I used to be nearly afraid of flavor. When I'm stressed out, I tend to get bad heartburn. Rather than do something about the stress, I did my best to avoid all kinds of spicy or interesting foods. Mexican, Indian, South American... lots of things I skipped on principle. When I wasn't skipping out entirely, I was picking the plainest options or asking for my food without sauce, salsa or spice.
It was a pretty dumb principle.
I've been making a concerted effort to try things as they are on the menu at least once before deciding what I don't care for. I've made some real progress fixing my digestive system, and now it's only really things I shouldn't be eating (grease, mostly) that set me off. That makes a lot of tasty options available that weren't before.
I found myself in an up-and-coming little neighborhood on North Williams with Cilantro strapped to my front in the baby carrier. I'd just walked half a mile with her, I'd skipped breakfast by accident, and I was hungry. The block had a very Apple-looking coffee shop, a Hopworks, a wine tasting place advertising its "southern Oregon experience", and a place I couldn't identify from the sign but was clearly South American.
I've been watching a lot of Anthony Bourdain lately, so South American won by a landslide as it started raining. The place in question turned out to be Las Primas, a Peruvian restaurant. I had no idea what anything on the menu was, so I ordered the menu item that was highlighted as their signature dish - it's difficult to go wrong that way.
A photo posted by Jack (@secondhandpagan) on Dec 18, 2014 at 3:50pm PST
The dish in question turned out to be Butifarra, which the menu described as "pepper-rubbed sliced pork, mild chili pepper mayo, lettuce, salsa criolla (lime-marinated red onion with cilantro)." A year ago I would have passed on the salsa criolla, picking it off the sandwich before I ate, but instead I dove in and I did not regret it.
The sandwich was delicious. The pork was juicy enough to drip, but not so much it was a problem. The chili mayo was perfect, and I even liked the crunch from the salsa criolla. The shoestring fries were cooked perfectly, and even Cilantro loved the few I gave her. (I found one hiding away in her skirt when we got home.) The whole meal including my drink was just about ten dollars. Can't argue with that.
Verdict: Going back soon and taking my wife. Their menu has clearly labelled vegan and gluten-free items, which makes me hopeful that they can handle food sensitivities well, though I didn't ask while I was there.
Las Primas 3971 N Williams Ave, Portland