For years, a friend of Chefstable restaurant group CEO Kurt Huffman has been lobbying for the restaurateur to visit Mexico to try one dish — chiles toreados. The dish, consisting of blistered peppers tossed in soy sauce, is ubiquitous in restaurants from Mexico into Southern California. It’s simple, yet packs flavor, and is now the foundational dish of Huffman’s latest restaurant.
Taking over the Mercato Grove space formerly home to the reincarnated Tasty, Toreados will bring Tex-Mex fare featuring smoked meats to Lake Oswego by the end of March. Many team members from the now-closed Tasty will run Toreados, but the restaurant also has an ace in its pocket: Lucy de Leon of the highly regarded Tortilleria y Tienda de Leon, who will handle the restaurant’s salsas and tortillas.
With this project, Huffman will repurpose the smoker — the same type used by the likes of Texas barbecue titan Aaron Franklin — from the gone-too-soon Bar King. The wood-fired indoor smoker is compact enough to fit on the line in the kitchen, allowing chef Marcus Sherard and pitmaster Evan Alvarado to turn out proteins quickly. Meats like fall-off-the-bone short rib, smoked chicken, and tender grilled octopus come family style with chiles toreados, guacamole, pickled onions, and the diner’s choice of corn or flour tortillas. Smaller format entrees include tacos stuffed with smoked brisket or grilled shrimp, fajitas with a choice of protein, and chicken enchiladas.
“It’s pretty simple fare — we’re trying to anchor it on super flavorful proteins that come out of the smoker,” Huffman says.
The tequila-forward bar will have a margarita on draft, frozen drinks, ranch water — which continues to have its moment in Portland — and variations on classic cocktails such as palomas and sangrias.
When rethinking the space, Huffman and general manager Faye Crosswhite put a fair amount of thought into the type of service that they felt Lake Oswego needed. With roughly 100 seats inside and 100 seats outside, they knew the restaurant’s high volume could bring a Portland-type energy that restaurants in the suburbs typically lack. “[In] the Portland food scene, there’s the possibility of being a little bit dangerous and adventurous — I think that’s the hallmark of a dining city,” Huffman says. “The suburbs are different. We want it to feel familiar, but the food and drinks have to be excellent.” Although the team applied only minor renovations, Toreados will feel more family friendly than Tasty while straddling the line between restaurant and bar.
“If you go there at 9 p.m. it’s going to feel like a fancy bar, but if you get there at 5 p.m., it’s going to feel like a nice family restaurant,” Huffman says. “We’ve transformed the space into what feels like a really cool vibe — this has been more partner-driven [me, Marcus, and Faye] than any [Chefstable] project I can think of in the last six or seven years.”
Toreados will open at 4055 Mercantile Drive, Suite 180.