Parrilla Grill

Special to The Idaho StatesmanNovember 18, 2005 

— Parrilla Grill recently celebrated five years in Hyde Park.

That's impressive, considering most restaurants don't make it past two years.

Just inside the front door, a large reader board describes the fare — fat burritos, tacos, salad bowls and globally inspired wraps.

The system is designed for quickness: Customers line up at the counter where employees stand over steam tables — packed with seasoned meats, rice, veggies and beans — with tortillas in hand, ready to roll your meal.

At the end of the line, containers are filled with house-made salsas, ranging from mild pico de gallo to cucumber-jalapeno salsa to a fiery habanero sauce called "The Stash."

Owner Scott Graves, an eastern Montana transplant, has created a great neighborhood hangout, with a funky outside bar area that plays host to live music during warmer months. This time of year, the limited inside seating (preferably near the heat vents) has to do. Take-out seems to be the order of the day anyway.

Parrilla Grill's seasonal selection of draft beers, like Hale's El Jefe Weizen Ale and Deschutes Black Butte Porter, plays well with the mostly-made-from-scratch food.

I liked the chancho burrito ($5.50) and steak burrito ($5.50), a large steamed flour tortilla packed with shredded tri-tip beef, roasted red pepper, seasoned rice and black beans, splashed with a well-balanced roasted pepper salsa.

The chancho burrito (think Mission-style carnitas burrito) boasted lots of shredded pork, pinto beans, onion and Mexi-rice, kicked up a notch with spicy pineapple-peach salsa.

Maybe I'll try the Asian-influenced buffalo burrito next time.

I didn't like the Macho Nacho ($4/small) and chicken tacos ($5.50); cold flour tortillas (hard around the edges) with sparse amounts of seasoned chicken, shredded cheddar, sliced black olives and lettuce chiffonade. I wondered why tacos were only served 7/8 la carte — a combination plate with rice and beans would be a nice option.

The Macho Nacho wasn't so machismo. A small plastic bowl of corn tortilla chips came topped with black beans, corn salsa and a strange, gritty cheese sauce.

The jambalaya wrap ($6.75) and barbecued smoked chicken wrap ($6.50) were tasty, though.

The latter was a steamed flour tortilla wrapped tightly around smoky pieces of chicken breast, seasoned rice, corn salsa and an equally as smoky Montana-inspired barbecue sauce (bourbon-spiked) with a hint of sweetness.

The jambalaya wrap paid homage to the Crescent City with lots of spicy andouille sausage, shrimp, chicken and cilantro-lime rice, tossed in a piquant Cajun-style sauce with a liberal amount of sour cream to cool the palate.

This spicy burrito didn't need any additional firepower from the condiment station.

I didn't like the wasabi salmon salad bowl ($7.25/small) and veggie Bombay Bomburrito ($6.25), an Indian-influenced creation with ginger-banana chutney, bamboo shoots, cabbage, blue cheese crumbles and cilantro-spiked rice in a green chili-curry sauce.

This busy wrap had too many competing flavors, nearly rendering each individual component mute.

The wasabi salmon salad was more like a blue cheese salmon salad, with a not-so fresh-tasting blackened salmon fillet (crowned with corn salsa) atop a copious amount of cheese crumbles, spinach leaves and a slight drizzle of wasabi dressing.

This little salad has potential, though, on a good day.

I've never received bad service at Parrilla Grill. The employees are sometimes forgetful, but a friendly demeanor is the norm.

As for the food, drop in and Graves will tell you all about it, with a slightly twisted Montana sense of humor.

James Patrick Kelly is The Idaho Statesman's restaurant critic. E-mail him at jpkfood@earthlink.net.

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