The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, June 15, 2017, Page 14, Image 23

Below is the OCR text representation for this newspapers page. It is also available as plain text as well as XML.

Coast Weekend’s local
restaurant review
Guajito’s rolls out familiar hits of Mexican cuisine
Review and photos by
Rating: 
SEASIDE, ORE., 97138
PHONE: 503-738-6068
HOURS: Wednesday through
Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fri-
day through Saturday 11 a.m.
to 10 p.m., Sunday-Monday 11
a.m. to 9 p.m.
PRICE: $ entrées range from
the tens to high-teens
SERVICE: Quick, smiling, brief
TIONS: Mostly meaty, very
little for vegans
DRINKS: Full bar, soda, juice
n Broadway, be-
tween Holladay
and Roosevelt
streets, the en-
trance to Sea-
side’s tourist mecca is changing.
For years, the block was dom-
inated by the McKeown family.
In 2015, the company added to
its portfolio the Firehouse Grill
which, along with The Irish Pub,
Nonni’s Italian Bistro and McK-
eown’s Restaurant & Bar, put
them in charge of four of the five
eateries on the block.
Last spring, they downsized,
shuttering McKeown’s Restau-
rant & Bar and transforming the
back half into the Hawaii-themed
Lilikoi Grill (which offered a
delectable braised pork shank).
The “aloha” was brief: The Lil-
ikoi, along with the long-running
Irish Pub, closed earlier this year.
Mahalo. (What’s “goodbye” in
The front half of the former
McKeown’s building is now
home to the glistening Tom’s Fish
and Chips (the second location
of Cannon Beach’s take on fast
food). And the Lilikoi portion has
given way to Guajito’s Mexican
Restaurant, where, besides some
Mexican-styled fabric on the
booths, the interior has changed
little. It’s spacious, airy and easy,
with a looming bar at the rear.
Guajito’s owners are from
Warrenton. It’s their first restau-
rant. In assembling a menu, it
seems they surveyed what most
other Mexican restaurants in the
region were offering and said:
“Yo también.” That means the
rolling out the hits: well-known
familiars like carne asada, Ca-
marones Monterey, enchiladas,
burritos and so on.
The menu, thankfully, is
confined to a single page (front
and back). As these restaurants
so often do, meals at Guajito’s
Fish taco
Carne asada
begin with complimentary chips
and salsa. Guajito’s adds refried
beans. I married the salsa and
beans and was happy I did. (I
would later add some of the whol-
ly manageable habanero salsa,
too.) While we’re in well-trodden
territory, it’s worth noting that
the complimentary salsa is a little
more lively than usual. And while
thin, it’s not like dipping your
chip in tomato-onion water.
The menu does wrangle a few
outliers, like a T-bone steak and
pork chops. I was reeled in by
the Godornis ($14.95), a game
hen served with rice, beans and
tortillas. But preparation took the
fun out of it, and the flavor. To be
sure: Game hens are merely small
chickens (and not to be confused
with quail or pheasant). Presen-
tation distinguishes these hens
from chickens on your plate (that,
and they’re quick to cook). The
value is mostly perception: being
served your very own, tiny, whole
bird. Guajito’s slices the hen
down the center, disrupting that
visual. Then it’s charred to near
oblivion, leaving the scarce meat
dull and dry.
The al pastor, on the other
hand, was delightful; I had it in
Godornis (game hen)
a taco ($3.25). The meat was
supple, coated in a dark, smoky,
bitter red sauce. Of the array of
street-style tacos (missing lengua
here), I also tried the fish ($4.50).
The modest cut of grilled tilapia
was slightly blackened. It was
of admirable quality and cooked
more carefully. (No more fish
sticks!) Still, with only pico de
gallo, it called out for something
more — the addition of, say, sour
cream and shredded cabbage,
or maybe a sweet mango. The
helping of salty chorizo crumbles
was more generous, but pressing
up against the $3.25 price.
Indeed, at Guajito’s there are a
few eyebrow-raising values. Not
enough to make your jaw drop,
but chin-strokers nonetheless.
Like $6.95 for cucumber slic-
es with chili powder and lime.
Or, take the case of the Chile
Relleno: You can get the cheese-
stuffed poblano pepper with an
enchilada as part of a combina-
tion for $12.95. With the addition
of a few underwhelming shrimp,
but no accompanying enchilada,
the Seafood Chile Relleno runs
For what it’s worth, I preferred
the shrimp-less version anyway;
it felt more unified, less sloppy.
Either way, the chile relleno
boasted fresher poblano peppers
than most nearby Mexican joints.
Indeed, while many seem to come
from a can, Guajito’s poblanos
boasted an earthy vitality.
Over several trips I beckoned
servers for recommendations.
Each time, without hesitation, the
answer was carne asada. At first I
fought it. I wondered if this was
just the suggestion that’s given to
Americans and to tourists — that
they’ll be happy with good ol’,
simple beef. Eventually I bit and
ordered the Carne Asada plate
At first glance I was taken
aback: There wasn’t a whole lot
of the skirt steak, sliced thin as
cardboard. But a bite proved why
indeed it had been highlighted:
Not only was it higher-grade than
what’s commonly offered, it was
also perfectly cooked. Salty and
peppery, it was tender enough to
split without a knife, and both
charred and juicy. There was
no gristle or excess fat — every
last bit edible and enjoyable. It
smacked of a charcoal grill.
But I’d be remiss to say that
I wasn’t — and that I’m not —
 Below average
 Average
 Good
 Excellent
 Best in region
searching for a little more than
carne asada (not to mention
the ever-present refried beans,
Spanish rice and tortillas from
a bag). There are half a dozen
Mexican restaurants in Seaside
— more than there are pizzerias,
Chinese and just about anything
besides pub food. And in that,
I’m hopeful that more of those
restaurants — Guajito’s among
them — will bring a little more
of their individuality, creativity
and expression to the table. That
could mean anything from more
traditional, less-Americanized
offerings, to striking out in new
Whatever form it may take,
I’m confident that the North
Coast’s vital Mexican-American
community has more culinary
delights to share. In the mean-
time, Guajito’s has changed the
makeup of Broadway, but not yet
the landscape.