Portland's Best Mexican Food – Portland Monthly

Portland Monthly
921 SW Washington Street, Suite 750 Portland, OR 97205
Phone: 503-222-5144 • Fax: 503-227-8777
By Katherine Chew Hamilton
Tacos and micheladas from Taqueria Los Puñales
Image: Michael Novak
If someone tells you Portland doesn’t have good Mexican food, tell them they haven’t gotten out enough. From the center of the city to the suburbs, stellar Mexican cuisine abounds, hailing from regions including Oaxaca, Yucatán, Mexico City, and Guadalajara, plus unique fusions of Mexican and Pacific Northwest ingredients. You’ll find something to fit every price point, from burritos and pozole in the back of a convenience store to a award-winning high-end tasting menu, and of course, plenty of taco carts
Jump to your neighborhood: 
Northeast / Northwest / Southeast /Southwest / Gresham /Beaverton/Hillboro
Kerns
Guëro’s torta ahogada
Image: Michael Novak 
At many taquerias, tortas are an afterthought sold alongside tacos and burritos. But at Guëro, tortas are the main draw, and for good reason. Start with the carnitas torta, loaded with juicy, slow-cooked pork and simply garnished with peak-ripe avocado, pink pickled onions, and chile mayo with a whisper of smoke and heat on a fluffy, crusty bun. But our repeat order is the hamburguesa, which proudly boasts its Mexican street food roots and ranks among the best burgers in the city. Two fancy beef patties get stacked up along with avocado, ham, gooey American cheese and queso botanero, grilled onions, peppers, and chile mayo. 200 NE 28th Ave
Piedmont
Come for a straightforward selection of tacos on thick handmade tortillas, ranging from juicy carnitas to charred carne asada to tongue-tingling spicy pork. Garnish them with a stoplight-like collection of red, yellow-orange, and green salsas, and the agua fresca of the day made with fresh fruit is a must. 7339 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Beaumont-Wilshire
Tacos and panuchos from Loncheria Los Mayas
Image: Michael Novak
It doesn’t get better than these handmade tortillas, thick and golden yellow, super fluffy with crisp browned edges and a couple leopard spots, and with a hint of extra salt to bring out the toasty corn flavor. The cochinita pibil is a must-order—Yucatan-style slow-braised pork cooked until almost buttery in a velvety achiote-orange sauce, topped with pickled onions and crunchy cabbage. The carnitas are on the opposite end of the spectrum, super-crisp like porky potato chips. Get them on the panuchos, which are hearty, crisp, and stuffed with silky black beans. 4212 NE Prescott St, 503-754-3059
Concordia
Clockwise from top: sikil pak salad, carne en su jugo, and mole negro
Image: Katherine Chew Hamilton
When was the last time you ate at a food cart and had your meal served on a real plate? Not just any plate, but a custom-made ceramic plate from Puebla, hand-painted with the cart’s name on it? Not only that, but the rice comes mounded in a pyramid shape, and the mole-enrobed whole chicken leg comes adorned with a fresh orchid? Mole Mole’s presentation is unsurpassed by any food cart—let alone many brick-and-mortar restaurants—and the flavors are there to match, too. Anything you pick from the massive menu, ranging from soups to tacos to burritos to mole plates and spanning multiple regions of Mexico, is sure to be a hit. Favorites include mole rosa, a pink mole made from walnuts and beets and served over wild salmon, and carne en su jugo, a hard-to-find winter warmer soup from Jalisco made with beef, beans, and bacon fat. 2231 NE Alberta St
Cully
This Cully spot, whose name cheekily translates to “stupid donkeys,” is a quietly shining gem for burritos and beyond. Rather than having customers pick their own garnishes or throwing the kitchen sink of ingredients at every burrito, each protein is carefully paired with fillings to enhance your burrito. Carnitas teams up with avocado sauce, pico de gallo, and chorizo refried beans, while chicken tinga meets whole beans, chipotle lime mayo, and sour cream. But the Guadalajara specialties, including a sauce-drowned torta ahogada stuffed with carnitas, and deep-fried crispy potato tacos with sour cream and warm tomato sauce, are an absolute must. 5745 NE Prescott St 
Laurelhurst/North Tabor
This Glisan Street corner store is also home to a counter-service taqueria with a massive menu that ventures far beyond tacos into enchiladas, pozole, menudo, and much more. Green chicken pozole, paired with gratis freshly made tostadas, is an ideal weekend brunch. The star taco here is the birria de chivo—fragrant slow-cooked goat in a chile-kissed broth—and it’s further heightened by opting to have your taco served on one of the massive homemade tortillas. Carnitas are also a go here, topped with avocado salsa and pico de gallo. 4438 NE Glisan St, 503-719-5374
Madison South
Panuchos and a tamale from Taqueria La Mestiza
Image: Katherine Chew Hamilton
 
In Portland’s strong Yucatecan scene, this restaurant stands out for its super-thin, crisp panuchos—fried handmade corn tortillas stuffed with black beans—and comforting dishes from banana leaf tamales to inky black relleno negro with tender turkey. 8525 NE Fremont St
Pearl District
