this place is way overrated, and a bit pricey for what it is. I'd read all the raves and had to check it out...my two dining friends agreed...just average food, high prices. I'm a Texan with extensive travel experience in Mexico with a great amount of time spent in Tarascan territory in Michoacan. Your mileage may vary, but I would never go back, not worth the time, nor money. Sorry to rain on this parade...We had a variety of dishes and all were pretty mediocre.

      1. I don't drive between Portland and Seattle without eating a plate of carnitas at La Tarasca.

        1 Reply
        1. re: terrier

          Ditto on terrier's rec. Their homemade corn tortillas are the best I've ever tasted. Prices are not out of line, given the quality of the food.

        2. Has anyone tried the pozole? I think I read somewhere it is supposed to be pretty amazing too. Or, what about the tamales?

          1 Reply
          1. re: kgreig

            I wasn't a huge fan of the tamales there.
            I'd stick with the carnitas or the other stewed meat kind of dishes.

          2. I tried the Chile Colorado and Chile Verde, and some carnitas too. The ingredients were very fresh and the tortillas were very nice. Although we got the gringo spice tone-down treatment, I believe - despite our pleas to make it spicy.

            2 Replies
            1. re: HungWeiLo

              I will have to try La Tarasca sometime. My Special Lady Friend and I stop in Centralia every time we go to Portland to eat at Taqueria El Rey. They used to serve right out of a giant Greyhound bus but they have recently moved into the building right next store. You will know it by the giant painting of said bus that is now on the building.

              Don't expect fine dining here, just really good taco's for a quick snack on your way down or back. I tried the Sopes a few weeks ago, great stuff here if you don't feel like spending a lot of time eating.

              1. re: plutch

                Another good taco truck is the one in the gas station off the Old Nisqually exit. I've only eaten there once, and have failed to catch them since during their open hours (they close on Sundays, I think)

            2. My recommendation is to order off the a la carte menu and basically just to get as many of their tortillas as possible, they are the best thing in the restaurant.

              6 Replies
              1. re: bergeo

                Sambamaster, I defer to your travels in Mexico. But if you know of a finer mexican restaurant anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, please tell us ASAP!!!
                At La Tarasca, as others have indicated above, I love the tacos adobado and the great flan -- and, of course, the tortillas. If you like a lot of meat, then the carnitas are for you. My personal favorite meal: start with an order of fried jalapenos (very cheap), then the chile verde (to die for), with a taco adobado as a side order. Finish the meal with some flan (it is large enough to share), and I am a very full and exteeeeemely happy boy.
                My only criticism: They are closed every Tuesday ----- even this year when Cinqo de Mayo was on a Tuesday!!!! Blasphemy!!!

                1. re: Steve in Olympia

                  That sounds like the perfect menu for me! And then I can con my Mom into trying some other dishes, so I can sample them all. hehe

                  1. re: Steve in Olympia

                    Steve in Olympia,
                    I live in Portland, so, my experience is mostly limited to PDX (though I hit this Centralia place on a trip to SEA last summer, with two fellow Texans).
                    In Portland, I'd recommend two places, one a bit upscale, the other, its polar opposite, but both with great Mexican food: 1) Nuestra Cocina on SE Division...this place is a bit pricey, but features pretty much authentic interior Mexican food...last time I was there, the flavors were a bit subdued, but in about 10 visits, it was the only time I felt things weren't absolutely spot-on for the taste of true Mexican (from the interior); 2) Taqueria La Estacion on NE Killingsworth at Cully...this place is a bit of a dump, no beer, no restroom, but the food is great, or can be. The owners are from the Yucatan, and some of the menu items reflect this, like panuchos (google it) and on the weekends, great banana leaf-wrapped tamales, cochinita pibil, and relleno negro, a Yucatecan "stew" with turkey, a pork based stuffing (the relleno) and a blackened chile 'sauce'. The golden/orange habanero sauce is fantastic, but be careful, it is very, very picosa...but do try it. Also in Portland, there are many taco trucks that eclipse the mediocre food of Tarasca, and two other places I like that are actual restaurants, La Bonita and La Sirenita in NE Portland. Oh, one other in PDX, La Calaca Comelona

                    In Seattle, well, I'm sure there are places better than Tarasca...scanning ChowHound, I'd say two places look very interesting, both more or less Oaxacan in tilt: La Carta de Oaxaca and El Sabor de Oaxaca...but this is only derived from view online menus...so, go exploring!!!! that's the chowhound way!

                    1. re: sambamaster

                      Nuestra Cocina is definitely top notch. What about Toro Bravo? Haven't tried that one yet.

                      1. re: HungWeiLo

                        Toro Bravo is NOT Mexican. They claim to be Spanish, but, other than using some ingredients common in Spain, their style does not seem to follow the Spanish idea of great ingredients treated simply...the food I had was needlessly and wrongly complex, with many of the flavors they used out of place and not in balance. I need to go one more time, but doubt things will be much different. That said, folks here love it, rate it as one of the best in town....that can go two ways: if it is in the league of best, that does not speak highly of the competition (in my opinion), or, as so often happens, the buzz a restaurant creates is not always in proportion to the level of quality of the food, and lots of folks who really don't know food go ga-ga about places that serve mediocre chow....but that's another thread....

