Hustle and bustleWhen I first moved to Bend I had a hard time trying to figure out what exactly was going on at the Parrilla Grill, located at the 14th Street and Century Drive roundabout. It looked like a neighborhood bar, but outside in the parking lot there was a massive clothing sale going on, so for a few days there last year I thought it sold skiing apparel.
A couple of weeks later, when I peered through the windows and noticed people were eating inside, I decided to venture into Parrilla and see what the place with the "Sorry, We're Open" neon sign was all about. After spending the better part of seven years living in North Carolina, where good Mexican food is about as easy to come by as good home-made fried chicken is in Bend, I was pleasantly surprised to learn Parrilla offers an experience of epic proportions.
Step inside and you won't exactly be whisked away to a tropical paradise, but there is something about the dining room that brings to mind Jimmy Buffet songs and the feel of warm sand between your toes. Perhaps it's the island in the middle that doubles as a margarita bar, or maybe it's the rustic beach-house atmosphere and bright colors that dominate the menu, which hangs from the ceiling on what looks like sandwich boards, sort of. I think it's a tiny bit of all of the above, mixed in with aromas of beach-style BBQ and South American seafood that hit your nostrils as soon as you open Parrilla's front door. Whatever it is, this place is a gem, especially during cold months, and worth a re-visit during a time when snow keeps dumping on Bend.
Parrilla regulars tend to settle on one menu item and mark it down as their favorite - comfort food you'll order whenever that random craving for Parrilla strikes, which can happen swiftly and often.
My go-to dish is the Chancho Fajita Burrito, wrapped with braised and shredded pork seasoned in a mild chili verde sauce with sauteed bell peppers and onions ($6.75), also available as a classic burrito simply by removing the bell peppers and onions. I also like the Wrap of Khan, and not just because of the name, although that was how this item originally grabbed my attention. This is a steamed tortilla with a spicy chili-bean smear covered with cilantro lime rice and then smothered with bamboo shoots, purple cabbage and a fiery Thai chili peanut sauce. It comes with your choice of shrimp ($7.50) or chicken ($7), or as a vegetarian wrap ($6.50).
Every time I'm standing in line watching one of Parrilla 's staffers put together my order, I hear someone order Hefe's Fish Tacos ($7.50), three fresh deep-fried snapper filets served with spinach, purple cabbage and Parrilla's spicy sauce. Single tacos are also on the menu ($3) and, I can see why they are so popular. There's a little kick to these soft-shelled treats, perfect for awakening your senses on a cold, wintry day.
Another recommendation is the Adult Size Quesadilla, which is grilled while you wait. Diners can order a plain quesadilla ($4.75) or with their choice of meat ($6). Parrilla's servers then chop it into five or six pieces, each one three to four bites worth, that will have you stuffed by the time you get to the last piece. Well, hopefully not too stuffed because not only does Parrilla offer pitchers of margaritas for $20, which serves five, you can also get a PBR tallboy for $1 (perhaps the best drink special in town) or a local microbrew for $3.75, to help wash it all down.