Dude was stunned. He expected Sirenita, he later confessed, maybe even Bonita or La Fonda, but this. This level of knowledge about Mexican food was too much. "I'm impressed," he said after a minute of silence. "I am very impressed." Then he chatted for a few more minutes, and slinked away.
Of course, I was intrigued, and found the energy to drive all the way over to 60th and Glisan to see for myself what kind of food could possibly rival Portland's Mexican darling, La Sirenita.
And the verdict? If La Parilla isn't better than Sirenita, it's at least as good.
Parilla is a little bigger than a hole in the wall, but not that much. Right off of Glisan and next to a gas station, there doesn't seem to be a blade of grass anywhere near the place, so the initial sensation is like taking a big breath of tar-flavored, gas-scented air. However, walking in changes all that. Though usually stuffy in the summer, the seating is comfortable, and there's always a nice crowd of jovial, construction-worker types hanging out around lunchtime.
There are about 20 Platillos (plates) options on the menu, which is awesome, because one isn't confined to simply ordering a burrito. Each of these plates are served with rice and beans, and are authentic, hearty dishes such as Encebollado, Tortas, Plato Relleno, Tamales, and even Torta de Lengua (chopped tongue, which also comes in burrito form).
Parilla's food involves a lot of tomatoey/spicy/soupy complements, which is a great break from the extreme grease that characterizes a lot of Mexican restaurants. The Huevos Rancheros, for example, is served with a couple of well-fried, steaming hot eggs smothered in a spicy bell pepper/tomato mixture, which is a delight to combine with the beans, rice, and corn tortillas while making yourself a mini burrito.
Of course, Parilla also serves the standard Tacos, Burritos, and even Hamburguesas. All of these usuals are put together with finesse and balance--the meat is extremely tender and well seasoned, and if there's cheese present in any of these dishes, I didn't notice, because the meat has such distinct flavor, it doesn't even need cheese. The lettuce is crisp, shredded, and deliciously iceberg. Honestly, the only complaint I can muster about this place is about their weird half-Jell-O/half-custard dessert, which tasted like it was half-plastic/half-sugar. But after the delicious entrees, who can find the room for dessert, anyway?