• JOSE LUIS PANTIGA-FLORES Owner, Huarachitos

"Sorry there was a fire. We love you. We hope you understand. —Jose and Ana" read the sign on the door of Huarachitos after a huge fire at their old Columbia City location, caused by a faulty power strip. Not long afterward, as if the universe was returning the sentiment, a landlord invited owner Jose Luis Pantiga-Flores to reopen on the ground floor of an apartment building right by the Othello light rail station. The spacious restaurant's front desk is decorated invitingly with a piece of wire sculpted into the word "laugh."

Huarachitos specializes in Mexico City–style food, which Jose describes as a fusion of regional styles resulting from the convergence of cultures in the big city. Jose had dreamed of opening a restaurant—a restaurant called Huarachitos, in fact—since his childhood in Mexico. Trained at Le Cordon Bleu...