                        1. re: sambamaster

                          La Serenita was good ten years ago. La Bonita are very nice people and charge twice what other tacquerias charge. Nothing special but good. Toro Bravo is arguably the best restaurant in Portland or, as Mark Bitten of the New York Times said on his blog a couple of months ago, it is on a level with any restaurant in the country when it comes to tapas. I will respectfully suggest listenting to Mr. Bitten's recommendation over Sambamaster. I live two blocks from Toro Bravo, btw, and it is nothing short of remarkable. I also very much like the place in Centralia (my sister lives in Moralia, by the way, has for thirty years). Sambamaster may have traveled extensively in Mexico but that doesn't mean one has to agree with his/her palate.

                2. I keep wanting to branch out, but the chile verde pulls me back every time: very tender chunks of pork in a great sauce. I agree with what the others say about the tortillas--they are top of the line. I like the pork tamales too, definitely comfort food. I've had the pozole a few times and can recommend it. But the chile verde.......

                  1. We went a couple of days ago. Really enjoyed the chicken mole and bisteck (pork) in somewhat spicy tomato sauce. The sopes were delicious. I wasn't as crazy about the taquitos, which we bought for our little one. They were more like a hard shell taco, and the filling - potato, cabbage, mole, crema, didn't quite jibe.

                    On the other hand, I know carnitas is their signature dish, the proprietess was really pushing us to order it. But when my husband was there before on his own (conf in PDX), he did have it and found it quite bland compared to what we'd had in LA. He said the meat chunks were quite large and only the outer surface had any flavor. Normally I trust his opinion, but so many people seem to rave about them... What do you all think of his "bland" comment?

                    Oh, and the tortillas are wonderful as are the marinated carrots/onions they bring out with the menus.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sasha1

                      La Tarasca often explains that their cooking is in the style of Michocan, which is considered to specilize in carnitas. I understand that carnitas from Michocan can be prepared in either a "wet" or "dry" style, which depends on whether a marinade/broth is used for cooking the meat, or whether it is simply allowed to slowly cook in its own fat, which is the style I've made at home, and what I encounter most frequently at most taquerias and trucks. La Tarasca's is a decidedly wet style, and I enjoy it very much, but this method does not produce the gloriously salty-crisp browned edges of the dry style.

                      1. re: sasha1

                        I was very excited to visit this place - missed it on the last couple road trips, but finally made it on the last one.

                        The tortillas were totally worth the stop. I tried to get some information about them from the proprietress' daughter, not realizing the process was a secret. The only thing she did tell me was that her mother had grown up in a family that owned a mill in Mexico, so she knows the process inside and out. And, the corn is ground at La Tarasca, fresh.

                        DH and I ordered the mole and carnitas, as per suggestions. Liked the mole quite a bit, didn't love the carnitas (they were dry, though the flavor was nice and porky). Not spiced at all but for a ton of salt. They might be Michoacan-style, but I would call them 'carnes' instead of 'carnitas' (very large chunks), and not my favorite. Will certainly try the pozole next time I'm there... and lots of tortillas.

                      2. oh man, I finally tried La Tarasca and I was just thrilled. I tried the carnitas, but reeeally wanted to order more in order to savor all the wonderful recommendations. The pork was perfectly cooked, not soupy or oily like some carnitas can be, and subtly spiced so the orginal dish could shine. Of course the tortillas were amazing, and I loved the carrot salad.

                        I wasn't crazy about the refried beans, but whatever. With carnitas that fabulous, who cares? Next time, I am ordering enough to feed an Army so that I can sample the mole, the tamales, the pozole and the jalapenos starter. Can't wait!!!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: kgreig

                          The owner and her staff are always doing the hard sell on the carnitas item. This is the only complaint I have about this wonderful restaurant. I assume that the carnitas are easier to cook, less labor-intensive than the dishes requiring sauces, and therefore more profitable.

                          In any case, I find it slightly annoying. A herd of charging elephants could never prevent me from ordering my favorite meal of chile verde and tacos adobado. Let's go!

                        2. The pozole is the best I've had outside of Mexico. The woman visiting from Mexico at the next table said it was the best she'd had other than her mom's. If you like Menudo, theirs is great. Tripe is cooked perfectly and the broth is marvelous. I ordered Menudo and 1 adobada taco and was stuffed. Enjoy!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Olymom

                            That seals the deal. I am having pozole and a side of corn tortillas the next time I am there. Forget the carnitas...this time! (they were really good, but time to branch out a bit)

                          2. Went there a week ago based on Chowhounders. Wow. Oustanding. Party of 4 so there were a lot of orders: carnitas, chile verdes, bisteck, tamales, tacos. Everything was terrific. Two standouts: homemade tortillas, a little thicker than you might expect but light and yummy. And tamales beyond belief. Tamales can be so gloppy, and well, just plain yuk...these were wonderful, distinct maize, good sauce.