El Portal Restaurant and bakery is located in Deerfield Beach in a small unassuming strip mall. A co-worker and I stopped in for lunch today to give them a try. They have a few tables outside if you prefer to take in the weather, but we chose to dine inside. As soon as we walked through the front door, it looked. and the two main walls are covered in all kinds of food phrases, recipes and sayings. The décor made El Portal look like it could hang with some of the more ‘trendy’ fast-casual places opening recently.
They have many tables and also some counter seating. We sat down and were greeted with menus right away. The menus even looked really cool. Hard covers and bold, with pages of tasty looking items. They specialize in Latin cuisine and had so many different kinds of styles, I can’t possibly name them all. Meats, sandwiches, seafood, soups, and on and on. They even have a new ‘Mexican’ menu section with a few staples like quesadilla and nachos.
The place was a little busy and consisted of a mostly Latin crowd. The serves speak both Spanish and English so you don’t have to stick to your rusty High School memory to enjoy the place. Our server was friendly and took our drink orders and lunch orders. We did notice while waiting for our food that it’s a laid back type of place. My co-worker ordered the Chicken Quesadilla and also wanted to try the chicarron (fried pork rind). I ordered the ‘Pollo El Portal’ – Grilled chicken breast with cilantro sauce served with vegetables, rice & potatoes.
The chicarron came out first. Served on a long narrow plate sitting on a wooden stand, the presentation was very cool. The chicarron were still very hot (fresh out of the fryer) and we dug in. They were not too tough and did have that layer of fat that just melted in your mouth. Very rich and good to share…you don’t want to overdo it. It’s served with a rice patty, almost like a break that was a bit dry. Maybe there is a method to eating this that needed the rice patty, but we were not sure. The server brought out some house made hot sauce and we both couldn’t get enough of it. Its vinegar based with so many levels of flavor we almost asked for a bottle to take home.
Next out of the kitchen was my order…the Pollo El Portal. The chicken seemed to be marinated and was bounded flat and grilled. The cilantro sauce covered the chicken and was green from the cilantro. The sauce is a bit ‘creamy’ in consistency and not heavy on the cilantro. It went well with the chicken…and the hot sauce added the needed spicy punch. The vegetables were a mixed medley of carrots, broccoli and cauliflower. I’m thinking that the veggies were frozen and prepared on the grill as ordered as the carrots were a bit spongy and lacked flavor. The potatoes were good, but when you are given rice with your meal…that is a bit of carb overload. The rice was really good so I picked that to stick with for the duration of the meal.
Here is the snag we hit…my co-worker was still waiting for her quesadilla after my food was dropped off. I was about half finished with mine when we finally got the attention of one of the servers to ask about it. They apologized and it came out 10 minutes later. It was probably just a mix-up either on the server’s part or the kitchen…but it all worked out. The quesadilla was loaded with chunks of grilled chicken and wasn’t overloaded with cheese. The fresh tomato and onion were a nice touch and that hot sauce really turned up the taste for sure.
We enjoyed the meal and not counting the one issue with the timing of the food, we would go back. The menu is huge and you could eat here for months and never have the same dish twice. We also didn’t get a chance to try anything from the bakery so that might be a good excuse to pop in again. Just remember that the service can be a bit more ‘relaxed’ than you might be used to.
El Portal Restaurant & Bakery is located at 3438 West Hillsboro Blvd. Deerfield Beach, FL.