Deaduardo hopes you like lengua. As of July 25, this mustachioed calavera in the ten-gallon hat will eyeball all orders at SE Division’s Honky Tonk Taco—fixing his sweet, deep-socketed gaze on patrons from the brand-new taqueria’s front door. (And menu board, and drink coasters, and eventually—in custom neon—mounted grandly on the wall next to framed posters of Mexican luchadores.)
The new venture from restaurateur Nate Tilden of Olympia Provisions—along with a who’s who of industry partners—is, as Tilden indicated to Portland Monthly’s Karen Brooks back in April, a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.
But as Eat Beat learned at a boisterous Thursday night soft opening, the taco joint now occupying the former Sen Yai space (offered to Tilden and his crew in a sweetheart deal from Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker) has the potential to rock even harder than its piped-in Dolly Parton. Deep benches now line a good third of the former parking lot, creating a capacious outdoor patio with—we hope—serious all-weather potential. (Says one co-owner, Carlo Lamagna of Clyde Common, the open-air space will eventually sport a perimeter of succulents and hanging plants.)
Inside, the eye drifts toward Honky Tonk Taco’s curated bar—high-end mezcal and tequila behind the sleek woodgrain of Sen Yai’s original counter. Yes, you can have a margarita—on draft or slushie-style—dispensed directly from the bar’s compact, slow-churning machine. The beverage program from co-owner Nick Gusikoff—also Tilden’s partner at nearby Richmond Bar—will include seasonal slushies (think berries and stone fruit), a whiskey smash on draft, specialty ‘ritas like a paloma and michelada, and a mezcal cocktail with pear shrub, lemon, and bitters from the Meadow. Four rotating wines and eight draft beers—half Mexican, half local—round out the drink program.
“We’re starting easy,” says Gusikoff, who plans to man the bar three nights a week. “Then we’ll expand.”
That tempered exuberance is in keeping with the eats at Honky Tonk. The compact menu will showcase seven house tacos, including braised lengua with escabeche, fried Oregon bay shrimp, smoked hongos (shiitake and oyster) with xni-pec pickles (red onion and habanero), and cotija-flecked carne de res. (Also look for daily specials like whole branzino, mesquite-grilled cowboy steaks, and cochinita pibil.) From the chorizo queso fundido to the tacos al pastor, Lamagna says Honky Tonk goes in for from-scratch condiments and whole hog butchery. The tortillas, from local masa masters Three Sisters Nixtamal, are perhaps the only menu item not made in house.
Once the core program is dialed in, Honky Tonk could get wilder, explains Tilden, with a recurring month-long Taco Fight: taco concepts from two guest chefs, vying for the most sales—and even the installation of a backyard earthen barbacoa pit.
“By end of year maybe, we’ll have a 12-hour goat roast on Saturday, with barbacoa all day Sunday,” says Tilden.
Hell yes. Deaduardo, watch out—we’re coming to party.
Honky Tonk Taco
SE 3384 Division
Opens Monday, July 25