Monday, May 25, 2015

Favorite 5 Portland Eateries for Authentic Mexican Food

Fresh ingredients are the appeal
at Mi Mero Mole
Forget the chain restaurants and bypass the Americanized version of Mexican food. For here in Portland there is real Mexican food available at a range of prices from street food to fine dining. I have my list but I am sure you have yours as well. Feel free to add your recommendations in the comments. I’m still exploring and look forward to finding more true Mexican eateries in Portlandia.

Here’s my Fav Five:

Mi Mero Mole: Chef Nick Zukin (doesn’t sound very Mexican does it?) took his passion for creating down to earth meals to the streets of Mexico City. He toured, he learned and he came back to Portland. Nick opened Mi Mero Mole on Division and 50th Avenue (a second location is in Old Town). Update: The Division Street venue is now closed. You can enjoy the food in Old Town.

He features guisados, which are cooked dishes, especially stews and stir-fries. According to Zukin, In Mexico City, where urban life doesn’t always allow for a home-cooked meal, guisados are one of the most popular street foods. 
Chef Nick Zukin, just back from the Farmer's Market
shows us the squash blossoms that will
find their way into his offerings that day.

The dishes are healthy and locally sourced. Everything they serve at Mi Mero Mole, including their tortillas, moles, salsas, rice, and beans, are made from scratch.

Look for their Taco Tuesday featuring all you can eat tacos for only $13.75. Here is our review of lunch at their Division Street restaurant.

5026 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97206
Southeast Portland, Clinton Neighborhood
Note: This location is now closed

32 NW 5th Ave
Portland, OR 97209
Old Town - Chinatown

Autentica: Chef Oswaldo Bibiano provides an authentic (hence the name) dining experience at his northeast Portland restaurant. What you will experience when you dine at Autentica is a locally sourced selection of dishes based on the cuisine of the state of Guerrero in Mexico. That is where Chef Bibiano is from.

An amazing Oxtail dish I
enjoyed at Autentica during a
Portland Food Adventures dining experience.
Don’t expect standard Mexican fare at Autentica. This is creative fine dining with amazing sauces and surprising fillings. Meats are prepared to perfection. I had an ox tail dish that literally melted in my mouth. And the red sauce… to die for.

You’ll be choosing from such delicacies as pollo en mole guerrerense which is half a chicken simmered in Autentica’s house-made mole sauce, consisting of more than 30 ingredients.

Look for their pozole, a traditional pork and hominy stew served every Thursday night.

There is indoor and patio seating with excellent service and a full bar. Try an infused Mezcal cocktail or specialty Margarita.

5507 NE 30th Ave
Portland, OR 97211
Northeast Portland, Concordia Neighborhood

Portland Mercado: Take the Foster Road exit off I-205 and head west about a mile down the road. You’ll soon see a rainbow of warm colors and activity that has become Portland’s Hispanic Mercado. It’s a gathering place for good food, shopping and a sense of community. At the Mercado you’ll find a row of 8 colorful food trucks offering foods from a diverse selection of south-of-the-border countries. Yes, Mexico is represented but there are also food trucks serving up specialties from El Salvador, Argentina and Cuba, for example.

It was hard to decide where to eat. It all smelled and looked good. But I wanted to try a Mexican meal and checked out Fernando’s. I chose a Fernando’s Special Burrito and my friend, who writes the blog Locavoregon, was drawn to the Salvadoran fried plantain dish topped with shredded chicken at another food cart.
Friendly faces and excellent
food cart meals at the new Portland Mercado

Ferndando’s has a variety of burritos and wraps. This one was excellent. I enjoyed the seasoned steak with grilled onions, jalapenos, rice and beans, cheese and sour cream. The picante red sauce made the meal. With drinks, our lunches were less than $10 each.

At The Portland Mercado there is indoor and outdoor seating and clean indoor restrooms. You can head over to Barrio Beer and Wine Shop for a glass of wine or beer to accompany your meal, too.

You may be inspired to try cooking a Mexican meal with traditional ingredients. The Portland Mercado has a grocery store right there with both local and imported foods and, especially on Saturdays, some ready made offerings like specialty salsas and freshly made tortillas.

SE 72nd and Foster Ave
Portland, OR 97206
Southeast Portland

Uno Mas Taquiza on Burnside
Uno Mas Taquiza: Chef Oswaldo Bibiano, of Autentica, also fills a need for inexpensive and authentic Mexican food through his Uno Mas Taquiza restaurants on NE Glisan or West Burnside streets.

We visited Uno Mas on West Burnside one afternoon. It’s close to Providence Park so I imagine they are crowded when the Timbers play. Uno Mas is housed in an airy, colorful space, and has a full bar.

You order from a huge chalkboard filled a mind-boggling array of Mexican foods, salads and specialty drinks.   Your meals will then be prepared and brought to your table. Don’t think their menu is limited to the taco. You’ll find Guerrero-inspired seafood such as Endiablado - Prawns, Oregano, Garlic, and Spicy Chile or Pulpo  - Octopus, Red Chile Powder,and  Lime Epazote Garlic

We kept it simple… salad, tacos and beans and were impressed with the freshness and quality. Taqueria prices will make it easy to return.

1914 W Burnside St
Portland, OR 97209
Old Town/Goose Hollow

Tamale Boy Tamales are the best I have had!
Tamale Boy: Last but not least, we come to one of my all time favorites. Tamale Boy, located in NE Portland on Dekum, serves up beautifully plated tamales, all hand-made with locally sourced ingredients. Chef Jaime Soltero, a.k.a. Tamale Boy, started as a food truck entrepreneur and was soon discovered. Yelp users voted Tamale Boy the Best Dish of the Year for 2012.

It wasn’t too long before Soltero decided to open a brick and mortar restaurant. The space on Dekum, with informal indoor and outdoor dining, fits the neighborhood and the food offerings well. You decide your style of Tamale and the filling. Oaxaqueños Tamales are wrapped in banana leaves while Norteño Tamales are wrapped in a cornhusk. I always order a side of Frijoles Puercos.  Native to Sinaloa, the beans are refried and cooked with bacon, ham, chorizo, chopped onion, and chipotle. I fell in love with the rich, subtly spicy flavor when I first tried them and now they are a “must-have.”

The must-have beans at Tamale Boy
Tamale Boy offers many other dishes now as well as cocktails, beer and wine. You order at the desk, they cook your meal and bring it to your table.

1764 NE Dekum St
Portland, OR 97211
Northeast Portland 

New Location: 668 N. Russell St., Portland
Listen to the Experts
So how does a person find all these wonderful eateries? Portland offers so many dining options. I have found many of my favorites through participation in Portland Food Adventures (PFA) dining events. Chris Angelus, owner of PFA, knows the top chefs in Portland. And he finds out where these chefs like to dine. Together they plan multi-course meals with beverage pairings and offer these “adventures” to a small group of diners each month. And, the discovery doesn’t stop there. At the dinners, coupons are handed out for further explorations. The restaurants are chosen by the chef of the evening. The coupons represent savings at his or her favorite places to dine. Chris also hosts a foodie podcast, Right at the Fork. Listen and learn.

With leads and experiences provided by Portland Food Adventures, I’ve certainly been pointed in the right direction.

Photography copyright: Elizabeth Rose Photography