There are a bunch of midrange, sit-down Mexican joints in Yakima, and most of them are decent enough — oversized portions slathered in cheese and sauce, margarita-mix margaritas as big as your head, and free chips and salsa.
I’m more of a taqueria kind of guy, myself. But I do think there’s something to be said for the sit-down joints, and my favorite among them is probably El Porton. It follows the same general model as the rest, but it’s a little bit better in just about every way.
The layout and decor are simple enough: big, open rooms with colorful paintings right on the walls, mural-style. The service is fast and friendly. You won’t lack for refills on your chips and salsa, which are both first-rate. And the food is a notch above the average for this kind of place.
On my last visit, my dining companion and I ordered the pollo asado and the pork carnitas. We’d had the latter at El Porton a couple of times previously but had never tried its version of the former. Each dish cost $13.25, and without reservation I can say they were both worth it. They came with rice and beans, of course, and the portions of meat were substantial.
The chicken dish was more sharply flavorful, with a strong hint of citrus among the garlic, chili and other spices. The pork was richer, fattier, more indulgent. We split both of them, which I recommend; they make nice counterpoints.
The waiter came by and, looking at the half-eaten plates and our engorged, slouching bodies, joked, “Are you ready for dessert?” By that time, we were more ready for bed, or at least a nice reclining couch. But we were satisfied, and we had leftovers for the next day’s lunch.