When the weather changes and the temperature starts to rise, Portland's thoughts turn to patio drinking. The team behind Ladd's Addition mainstay Teote are happy to oblige, with the newly opened Teote Mezcaleria (2700 NE Alberta St., 971-288-5688) staking its claim with a massive new indoor-outdoor space on Alberta.
Dark inside, with a clutch of high bar seats and four tops, with a dozen outdoor picnic tables and flickering fire pits, Teote opens with a deep bench of mezcals—perhaps the largest selection on the West Coast, according to co-owner Michael Kennett. There are more than 70 available, ranging in price from $4 to $48, plus dozens more tequilas, cocktails and a concise selection of domestic and imported beers. If you're a mezcal novice, this place is an education waiting to happen. Dive in with the Three Swords flight ($12 for half-ounce pours, $22 for 1-ounce), featuring an array of espadin-variety mezcals.
Right or wrong, though, any mezcal or tequila joint in America will be judged by its margarita.
At Teote, it's available frozen in a slushie machine with Altos blanco tequila ($9) or on the rocks with Peloton de la Muerte mezcal ($11). The latter is excellent, a tart, sweet, smoky platonic ideal of a fancy marg, with a steady burn from the morita chili salt rim.
You'll need bar snacks to go with that margarita. Teote's spicy queso dip ($7) is a complex housemade cheese sauce redolent with green and chipotle peppers, onions and garlic, and served with slices of fried masa for dipping. Also try the arepitas ($6 for three), starchy little booze-absorbing corn patties topped with jalapeño crema. There are bigger plates and bowls available if you're between rounds and need something more sustaining.
It's tempting to automatically equate mezcal with smoky flavors, but prepare to be surprised by the deep variation of flavors and expressions on offer at Teote. Or say fuck it and just order another margarita. Whether you're looking for an education in rare imported booze or just a very good patio party, here's where you'll find it. Is it summer yet?