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the ochoa family

Right away, it’s easy to tell that Bryan Ochoa takes pride in his family’s business.

Step into the new Casa Colima restaurant on S.W. Pacific Highway — previously known as Nacho Mama’s — and you’ll likely be greeted by a friendly face and invitation to “Sit wherever you like.”

If you were a frequenter of Nacho Mama’s, which had a dedicated following of Tualatin and Sherwood residents, then it’s likely you will notice a few changes to the restaurant: an upgraded bar, hand-painted and carved tile tabletops from Mexico, and higher-quality ingredients added to the standard menu of tacos, burritos and nachos.

Casa Colima moved into its second location about two months ago, when the Nacho Mama’s owner decided to sell. Bryan’s parents, Alonso and Elsa, have successfully ran the original location in Hillsdale for 15 years. Prior to that, Alonso had managed several restaurants in California and Oregon.

“We’re people that are very passionate about our food,” Bryan said, when asked what made the original Casa Colima successful. “I think it’s also that customer service aspect, and that we’re really about the community and staying local. That’s what we plan to do here in Tualatin and Sherwood — doing fundraisers for the schools, youth athletic teams, anything we can do to help out and get involved.”

Bryan is an alum of Beaverton High School and Portland State University, where he studied business. After graduation, he took a job with a Fortune 200 company based in Vancouver, Wash., where he worked for a couple years. But he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help run the family business, and oversee Casa Colima’s expansion.

“I’ve been working here since I was a kid, like 14 or 15,” he said. “I was kind of shy when I was younger, but working in a restaurant makes you really outgoing, really fast. … I tried the whole corporate thing, and I liked it, but it just feels really impersonal.”

The Pacific Highway location is considerably smaller than Casa Colima’s original location, but the Ochoas have packed a lot of bold, colorful décor into the space. The majority of the restaurant’s seating is outdoors, and the family kept some of the original rustic wooden tables from Nacho Mama’s, at the request of some of the former establishment’s regulars.

They also kept Nacho Mama’s signature dish: the Super Nachos.

“They’re this big,” Bryan said, stretching his arms to cover half of a six-top, “and they feed like five people. They’re crazy. People still come in for them, even though we’ve changed names.”

Tacos are another popular item, and fillings range from carne asada and carnitas to shrimp and tilapia.

“We kept a lot of the original menu,” Bryan added, “but just put our twist on it and used a little bit better ingredients.”

Because of the restaurant’s location along the highway, Bryan said its busiest times often are during rush hour. The restaurant has two happy hours: 2 to 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. to closing, which is between 9 and 10 p.m.

“People can either sit in traffic at 5 o’clock, or they can come in here and grab a drink and still get home at the same time,” he said.

The Ochoas’ plan is to continue opening new locations: five or six in the Portland area, and possibly one in Bend. Potential new locations are Vancouver and Happy Valley — but Bryan said that the character of the neighborhood is most important to him.

“(We want) neighborhoods like this,” he said. “Where people care about local businesses, and where businesses care about the people around them.”

Casa Colima’s is at 17935 S.W. Pacific Highway, Tualatin. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.

Take it from Sherwood Gazette

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