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Photo by Garth Guibord.
ˇBienvenida ChiCali Cantina! posted on 09/01/2021

Robin Parker’s journey into Mexican food began at a young age. Growing up as an adopted child in Whittier, Calif., she wanted to be a part of a big family she didn’t have but connected with a Hispanic family down the street.

 

“I loved how all of the family members would be in the kitchen together cooking and all of the smells,” Parker wrote in an email to the Mountain Times. “I loved how we all sat at the table together eating with tortillas (no forks) and listening to everyone speaking Spanish, from then on, I was hooked!”

The latest step in the journey is her new restaurant, ChiCali Cantina, 68256 Hwy. 26 in Welches (in the Hoodland Park Plaza), offering Mexican and American cuisine based on her experiences in the Baja region and in Southern California. Parker noted the menu will appeal to both locals and tourists, with creative twists on Mexican food “without being too fussy or fancy.”

She added that menu items will be made from scratch and using high-quality ingredients, including made-to order guacamole, salsas and enchilada sauces from dried chiles that are shipped in, their own poblano cheese sauce for nachos, a house-made ice cream featuring a habanero salted caramel sauce and seasonal dishes featuring high-quality steak cuts and fresh seafood, such as stuffed jumbo shrimp. In addition to the Mexican cuisine, ChiCali Cantina will also offer burgers, specialty salads and beach-inspired fresh fruit bowls.

The beverage list will include whole fruit and fresh-squeezed margaritas, tequila flights and other creative cocktails and west coast wines.

“We have put our heart and soul into creating an experience that represents the same vision and passion that was put into creating our food, as well as investing in our community,” Parker added. “Our atmosphere incorporates a sense of being on vacation blending nature, a fun beach-y vibe, and a warm inviting lounge and outdoor area to gather by the fireplaces.”

The restaurant’s vision stems from her food and travel experiences, including time spent in the Baja region, southern California and in Arizona.

“We traveled to Cabo annually for about 16 years and were kindly invited into many kitchens on my travels and learned a lot of salsas and other dishes, lots of fun,” Parker noted. “From my travels, I always dreamt of having a place where you can enjoy taqueria style tacos and well-made margaritas in a great environment.”

She began her career in the industry as a personal chef, then catered to CEOs at some of the largest companies around Portland and then spent time on a consulting team that offered front and back-of-house training, menu development, food costing and more.

Opening ChiCali Cantina offered the unique challenge of the coronavirus pandemic, adding to the costs of building materials, lead times, permits and food.

“We are grateful for the ability to build our dream and are compassionate for our friends and fellow restauranteurs who greatly suffered the aftermath of unprecedented times,” Parker wrote.

The restaurant will also offer a Mexican-inspired Sunday brunch featuring fresh-squeezed mimosas, pasilla Bloody Marys, huevos rancheros, chilaquiles and cornmeal pancakes with candied bacon and orange-infused maple syrup. ChiCali Cantina is a family-friendly restaurant (serving cotton candy to kids on Sundays) and has a large patio that is also dog friendly (with a dog menu).

ChiCali Cantina is open Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (the restaurant is closed on Monday and Tuesday). Happier Hour is from 2-4 p.m. daily.

For more information, visit www.chicalicantina.com or call 503-564-9091.

By Garth Guibord/MT

 

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