la tarasca.jpg
La Tarasca looks like a place Kahlo herself would have visited.
When hunger strikes next time you're heading to Portland on I5, skip the Country

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Salma Hayek Loves La Tarasca, Centralia's Top Mexican Restaurant

la tarasca.jpg
La Tarasca looks like a place Kahlo herself would have visited.
When hunger strikes next time you're heading to Portland on I5, skip the Country Cousin, the Cracker Barrel knock-off whose homespun knick-knackery can be seen from outer space, and head in to downtown Centralia. There, right next to the Centralia: Hub City sign (so named Hub City for its equidistant location between Seattle and Portland), is a charming little Mexican restaurant that's the Cousin's ethnic counterpart--and with far better food. Folk art, decorative flags, and brightly painted walls set the scene at La Tarasca, an authentic Michoacan restaurant spot a foodie friend in Portland told me Salma Hayek once dragged an entire film crew to when she was filming in the area.

On a recent trip to Portland, my boyfriend and I stopped in. Owner Margarita Ayala runs the restaurant with her family and her oldest daughter, Mercedes Zaragoza, was our waitress. She confirmed parts of the rumor.

"It was about five years ago. She came in with about five or six friends who were our customers before. At first you couldn't recognize her, she wasn't wearing all that makeup, but when we heard her voice we knew." (My best guess is that Hayek was in state for Lonely Hearts, which lists a film locale in Spokane).

Looking around, you won't see any indication that Hayek ever visited. I mentioned I was surprised there wasn't a framed photo hanging somewhere. "Oh, well, you see," said Zaragoza, "she may be famous everywhere else, but my mother's the star here."

The Yelp reviews agree. As Beet Street eaters, when Zaragoza became aware of our dietary restrictions, she mentioned the rice is cooked in chicken broth and in its place slathered my chile rellenos with a extra portion of saucy vegetarian beans. My boyfriend had vegetarian mole tacos, and their complimentary escabeche (pickled carrots), salsa, and warm, house made flour tortillas filled us right up.

Our waitress informed us Tarasca's famous dish is their carne asada, and the Yelpers like that too, as apparently did Hayek, who sampled multiple dishes family style. Though having such a famous face in for a visit didn't seem to disrupt business much.

"I have a picture of her around here somewhere," said Zaragoza, who was sitting down to a staff meal as we were leaving. "Next time you come in, ask me about it and I'll show it to you."

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