In the sea of cookie-cutter Mexican restaurants in the Seattle area, one on the Eastside stands out for its great food and interior decor kitschiness. When you walk through La Cocina del Puerco‘s doors, it’s refreshing to be surrounded by piñatas hanging from the ceiling, the turquoise- and pink-painted walls, rickety metal card tables doubling as dining tables and sporting Superior beer logos, clunky folding chairs and other stuff hanging all along the walls. When you’re completely enveloped by this scenery and Mexican music playing on the audio system, you’d swear you were in Mexico. What’s doubly surprising is that this place, more like a cantina than a restaurant, thrives in Old Bellevue, an upscale neighborhood of high rises, concrete and steel buildings and yoga studios.
We’d been coming here for a long time. The menu lists many Mexican favorites, but we have long since settled on ordering one thing when we come here—the pork carnitas taquitos plate (item #1 on the menu). These are not the rolled and deep-fried kinds but are literally “small tacos.” The experience begins with three small, freshly made corn tortillas that are filled with their delicious though salty carnitas, topped with pico de gallo, and dusted with cotija cheese. Cocina’s carnitas are stewed rather than fried, unquestionably healthier for you but certainly not lacking in flavor. The whole pinto beans are nicely seasoned and textured and accompanied by perfectly cooked Mexican rice. There is no cheese on this entrée, save for the sprinkling of cotija over everything, a welcome relief from the cheesy overloads at many Tex-Mex restaurants.
The salsa bar used to have several kinds but now offer only pico de gallo, pickled jalapeño pepper and carrot slices and a tomato-based salsa whose spice’s fruity taste suggests habañero peppers but seems relatively tame for such a menacing chile.
Many of the popular Mexican beers are sold here, as are Mexican sodas. Chips and salsa are extra.
There used to be a relationship between La Cocina and El Puerco Lloron, located on the hill climb between the waterfront and Pike Place Market in Seattle. Though they are no longer affiliated, they still have similar menus.
Update: I’m sorry to report that La Cocina del Puerco has closed its doors forever. Another restaurant operation will takes its place. This place was an institution to me, one that I will truly miss. Good luck to the owners.
|La Cocina del Puerco
10246 Main St. #C
Bellevue, WA 98004