What is the story behind the michelada, that irresistible blend of hot sauce, lime, and beer? And how zany do the garnishes get in Portland? This much is certain: Whether it’s named after a guy named Michel or a portmanteau of mi chela helada (“my cold beer”), the michelada is made for summer.
A michelada in Mexico City might be a simple light lager with salt and lime juice. In a popular variation, zesty Tajín rims the glass, briny Clamato melds with the beer, and glugs of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, lime juice, and sweet-tangy Chamoy bring it all home: beer in a new form, spicy, salty, sweet, and savory. Garnishes can be as straightforward as a tamarind candy straw, shrimp, or celery—or as extravagant as hot dogs, spicy gummy worms, jicama, ceviche, or tortilla chips. And while a light lager like Modelo Especial, Pacifico, or Victoria is the classic choice, some opt for Negra Modelo or push the envelope with mango wheat beer or IPAs. Portland might not have the michelada game of Los Angeles, where Instagrammable micheladas piled high with toppings flood feeds, but the city’s got plenty of hidden gems, both classic and creative. Find your favorite.
This guisados-focused taqueria also makes a flawless classic michelada: tangy and lip-puckering lime, a punch of tomato juice, and a tantalizing balance of sweet-salty. 3312 SE Belmont St
This michelada, made with your choice of Mexican beer, comes with plenty of little snacks: a large slice of house-made dried beef, plus thinly cut cross-sections of crisp dried citrus. 3901 N Williams Ave
This Verde Cocina outpost offers not one, but two creative variations on the michelada during weekend brunch—both made using Superior, a Mexican beer not often seen around these parts. The savory version combines tomato juice, V8, horseradish, celery seed, and a dash of habanero-infused tequila for a super-seasoned base, then gets garnished with a rim of Tajín and flaky salt, squeaky Canby-made TMK Creamy queso fresco, and sugary-umami hunks of candied bacon (so Portland). There’s also a mango version, combining beer and fruit purée with more of that habanero tequila and a Tajín rim. Order both? 6446 SW Capitol Hwy
Behold, this seafood cart’s michelada de camaron: a plastic cup so big you’ll need two hands to hold it, topped with a smaller cup filled with cubes of mango, cucumber, and perfectly poached shrimp slathered with Chamoy and Tajín. 600 SE 146th Ave
This go-to seafood spot serves up classic micheladas the size of a Big Gulp for in-house dining or to go. But you’ll have to dine in to order the Botana VIP, a tray of six tallboy beers topped with shrimp, cucumber, and orange slices, the whole thing drizzled with hot sauce and Chamoy. Is it technically a michelada? Maybe not, but even more impressive. 5800 NE Portland Hwy