October 17, 2013

Eat and Run: Try Tipico for authentic, interesting Caribbean food

The menu includes $5 chimis and Dominican specialties such as mofongos

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

If you’re one of those people who say you love ethnic restaurants but turn up your nose if you think it’s not “authentic,” Tipico, the new Dominican restaurant located just across from Big Sky Bread Co., will be just the spot for you.

click image to enlarge

Server Mayda Perez serves up a plate of rice and beans at Tipico Dominicano Restaurant in Portland.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

TIPICO DOMINICANO RESTAURANT

WHERE: 539 Deering Ave., Portland

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

WAIT: 5 minutes if being served cafeteria-style; longer for to-order dishes

PARKING: On street

HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes

But keep in mind that “authentic” applies to more than just the Caribbean food. There may be a bit of a language barrier here, but that shouldn’t scare you off. The ladies who run the place are friendly, and were very patient with my questions.

Authentic also means you won’t get hung up on the lack of niceties you might find in high-end restaurants. You’ll appreciate the quirks you find in a small, family-run place like this; they are what make it fun to visit.

Walk in and you’ll notice just a few tables, all of them set with place mats celebrating Puerto Rico. There’s Texas Pete hot sauce on all the tables, and a big aquarium bubbling in the corner. The lighting here is bright and a bit harsh.

I gave the menu a good lookover, and while the woman behind the counter where you order assured me that it wouldn’t take too long to make anything on the menu for me, she kept steering me toward her small steam table that had a handful of dishes. They had been sitting there for, well, who knows how long? None of the dishes were things that were actually on the menu.

I was in a bit of a hurry myself, so I ordered a half-serving of a dish that was basically chunks of pork cooked with slices of pepper, a dish she told me was similar to the Bistec Encebollado (steak with onions) on the menu. This was a mixed experience because some of the pork was dry from sitting around for so long.

I also tried a half-serving of a stew that I believe was a version of Sancocho, a national dish of the Dominican Republic. The woman said it contains beef, chicken and pork, and it’s usually only made two days a week but sometimes when people call and request it, she’ll make it. This had great flavor, and contained lots of vegetabes and plantain, but I had a hard time finding any meat – again, I think because it had been sitting there for a while.

I did, however, find a broken chicken bone. But that’s authentic, right?

The rice and beans – a mixture of pinto and red kidney beans – were stellar and seasoned well, as were the chicken and cheese empanadas. The ladies called them something different, but when I didn’t understand they smiled and said they were their version of empanadas. They were crispy and hot on the outside, and the chicken was still nice and moist on the inside.

Authentic can also mean inexpensive, and this place is definitely a bargain. When I asked for an order of fried plantain, the woman asked me how much – a dollar’s worth? Two dollars? Three dollars? I just wanted to sample it, so I said a dollar’s worth would be fine. That turned out to be more than enough – she gave me at least a dozen pieces.

In fact, I bought enough food for two nights’ worth of dinners for just $12.

Next time – and there will be a next time – I’d like to try something from the menu, which is not huge, but not small, either. Dominican fried chicken is usually made with a flavorful marinade that includes lime, garlic and other seasonings, and it’s what I would have ordered had I the time to wait on my first visit.

That sandwich menus includes a $6 Cubano, along with pork, steak, and ham-and-cheese sandwiches. I’d like to try one of the $5 Chimis, Dominican hamburgers, made with pork, chicken or beef.

Main dishes include pork chops ($10); fried chicken ($8); pollo guisada, or chicken stew ($9); costillitas, or BBQ spare ribs ($10); and camarones al ajillo, or garlic shrimp ($10).

There’s also a selection of Mofongos, a fried green plantain dish filled with meat and served with a salad. Tipico’s Mofongos range from $8 for chicken to $6 for salami and $13 for shrimp.

The restaurant offers takeout, and accepts cash, debit and credit cards.

The staff of Go samples meals for about $10.

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