Anger Burger

La Tarasca, if You’re Able

Posted by Sunday on Jul 28, 2010 at 6:44 pm

In the event that you are driving along Interstate 5 on the western coast of the United States of America between the cities of Portland, Oregon and Olympia, Washington, you are in for a treat

While the city of Centralia might lay claim to such delights as the Gymboree Outlet Store, I assure you that there is only one reason to visit this fair burg: La Tarasca.  Home to, frankly, some of the best Mexican food I’ve eaten in my entire life, and I’ve spent prodigious eating time in both Los Angeles and Houston.

There’s not even a lot to say about it.  Everything is homemade, even the pickled carrot appetizers.

They are famous for their carnitas, pork slow roasted with such finesse that it can be mashed to a moist pulp if you touch it too firmly with your fingertips.

I personally think the chile rellenos are the most transcendent item on the menu, a simple affair (like everything they serve, really) of fresh pasilla pepper, some cheese, a thin egg batter and a meeting with a hot griddle rather than a deep fryer.  It appears so plain, but like any good fairy tale there are layers upon layers of hidden meaning.  The lardy refried beans alone are worth the drive from wherever you are.

I snorted when I read Yelp reviews of La Tarasca that complained a lack of flour tortillas.  Let me tell you something: when there is an old Mexican woman with her hair in a bun in the kitchen hand patting out rounds of white corn masa and then slapping them on a smoking griddle to be then whisked to your table in hallow stacks of three?  Shut the fuck up about flour tortillas.

¹ Unless it’s a Tuesday, in which case you’re screwed.

July 28th, 2010 | Eatin' Fancy

6 Responses to La Tarasca, if You’re Able

  1. quagmire says:

    I’m becoming increasingly convinced that ‘YELP’ is a waste of perfectly good one’s and zero’s. I’m also convinced that a significant portion of the people foisting their so-called reviews and comments therein, are either associated with another local eatery and trying to discredit the competition, or simply your generic fucktards. Anyone who can experience wonderful, authentically prepared Mexican food and then complain about not being served gringo-centric flour tortillas, well, one phrase comes to mind … reverse Darwinism (ie, devolution).
    I’ve had the pleasure of eating at La Tarasca in Centralia, Washington. The food is on a par with any of the very best I’ve eaten while living in LA for 30 years.
    I highly recommend you make some Tarascan Soup (link below). I liken it to the P’urhépecha version of chicken noodle soup, having the same magical curative qualities. (P’urhépecha is the authentic name for the misnamed ‘Tarascans’, an indigenous people inhabiting an area in the state of Michoacan, Mexico.)
    Make some, you’ll love it!

  2. Becca says:

    Oooo, I’ll have to try it next payday! Thanks for the heads up on this treasure :)

    Oh, and I’ll definitely be giving the tarascan soup a go as soon as it’s under 75 degrees. (Yes, we bred, born and raised Washingtonians are a picky bunch)

  3. Kate says:

    Becca: Washingtonians are weather curmudgeons. Proudly. I love us so much.

    Sunday: I am going to go to Centralia tout de suite for the rocking Mexican food (how is it so damn hard to find it in this vale of tears?) AND the Gymboree Outlet Store. Frankly I’m shocked by your lack of interest in discount onesies.

  4. jess says:

    I love la tarasca, too. The people who work there are so sweet, and their pickled carrots are the most delicious thing to eat along the entire stretch of I-5. It’s definitely worth the drive from Olympia. If I will drive to Tacoma for decent pho, it only makes sense to drive to Centralia for good Mexican.

    It’s interesting that you say, “The lardy refried beans alone are worth the drive from wherever you are.” The front page of their menu states that the beans are vegetarian. It’s one of their points of pride, the lady says “You can have good beans without lard!” Their beans are the evidence that no one “needs” to use lard to make delicious refried beans. They even fooled you, a self-professed connoisseur of Mexican food.

  5. Sunday says:

    I’m not sure that I’m fooled. They’re pretty lardy. I mean, I’m not trying to weasel out of a mistake, I’m saying: they taste lardy. And fantastically so. Agonizingly so. We’ve tried to sweetly ask them the secrets of the beans before, and been just as sweetly ignored.

  6. quagmire says:

    From my extensive worldly experience and having lived in Southern California for 30 some odd years (very odd years, heh), I’ve discovered that many, if not MOST, Mexican eateries define their refried beans to customers as vegetarian, even though they use lard. I had one sweet Mexican lady explain this to me; she said refried beans are not traditional or tasty enough without lard … and I totally agree with her. She said that most Mexican restaurants opt to call them ‘vegetarian’ yes, even on the menu) simply because, by their interpretation, there is no meat in them. They don’t want to lose the vegetarian customers and they simply cannot (and again, I agree) make separate batches when the majority prefer beans with lard.
    Now, that said; I am called a vegetarian by friends and family. I don’t like the moniker because I eat fish and refuse to exist without dairy products. At best, I am an ovo-lacto-pesca-vegetarian (don’t ya love it?). I haven’t eaten meat for 39 years (I have reliable witnesses!). I can unequivocally say , it is nearly impossible to discern lard in beans except for one simple test; the fact that lardy beans will taste 10,000 times better! I worship good Mexican food and can discern instantly if the beans have been made with lard (I accept any challenges!). I eat them anyway, I consider it a small sacrafice for HUGE flavor.
    In conclusion: In my most humble (and fucking amazing) opinion, the beans here are made with lard. I do not condemn them for this deception, it is purely my opinion. I have been to more than one Mexican eatery that SWEARS they don’t use lard … and discovered they indeed DO! One is in Olympia, my home town. A friend who works there confirmed they not only use lard, but employees are told to say that they DO NOT. Unethical, technically yes. Tasty goddamn beans, a grandé YES!
    For some strange reason I am okay with this particular culinary tom-foolery. Go figure.
    Just don’t put meat chunks in my vegetable soup muthafucka.

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