Eat Here Now

Robo Taco

Robo Taco's kitschy decor and rock 'n' roll lifestyle belies the amazing flavors found in their $2 tacos.

By Benjamin Tepler April 26, 2012 Published in the May 2012 issue of Portland Monthly

Robo taco al pastor taco t7ch6d

Robo Taco’s al pastor taco

Surf rock tumbles through Robo Taco’s tiny space on SE Morrison Street, with bright plastic robots lining the bar and an impressive collection of ’90s action videocassettes weighing down the beverage dispenser. With homemade everything, cheap tacos, and a late-night following, these guys are doing something right. Flavors are decidedly earthy, including fresh tortillas, scorching colorful salsas, and slow-cooked meats.

Chef-owners Jason Price and Jeff Sprague keep things simple: six meat options and four vegetarian, from excellent carnitas tacos to carnivore-converting marinated portobello and cotija cheese, all for $2 a pop. Each version is carefully folded into durable, fluffy corn tortillas made fresh. A giant gyro rotisserie resembling the robot from Lost in Space slowly cooks the “al pastor”: a self-basting, skewered column of orange and árbol chile–marinated pork under a heaping disk of pineapple. Robo also does serious lengua (beef tongue) fans justice, with tiny cubes of meat, as fatty as pork belly but deeply aromatic, with a super crisp exterior.

Reach into the refrigerator to find four squeeze bottles of salsa: a mellow avocado, fresh tomatillo, zingy habanero, and the fiery chile de árbol red sauce. Squeeze liberally—each flavor and spice level elevates Robo’s offerings tenfold.

Robo is great during the week, when locals, kids, and taco fanatics pack the shop. But beware the raucous weekends, when the place transforms into a late-night stumbling destination for hungry revelers from nearby bars Dig a Pony and Holocene. And the tacos, though blessedly cheap, are not the most expedient snack; expect to wait at least 10 minutes for your delicious bundles of pressed masa.

But tacos are just the beginning here. An expanding menu includes fresh takes on nachos and huevos rancheros, along with a display case of homemade churros that piles higher with sweet panaderia offerings every day. Robo Taco is growing.

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