Nuestra Cocina

Love is great and all, but in my humble opinion, it’s Nuestra Cocina’s Serrano Lime Drops that make the world go round. The first sip of this spicy sweet tart cocktail with its barely sugared rim and slim wedge of fresh lime is colder than a witch’s teat and better than a first kiss. Oh yes, it is.

Love is great and all, but in my humble opinion, it’s Nuestra Cocina’s Serrano Lime Drops that make the world go round.

After your drink order is squared away with one of the cute, friendly bartenders, request whatever cebiche is on special—it’s always fantastic—during my last visit I had lime-marinated prawns stacked with crispy jicama matchsticks and slices of soft sweet mango.

Sit at the L-shaped mosaic bar overlooking the open kitchen and you can watch the staff make other outstanding dishes like the Tacos de Puerco—$6 for three heaping tacos of tender shredded spiced pork and freshly diced onions mounded on housemade corn tortillas (and by housemade I mean you watch someone in the kitchen press the masa with an old-fashioned tortilla press and fry them in small batches on the edge of the stove right then and there), the Sopes de Chorizo–crisp masa cakes filled with black beans, spicy chorizo sausage and chile, and the achingly tasty Queso Fundido—a small earthenware dish filled with baked Spanish cheese over mushrooms and rich red chile sauce.

One thing that always astounds me about Nuestra Cocina is how affordable this restaurant is—you can easily make a meal out of two or three starters, which range from $6-$8.50, and the most expensive entrée, or plato, is $18. Between that and the Serrano lime drops, you might want to eat here every night. Nuestra Cocina opens at 5 pm, and I recommend claiming your seat no later than 6, because on a good night the wait is 45 minutes and on a really good night it’s twice that. It must be the Serrano Lime Drops—they’re as addictive as true love, but even with the wait, far easier to come by.

Details

Cuisine: Mexican

Executive Chef: Benjamin Gonzales

Atmosphere: Brilliant color palette reminiscent of Mexico, tile and terracotta, a fun and joyous vibe, fantastic food

Outdoor seating: Nuestra Cocina has a nice side patio with several tables and space heaters for nippy Spring nights.

Best Seat: I’ve got two favorite spots in Nuestra Cocina—if you’re a people watcher, sit at the high table in the bar against the window (with your back to the wall you have a view of the whole restaurant and SE Division), or if you’re a kitchen watcher, sit at the bar overlooking the open kitchen—you can see everything.

Noise Level: Energetic, it’s a lively place and the noise level gets up there, but I’ve never had trouble carrying on a conversation.

Dress Code: As casual as the neighborhood, although there always seem to be a few well-dressed groups who seem oddly incongruous with the laid back SE Division vibe.

Bring the Kids: Yes, if they’re well behaved

Bathrooms: Go down the passageway separating the kitchen and the bar, take a hard right and they’ll be on your right.

Parking: Free and plentiful on surrounding side streets

Cocktails: The cocktails at Nuestra are phenomenal, and you should avail yourself of one or three, depending on whether you’re walking or driving. The Serrano lime drops ($8)—chile-infused vodka & fresh lime, served up, are my favorite cocktail in Portland. The margaritas are magnificent, try the Tequila Martíni de Mango y Habanero ($9)—tequila El Jimadór, mango puree & habanero syrup. And if you’re seeking something sweet and refreshing, order the house sangria ($6), an iced concoction of red wine, brandy and spices.

Beer: The requisite supply of bottled traditional Mexican beers along with a selection of specialty microbrews ($3.25-$4.50).

Wine: Yes

Corkage: $10 per 750 mL

Ideal Meal: Serrano lime drop, pork tacos, guacamole, albondigas, roasted poblano stuffed with shredded pork, almonds & raisins

Vegetarian Friendly: Yes, try the roasted pumpkin soup, Singing Pig Farms greens with avocado vinaigrette, baked Spanish cheese with mushrooms & red chile sauce, or the mushroom, potato & cheese stuffed tortillas.

Vegan Friendly: Perhaps, with modifications

Good for the following occasions: Casual Date, Out With Friends, Family Meal

Group/Private Party Details: Nuestra Cocina has an event space called the Mole Room, where they host classes and private events. Call for more information on reserving this space.

Reservations: No

Take-Out: No

Delivery: No

Wi-Fi: No

Deals: Nuestra Cocina holds monthly cooking classes, see the website for more info.