One has to admire McMenamins. Here we have a brewery that comes swooping in, buying up venerable buildings and restaurants, stealthily installing itself in them without adding much emphasis on its own brand1.
This can be interpreted any which ways. Are they respecting a legacy? Or are they luring people into a chain disguised as an old favorite? In the words of Roger Waters: «the question is vexed.»
Yet prepared as I always am to be ambivalent about McMenamins, I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by spots like Centralia’s Olympic Club Pub. «Pleasantly surprised» is, of course, just that. Surprised in a positive way; not loving it2.
The carne asada tacos aren’t something legends are made of, nor are they bad by any means. They are in something semi-close to an existential type of being. You pick them up, chew down, and enjoy a mouthful of tortilla, pork, salsa, and… Well, pretty much anything you’d expect from a pub taco.
What kicks these tacos up from «eh» to «huh» is the pork itself. Surprisingly well prepared, it has the proper char with just a bit of a juiciness on the chew. Sure, the tortillas are average, the salsa is what it is, but when you get the pork down properly, you will at least have a decent experience. These are serviceable tacos.
Life could be worse than at McMenamins and its Olympic Pub Club. Plus let’s be honest: Centralia isn’t exactly the dining Mecca or the Northwest; grade on a scale, and the spot looks pretty damn decent.
2 I mean, the beer is not going to knock your socks off, but a few of the seasonals do the job just fine.