When someone says the words “Baja cuisine” the only thing that comes to my mind is beer-battered fish tacos. In fact, I don’t know if any other food is actually served on the Baja peninsula other than fish sticks rolled up in tortillas to be washed down with Sammy Hagar’s fire water. So when someone told me, “No, no! Baja cuisine is so much more than that. It’s fish tacos, margaritas, and then you have to order, pay, and hunt around frantically for a table before your food comes,” I knew there was no way in hell I’d be interested in this kind of joint.
However. If you put that kind of restaurant on Portage Bay, and it’s the middle of the summer in Seattle and the sun is actually out, and I left work early for a doctor’s visit that just happened to be located in the U-District and would like a taste of something different as well as a wonderful cocktail to start the Friday evening off right, and the place has been talked up a lot by many friends and blogs, it’s time to visit Agua Verde Cafe and Paddle Club and see what’s going on.
This wasn’t really my first time visiting the cafe. A couple of years ago I met a bride there and we talked about what kind of photos she wanted for her wedding. Since I don’t even remember what I ate, if I ate anything, I don’t think it counts. But I did remember lots of people standing in line and the table hunt. This aspect of the restaurant makes me very biased against the Agua Verde. The only reason I’d ever want to order food before I’ve settled into a sure table is if I’m ordering take away or if I’m standing outside a sandwich truck in Las Palmas and Pepe Chiringo is about to give me a lomo sandwich so awesome, who cares where I am if I’m eating it.
We arrived at Agua Verde and stood in line for about ten minutes, ordered, and paid. While I waited for my cocktail, James went in search of a table. I ordered the house margarita ($6.75). It was ok, but next time I think I’ll splurge for the Cadillac ($9) because I like the sweetness of orange to offset the tart of lime. My drink came up and I took the faux corn on the cob that would tell the servers my order (there are no numbers, only food props to associate orders with people) out to the patio. It was a beautiful, beautiful day and the view and weather made the wait worth it.
I went to the salsa bar and got a sampling of salsas to dip our chips (unfortunately none to munch on while waiting on our food, so I was assuming the chips would come with the food). I ordered the burrito vegetariano ($7) and James got the el presidente ($7.75).
What you see in that vegetarian burrito is sauteéd yams, onion and peppers with rice, pintos, spinach and jack cheese. And it.is.awesome. The sweetness of the yams was genius. I don’t know if the burrito comes with bits of cilantro normally, but it really helps if you tell the guy behind the counter to please keep any and all cilantro away from your plate. I didn’t taste any, and the burrito was just awesome. In fact, I’ll be substituting all meat with yams in the future wherever yams are sold. This rolled gem passed the ultimate test. I would endure the horrible parking situation, the crazy wait in line, and the ridiculous hunt for a table just to have this burrito again. Brilliant.
James said his sandwich, “shredded pork with lettuce, tomato, red onion and guacamole on an organic baguette,” was just average. I think the problem can be seen in the photo–the shredded pork was dry and sparse. I had a bite and it had little flavor compared to my mega-fantastic burrito.
In lieu of dessert, we took a stroll around outside to get a gander at the “Paddle Club” portion of the place.
Lots of people paddled in and out of and as I watched and wondered what happened to regular old canoe rental. Does that not happen anymore? Have trendy little plastic kayaks completely replaced them? Is parking so bad that even the boats have to be smaller in Portage Bay to make things easier? If kayaking is what a girl’s gotta do to get a bite of that burrito again, I’ll definitely consider it.