Summer is road-trip season, so we're taking a culinary tour of America. But because Portland is a city of immigrants from other states, we don't have to leave town to do it. We're traveling to 50 Portland restaurants to try one distinctive food from each state. Our 50 Plates tour continues with a green-chile burger from new Mexico, which joined the union on January 6, 1912.
The state: New Mexico, an arid, poverty-stricken region of the intermountain west with great natural beauty, cities where living tradition predates our written history and, hey, Breaking Bad bus tours.
The food: A cheeseburger topped with roasted green chiles. However, there was a lot to choose from. Though small and poor, New Mexico has, arguably, the third most interesting cuisine of any state in the country, after neighboring Texas and Texas’ neighbor, Louisiana. New Mexican food is informed by the state’s huge number of Native American residents (9.5% of the population, second only to little-populated Alaska) and Mexican influences (the state is 46.7% Latino), but also by the chuckwagon fare that cowboys and pioneers ate. We love stacked enchiladas and sopaipillas, but believe the dish that best brings the state together is the green chile cheeseburger.
Other foods considered and rejected: Sopaipillas with honey, carne adovada burrito, pasole, chiles rellenos, fried chicken a la Los Pollos Hermanos.
Get it from: The Blue Goose (2725 SE Ankeny St.), though you now have at least one other option. This time last year, the only New Mexican joint in Portland was Sellwood's Adobe Rose, which doesn’t even do a green chile cheeseburger—for me, a good sign something’s not right. Then, La Panza opened on Southeast Division Street, instantly becoming the best New Mexican in town. I was a fan—partly because I’ve been missing a serviceable version of the food since I moved here from the Southwest. Now, we get a second new New Mexican restaurant, Blue Goose, in the former Esparza’s space on Southeast 28th Street. I haven’t explored the Goose’s menu in-depth yet, but the burger easily bests La Panza’s version. It’s a thick slab of beef on a soft bun with a super-sweet tomato, ground chile peppers and layer of crispy cheese. It’s one of the best things I’ve eaten during the course of this whole crazy 50 Plates project, from a state that deserves a strong showing.
Click on the map to see each state's distinctive food and where to get it in Portland.