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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Feb. 27, 2024

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Food & Drink: New address, same beloved Woody’s

3 Photos
A fish taco at Woody’s Tacos.
A fish taco at Woody’s Tacos. Rachel Pinsky Photo Gallery

Local taco lovers mourned the loss of Woody’s Tacos in downtown Vancouver. For the last 10 years, Woody’s has been a popular lunch and dinner spot, often with lines snaking to the door. The good news is Woody’s owner Scott “Woody” Holzinger has opened his business in a new location at The Mill (formerly Garrison Square), adding his special Mexican-inspired fare to the shopping center’s stellar roster of restaurants.

The interior, designed by Southern California artist Athena Hahn, has a distinctly Mexican look. The walls are red and peach. Lacy papel picado is painted around the kitchen window. Paintings of loteria cards in frames are scattered throughout the room depicting favorites such as La Sirena staring sideways to woo sailors and La Reina, with an elegant black and red striped dress and a large gold crown covering her head.

Orders are taken at a counter, come out (with a ding of the bell) from a window by the kitchen and are delivered to your table. There are tall tables with bar stools lining the window and round tables for larger groups. All of the tabletops are covered with unique bright paintings of things such as sunflowers, guitars, birds and fish. At the back, there’s a small bar with stools.

The inspiration for Holzinger’s Mexican food doesn’t come from his former hometown of San Francisco. He’s not a fan of that city’s iconic, massive, overstuffed, mission-style burrito. Instead, the dishes on Woody’s menu are based on his many visits to Mexico (he’s visited 24 of the 31 states).

I came to the new Woody’s for lunch on an overcast Monday. I felt like I stumbled into Holzinger’s head while he dreamed of Mexico. As in a dream, it felt a bit like I was in Mexico but also still in Vancouver. The confusion may have been caused by the Mexican-inspired decor in a room filled with people dressed in winter clothing and the sound of classic rock (“Born to Be Wild,” “Ramblin’ Man,” “Friend of the Devil”).

The menu is exactly the same as the original Woody’s — tacos, burritos, quesadillas, salads, tostados, soup. The specials included ceviche, pork belly (for tacos or burritos) and enchiladas rancheros. I tried the enchiladas rancheros and a fish taco. The enchiladas were filled with cubes of tender butternut squash and slices of meaty cremini mushrooms folded into corn tortillas, drenched in a fresh tomato and chile enchilada sauce, then striped with crema and sprinkled with tangy cotija cheese.

The enchiladas came with a choice of Mexican white or brown rice and choice of beans (pinto, black or refried pinto). I chose the white Mexican rice with refried pinto beans. The rice wasn’t the typical Mexican rice served in the United States — red-stained with cubes of carrots and peas. It had a more subtle flavor and color — tender long grain rice with a toasty pilaf flavor. The refried beans were smooth and velvety.

The fish taco is the dish that made me fall in love with the first Woody’s Tacos. It’s still excellent. Tender, flaky fish, lightly battered, placed in a corn tortilla and covered with strips of cabbage, chopped fresh cilantro and a creamy sauce. Grab a light lager or a margarita, close your eyes and take a bite. You can almost hear the waves of the Pacific Ocean.

Holzinger plans to offer more special dishes and eventually serve brunch. He also would like to find a bigger space. He explained, “We’ve already outgrown it, so there’s a line out the door.” But fear not, fellow taco fans: Holzinger is happy with this new spot and isn’t planning on moving anytime soon.

If You Go

What: Woody’s Tacos.

Where: 7900 E. Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver.

Contact: 360-718-8193 or WoodysTacos.com