Cha Cha Cha Mexican Taqueria; leave the salsa, take the chicken.


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Cha Cha Cha Mexican Taqueria is located on the corner of Main and Jefferson streets in downtown Milwaukie. Photos by Ethan M Rogers.

I had my sights set on Greek food, so I headed to the Milwaukie Station food carts, but when I got there, The Greek Gods Gyro was closed.

Fortunately, I passed a Mexican restaurant on my way in that looked interesting; a colorful storefront with outdoor seating that nestled in my head for further exploration. So, despite the quick access to Azul Tequila Taqueria – also located at Milwaukie Station – I decided to try the sit down establishment I’d passed on my way in and save the food carts for another time.

What I found was Cha Cha Cha Mexican Taqueria, sitting proudly on the corner of Main and Jefferson streets in downtown Milwaukie.

The ambience was bright and cheery with a small crowd and a substantial amount of local foot traffic grabbing food to go.

I opted for tacos, because tacos are life, and my lunchmate ordered the house quesadilla with shredded beef.

First, the tacos. I got three; chicken, steak and shredded beef. 

I went first for the chicken and was met by one of the best, most flavorful and earthy corn tortilla shells I’ve ever experienced. The tortillas, it turns out, are sourced locally from Three Sisters Tortillas.
The chicken was spicy and left a lasting impression on my tongue. I was surprised, however, that I was still able to taste the chicken. Hands down, the best chicken taco I’ve ever eaten that I didn’t make myself.

The steak taco came next. Unfortunately, it was dry, bland and flavorless. It tasted strongly of unseasoned meat, and even the beautiful flavor of the corn tortilla shell didn’t help. I tried their sauces, of which there are two, green and red, to see if I could salvage things. The red wasn’t bad but didn’t help much. The green made the taco somewhat palatable.

The shredded beef taco needed no sauce, and the meat itself was well flavored, not overpowering. It vaguely reminded me of a tamale, but with more flavor. 

I ended up finishing half of my friend’s quesadilla where the shredded beef was the star of the show. I much preferred the shredded beef in the quesadilla than in the taco and would highly recommend it.

My biggest complaint would be the lack of complimentary chips and salsa. One can purchase an order of chips and “chopped salsa,” which is more pico de gallo than salsa and not exactly meant for dipping. Since I typically go through at least two baskets of chips and three bowls of salsa at most Mexican restaurants, I found this dearth of magic fairly unsettling.

Besides the lackluster steak tacos, the lack of complimentary chips and salsa holds this restaurant back from being able to compete with other sit down locations. 

The cost of the meal was pretty average with the tacos priced at $3.95 a piece and the fairly large quesadilla, with plenty of meat, at $9.95. Throw in a couple of Mexican Cokes, because Coke is better with real sugar, and the whole meal for two people came in at under $30.

Once the sun comes out and burns off the winter chill, I can see sitting comfortably in their outside seating and enjoying a plate of chicken tacos, a shredded beef quesadilla and a Mexican coke. The only thing missing would be the chips and salsa.

Ethan M. Rogers