This Mexican-forward restaurant serves one of the best tasting menus in the city, offering an experience similar to what you’d find in a high-end restaurant in Mexico City. It’s rare to find ingredients like chicatanas (flying ants) or huitlacoche (corn truffles) anywhere in the States, let alone in Portland, yet República does it with flair. A tostada might get topped with chicatana aioli and slices of kanpachi smoked in chicatanas and applewood; huitlacoche might make its way into a risotto-like dish. The vegetable-forward tasting menu is just as intriguing as the meat and seafood, with options like heirloom tomato ceviche. Pair your meal with artisanal mezcals or Mexican wines. 721 NW 9th Ave #175 
Sunnyside
Adobada tacos and a michelada from Los Puñales
Image: Michael Novak
Tacos guisados—tacos filled with stews and braises—are the name of the game here, with dozens of types to choose from, all served on handmade corn tortillas. We go for the standout chicken tinga in smoky chipotle sauce, the salty-spicy pork adobada, the super-tender lengua en salsa verde, the juicy barbacoa served Jalisco-style in a crispy tortilla, the melt-in-your-mouth carnitas, or the choripapa (choizo and potatoes) in savory tomato stew. But the vegetarian and vegan options here are not to be overlooked, from grilled panela cheese with sour cream to calabacitas with corn and onion to soy curl mole. Wash it down with a textbook-perfect pint glass-sized margarita, amped up with habanero or mezcal or aguas frescas like strawberry or mango if you so choose, or a refreshing michelada. 3312 SE Belmont St
Bridlemile
Don’t let the 76 gas station parking lot setting fool you. When we first tried Tito’s, it instantly vaulted to one of our top taco spots in the city and favorite food carts, period, with fillings ranging from chickpea al pastor to grilled shrimp to potato taquitos topped with beef birria. Tacos come on thick, soft handmade tortillas made from nixtamalized corn, while taquitos are crisp, deep-fried potato-stuffed delights. Owner Anthony La Pietra also serves up impressive desserts, like a tres leches cake reminiscent of strawberry shortcake. 3975 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy
Gresham
A few years into the birria boom, Birrieria La Plaza’s beefy quesabirria tacos still reign supreme in Portland. At other birrierias, a bomb of grease and cheese often masks the tacos’ flavor. That’s not the case here, where the long-simmered beef marinated in guajillo and pasilla chiles is the star of the show, and the cheese and crispy tortillas are there as supporting characters. Be sure to ask for spicy salsa on the side, plus a cup of consome for dipping (though this one is a little on the oilier side, so you won’t want to drink the whole thing). 600 SE 146th Ave
Gresham
If you’re going to specialize in one dish, you’d better do it right—and Los 7 Hermanos makes world-class goat birria. Don’t come here expecting the Instagram-famous, cheese-oozing red crunchy tacos that have exploded in popularity over the past few years (though you can find a toned-down, even crispier version here with the tacos dorados). Los 7 Hermanos makes slow-cooked goat birria the way it’s been done for generations, served in rich, nearly buttery soup or with broth on the side, and best consumed with the addition of tender garbanzo beans and warm corn tortillas on the side. Pair it with a michelada for the ultimate hangover cure. 19131 E Burnside St
Gresham
Playing double duty as a deli, grocery store, and wholesale factory, de Leon nails the staple tortillas and salsas it makes in-house. But most striking are the endless options for what goes with your tortillas. Anything from the hot bar is sure to please, from the best-in-town chile rellenos to the wide range of guisados (stews). Particularly memorable stews include chicharron in salsa verde, spicy cactus and pork stew in red chile, crisp yet juicy carnitas, and mild, tomatoey bistec a la Mexicana. For bonus points, get a guisado on top of your chile relleno, and round out your plate with rice, beans, tortillas, and a stellar habanero salsa. 16223 NE Glisan St, Gresham
Beaverton
Suadero, shrimp, and al pastor tacos
Image: Michael Novak
Blocks away from TV Highway’s car dealerships lives this gem of a cart, which Efrain Abarca opened in 2019 to recreate the flavors of the tacos he ate growing up visiting his grandma in Tijuana. Few other taquerias can match the range of styles encompassed here, all served on toasty, fragrant Three Sisters Nixtamal tortillas. Get the Tijuana-style steak tacos with steak, guacamole, and onion; the grilled shrimp tacos with a blanket of crisped cheese melded on to the tortilla; the fatty-crisp suadero (brisket) tacos; or the ubiquitous but exceptionally well-made quesabirria tacos complete with beefy, hearty consomé. Also not to be missed: the creative aguas frescas, from strawberry horchata to celery-pineapple-lime. 21460 SW Tualatin Valley Hwy 
Hillsboro
Tlayuda
Image: Katherine Chew Hamilton
For tlayudas that rival what you’d find on the streets of Oaxaca, it’s well worth the drive to one of La Mixteca’s two Hillsboro locations. Atop the massive super-thin, crisp tortilla, find lard-enriched black beans, stringy Oaxacan cheese, cabbage, radishes, and classic tlayuda meats ranging from puerco enchilado (spicy pork) to cecina (steak) to chorizo. Should you need an appetizer while you wait, may we suggest the super-crunchy chapulines (grasshoppers) with lime and chile? They pair great with one of the house margaritas. 1050 SE Walnut St and 230 E Main St
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