Rae's Lakeview Lounge was never near the water. It sat amid the ruins of Portland's own Atlantic City boardwalk: the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition, which did include a lake, now drained. But Rae's only views were of the Montgomery Park building and its red neon glow.
Closed this winter, Rae's has been replaced by Impala, which only doubles down on the beach vibes. Specifically, the mood is 1983 San Diego, complete with potted ferns, a pastel paint job and TV-room tacos.
I was a fan of Rae's, but Impala is an improvement in nearly every respect. The cocktails, named after professional skaters (Tommy Guerrero, Danny Way) are heavy on the mezcal and tequila; the menu is Mexi-Cali drive-in fare in which the guac-heavy five-layer dip is rivaled by a five-buck burger that answers what a Big Mac would taste like with grill-charred onions. ("Great" is the answer.)
But the respect that matters most is the taco special: two crunchy, Old El Paso-style crisp tortilla and ground beef babies overflowing with shredded cheese, served with crinkle-cut fries and a Rainier for $9. The tacos are distinguished by size and sauce: They're bigger and bolder than anything you'll get at a standard Taco Tuesday. If you're struggling to break a Taco Bell addiction, come here to get hooked on a product of higher purity.
If there's a better dinner deal on the westside, I haven't found it. The coast is nice this time of year. But Impala is cheaper.
GO: Impala, 1900 NW 27th Ave., 971-288-9651, @impalapdx. 11 am-10 pm Monday-Saturday, 10 am-10 pm Sunday.