Los Portales Mexican Grill, 12542 Central Ave. (at Walnut), Chino
I’ve been to, and liked, the Montclair location of this two-location operation, which is farther up Central Avenue. A Chino friend told me the Chino restaurant is better, although she might be biased. It’s in a busy, working-class shopping center south of the 60 Freeway with a Big Lots and a Dollar General.
Los Portales might be the most upscale business in the center, with an etched glass entry, a greeter station, a full bar, capacious seating for 149 and live piano music some evenings. On my two visits, it was bustling.
The lunch menu is all pictures because the pricing is “any item $8.25,” including a drink. There’s quite a list: burritos, enchiladas, tamales, shredded beef salad and more. I got a shrimp quesadilla, which was satisfying, and not oily or greasy. It came with so-so rice, beans and little salad. For the price, a good meal. The salsa is thick, tomato-y and uninteresting, the chips might be bagged, but they’re free.
The dinner menu has dinner plates, grilled items and seafood, including oysters, and that made me want to return. I did so and ordered grilled halibut ($16), with diced onions and cilantro, filling but nothing special, with the so-so sides.
Service was slow, which based on Yelp reviews may be common. I ate half my bowl of chips before anyone took my drink order, and had finished them before my iced tea arrived. They might want to snap it up.
The place was busy and a piano player and vocalist near the bar on the opposite side of the restaurant was performing Van Morrison, Beatles and other classics, an unexpected touch, especially mid-week. I ran into an old source at the bar and he visits frequently from Pomona.
Los Portales has a pleasant atmosphere and many swear by it. I wasn’t wowed, but it’s possible I’ll go back, at least for an $8.25 lunch.