Chef-owner Noe Garnica, a Mexico native, and his wife, Anna, have carved out a niche in Portland's food scene as purveyors of bright, fresh Mexican food with a vegetable-centric, health-oriented twist. At their two Verde Cocina restaurants, as well as their cart at the Portland Farmers Market, traditionally heavy staples like refried beans and Spanish rice are eschewed in favor of ancient grains and loads of crisp-tender market-fresh vegetables. And now the duo has added a third location to their burgeoning chainlet.
They've recently taken over the Sylvan Zoo House, a sportsbar off Highway 26 on SW Canyon Road that used to be Sylvan Steakhouse and Big Red's. The space is three to four times bigger than both Verde Cocina in the Pearl and the original cafe in Hillsdale, and includes ample parking, a big outdoor patio, a bar, and space for private parties. They also take reservations.
"Right now, it's a work in progress to remove the Zoo theme and make the space look like Verde Cocina," says Anna. "But while we do, the little-known secret is that we are already running the place, open every day, and serving our menu."
The lunch, dinner and drink menus are similar to the other locations, but she says the larger kitchen will afford them the chance to experiment with new items in the near future. They're considering adding tortas, tamales and even hamburgers to the menu.
For now, though, they're working on getting the new paint and decor in place and getting ready for a grand opening party some time in mid-May. But if you're craving ceviche, margaritas, and agua frescas in the sun this weekend, their patio awaits.