You could spend weeks hunting down the superlative taco joints that hide at Portland’s edges and radiate out into the suburbs. But it’s not always possible to hop on I-84 for your favorite $1.25 hole-in-the-wall. Here are our picks for Portland’s best close-in taquerias, well-worth the higher price tags.
Portland’s dean of Mexican cuisine, Oswaldo Bibiano, not only knows the secret to cooking fork-tender barbacoa brisket (use avocado leaves), but the cardinal truth of taco eating: you never stop at one. The “taquiza” promises a dozen tacos for just over $1.50 a pop. That’s a feast of tender barbacoa brisket and red-hot endiablado prawns for two people, and a healthy dose of masa for three. To top it off, Uno Mas West offers seven different $3 breakfast tacos on the weekends—think chile capeado (shredded pork, cooked with chipotle and guajillo peppers, stuffed into an egg-battered jalapeño and deep-fried) and chile con queso (slices of salty cotija cheese simmered in spicy chile sauce).
When Taqueria Nueve emerged from a five-year hibernation in 2014, a few of the restaurant’s calling cards became clear. Aside from family-friendly vibes and large (albeit pricey) portions, classics like the crispy wild boar taco, a daily seafood ceviche and strong el Jimador-fueled margaritas remained as menu favorites. To boot, Tuesday through Sunday’s happy hour boasts $3 tacos from 5–6 p.m.
Worth the almost inevitable tourist-filled line out the door, Por Que No has nary an ounce of empty wall space between the Frida Kahlo portraits, sugar skulls, and colorful chalkboard menu. Juicy carnitas with queso fresco and cornmeal-crusted Alaskan cod with creamy salsa verde, cabbage, and pineapple are the crowd-pleasers. For DIYers, Bryan’s Bowl—with its choice of meat, generous scoops of rice, beans, guacamole, queso fresco, and pico de gallo—gives you the most bang for your buck.
This SE Morrison Street staple is the real deal: $2.15 tacos, a room-length menu and Telemundo playing all day. The chile verde and beef head tacos are excellent; each cradled in a pair of tortillas and showered with cilantro and onion. But top marks go to the juicy, caramelized, perfectly grilled carne asada taco. Throw down a few more quarters for the “Taco Super,” brimming with guacamole, sour cream, radishes, and Monterey Jack cheese.
At this guisado-fueled Chinatown cantina (the SE Division Street location is slated to close this month), the stalwart stew is still unrivaled. The borrego ahumado en mole negro (smoked lamb in black mole) features whole lamb shoulder, oak-smoked for 12 hours before getting soused in a sweet, nutty sauce of roasted chile, Mexican chocolate, and plantains. Also worth noting: all-you-can-eat $14.75 Taco Tuesday. The current record rests at 14.