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  • Alanna Salussolia

Los Portales

Updated: Jun 4

Is there anything that can't be cured by endless tortilla chips and salsa? And when that fails, an orange margarita or large beer can soothe what ails you.

Finding Our Friday Night Favorite

We recently discovered a favorite Friday night spot, right here in our St. Johns County neighborhood. Right along 210 and not too far from our new home, an unobstrusive shopping plaza holds a bouquet of dining options: subs, donuts, Italian, Asian, and Mexican. While the casual Italian joint, Jenk's, is a lot of fun, Los Portales is the real deal.

Booth for 3, Please

The prices are epic, the atmosphere is festive, the servers are attentive, and the food is delicious. It often bustles with booths packed with diners. However, there never seems to be a very long wait. Expect to catch someone donning the restaurant's fancy sombrero and getting a Happy Birthday serenade.

Once you're seated, I recommend asking for the mango margarita. After they bring you a high chair, of course. Settle in at that wooden carved and comfy open booth. The drink specials will tempt you to try two instead of one. Or you might consider sipping an extra big beer.

Speaking of Toddlers

One thing I truly appreciate about this restaurant are the large portions. While we are moving away from two meals split between two adults and one child, here we can safely order for two and feed our kiddo. No kid's menu necessary.  Especially since the pre-entree chips are hard to not fill up on.

You know those little extras that make a place interesting? Here is one of those. Even though chips, salsa, beans and rice are the typical side thoroughfare, Los Portales has french fries. When you have an antsy toddler, fries can be the ticket to a peaceful dinner out.

His and Hers Orders

My husband orders the Super Burrito (or is it California?), which is always enormous. But not so much that he wants to give up half and split it with me. Nope, he is too hungry for that. He will share some bites of the queso-dripping tortilla. A few bites are really the the right amount for me, leaving room to adventure through other dishes for my order. Note, he will order the beef and not the chicken.

I tend to meander through menu options. One night, I'll try the sizzling fajitas. Another time, I will get a chile relleno and taco combo dinner. To be honest, I haven't decided which Mexican dish is my favorite. I am in search of my "super burrito." It might be hidden in the vortex that holds the perfect hairdresser and the greatest shower caddy.

It's not for lack of trying. I had an enchilada phase that went strong for many years. But I did find I liked the Tex-Mex-Chewy's-not-so-authentic flavored enchiladas, which you can't find everywhere. For those, I would order two cheese ones (with some blasphemous cheddar in the middle) and savor the red sauce.

At Los Portales, I discovered the most amazing rancheros enchiladas. These came with tender beef strips - a serious deviation from my cheese-only habit. The beef strips covered the enchiladas, with the whole thing doused in an array of green peppers, tomatoes, and sauce. It was quite tasty. And I don't think it was the margarita talking.

Brass Tax

And finally, my favorite element of this dining experience is getting the bill. The prices are so much lower than most Mexican restaurants. These days, even a Taco Bell order can quickly add up. And if you head to La Nopalera or TacoLu and start your meal with queso, right away, start tallying up a bill and your meal will quickly become less palatable.

This new Friday night family fave is festive, fun, and affordable. I only wish I went in last month for a birthday sombrero and serenade.

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