I've got this sweet little gig going on Mondays. See, now that w is back at work and I have C-boy to myself all day, I get to fill his head with all sorts of ideas. That foie gras is his friend. That baseball's St. Louis Cardinals are the spawn of Satan. That pots, pans, & plastic measuring cups will make the best toys ever. I think I may kstart reading aloud to him from Julia Child's "My Life In France". Got to start this boy out right, ya know? Then there is our lunchtime tradition, where we take the trek from SE PDX out to mom's work in Hillsboro so she can give him some food straight from the source, so to speak. The other good part of this tradition is w and I get to go to lunch at different places in suburbia...which is inherently a dicey proposition...made all the better by C-boy's newfound ability to sit quietly through the midday meal (I think he was just messing with us by starting this delightful new behavior right after we got back from France). So yesterday I was in the mood for Mexican, and had heard rumors of good things to be had out in the SW hinterlands. I put up a tweet asking for advice, and heard back from Nico who tipped me off to Ochoa's. He also forwarded me a link to a review from ExtraMSG's blog. w had seen some positive comments on Yelp, so we were in.
Walking into Ochoa's (if you Google it it comes up Taqueria Hermanos Ochoa's) you wouldn't expect much. The usual bright fluorescent lighting, tables and booths scattered around, garishly vivid red and white paint scheme, soccer games playing on a couple of TV's with the third TV tuned to Mexican soap operas. We got in line, where as you approach the order station/cash register there's a wall of pictures of what must be every dish they serve. Plus they have other written specials on notebook paper taped to the counter by the guy who takes your order. After reading Nico's tweet and MSG's rave about their huaraches with birria de chivo, which is slow cooked and shredded goat (pic left), I knew what I was having. w opted for the far less sure thing and had their chicken mole (pic below right). Both the mole and huaraches (with a Coke) came to a whopping $13. If this was good I wouldn't be able to afford NOT to go back! So we wheeled C-boy in his little Snap 'n Go stroller (man, I still can't believe I've become one of those people who wheels...happily no less...their kid through a restaurant. The shame......) over to a table under the soap opera TV, where all the cleavage-laden actresses look like they are just getting ready for their gig at a strip club, and who also seemed to hold some great fascination for C-boy's 4-month old mind, as he was smiling and giggling at the TV. Could be trouble later. Anyway, I wandered over to the salsa bar where they had four different, and very flavorful, house made salsas and some, unfortunately on this day, over-cooked chips for free consumption. The waitress (server/ expediter/ bringer of deliciousness?) soon came out with our plates of food (they hand you a receipt when you order with your number on it), and set before both of us were plates overflowing with south-of-the-border bounty. My huaraches, which are corn meal "sandals" were topped with a smear of refried beans and mounded with a savory, lightly spicy, and utterly tender pieces of shredded goat meat. It tasted somewhat like lamb, maybe a smidge more gamey, but seasoned so well. I loved it. w's mole was the real surprise. This is an iffy dish at most Mexican joints, where way too often it comes out thin, insipid, or poured out of a jar....or all three. Ochoa's version had real depth and loads of the spicy-chocolate flavor, and you could tell they spent some time putting it together. The mole was pooled around and atop a not-insubstantial pile of moist, tender chicken. It also came with several handmade tortillas and the apparently requisite....and very welcome...side of beans and rice. This was serious consumption, and considering my dish was $6 and w's mole was an insane $5, this was a crazy deal.
So very worth the drive, even with Hillsboro being this clusterfuck of old established neighborhoods, oddly placed strip malls, bad chain restaurants, and new, cookie cutter, tech-inspired housing developments. On a related note, a couple of weeks ago I went out and we got some takeout sandos (quite good) from the New Seasons in the Stepford Wives-like development of Orenco Station (which for the uninitiated is the most vanilla, unimaginative place I couldn't imagine living in. It feels exactly like a real life version of the town in that movie "The Truman Show") and we walked with Colman to Orenco's ridiculously named "Central Park". If the real Central Park in NYC had an ounce of self respect it would sue Hillsboro to quit besmirching its good name. So anyway, we're sitting on this open piece of overly manicured lawn surrounded on three sides by houses that look...with minor decorative details...EXACTLY like each other. I told w if you came home drunk...and you'd have to if you lived out there...you would never be able to find your house. On one end the "park" opens up, taking your eye out across an open, grassy field, and in a perfectly framed Hillsboro moment, in the near distance, rising like Big Brother and obscuring any possibility of natural beauty, is a giant Intel chip factory. Just so no one forgets who pays the bills around here!