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Women in Business: Robin Parker and Chicali Cantina

By Ty Walker

Women in Business: Robin Parker and Chicali Cantina

Three years ago when COVID-19 was in full swing, Robin Parker opened her first restaurant, Chicali Cantina, in the small Mount Hood community of Welches. She wasn’t about to give up her dream because of the worldwide pandemic.

“I opened right in the middle of COVID on purpose because I knew the market would turn around and everybody’s got to eat,” Parker said. “If we’re all going to die, it really doesn’t matter. So I saved my money for a passion that I wanted to do, that was so important to me, and they would all come and they did.”

She was right. Things did turn around. They did come. A whole lot of them. And customers keep coming back for more.

“I did over $1 million in business my first year,” Parker said. ”There was a line out the door my first year, in COVID, with masks.”

Parker developed a passion for Mexican food while growing up in Los Angeles. She lived in a foster home as a baby before being adopted as a young child.

Later, she worked 25 years in catering, menu development and consulting, helping other people with their restaurants. Now it was her turn to open her own.

An Oregonian for the past 30 years, Parker moved to Welches eight years ago with a family of her own. She and her husband have been married for 35 years, since she was 18. They have raised two adult daughters, one of whom works at her mother’s restaurant.

Chicali Cantina is an all-gourmet, high-end Mexican restaurant that serves Baja California Peninsula cuisine with Southern California influence. (“Chicali” is a shortened nickname for Mexicali, the capital city of Baja California, Mexico.)

She said everything is made from scratch and the guacamole is always fresh at Chicali Cantina.
You won’t find beans or enchilada sauce that comes in a can.

What you will find are delicious dishes like the popular quesabirria tacos, quesabirria quesadillas, and the tasty street taco platter. The platter features a dozen tacos, three of each kind, carne asada, chicken, beef and carnitas.

“Everything is from scratch here,” Parker said. “We’re gourmet. We’re special, we’re not fancy. Our guacamole is made to order. It’s not sitting in some vat in the back turning brown and stirring it in.”

The family friendly restaurant, which includes a full bar, serves its fine food in a festive atmosphere. Hanging flower baskets, pictures of Cabo San Lucas beaches, aqua-colored chairs and granite countertops all add to the custom-designed decor.

The 3,000-square-foot restaurant seats 200 patrons and includes a cozy fireplace and two patios. It’s located at Hoodland Shopping Center, 68256 E. US-Hwy.26, Welches. Pups are permitted on the outdoor patios, making it dog friendly as well.

Parker said she has a staff of 18 hard-working employees. “I pay my people well,” she said. “My cooks make $25 an hour. It’s a lot of hard work here.”

Chicali Cantina is open five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday. Hours are 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. It’s closed Monday and Tuesday.

For more information about Robin Parker’s restaurant, see

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