105 NE 4th Ave., Hillsboro, 615-0191, ameliasmexicanrestaurant.com.
[MEJICANO MAGNIFICO] If you wander
blindly into Hillsboro looking for great Mexican food, you're likely to
leave disappointed. True, "Hillsburrito" has a tight concentration of
authentic taquerias serving lengua and cabeza, but that's no reason to
drive until you can almost smell saltwater. On the other hand, Portland
proper lacks anything like Amelia's, a family restaurant with
slow-roasted pork, goat, lamb and beef in deeply satisfying sauces.
Amelia's advertises itself as "Mexican fine dining" to stand apart from
the carniceria counters, though there's no hint of pretension in this
cozy Main Street nook with bright yellow walls, a soundtrack of Julio
Iglesias-style crooning and eye-popping tableware. (Amelia is from
Guanajuato, which is known for its elaborate ceramics.) Tortillas are
made from masa so fresh you can still taste the husk, moles are
elaborately seasoned, and an Aztec soup with gummy tortilla strips,
shredded chicken and avocado chunks in a spicy brown broth will warm you
right down to the alma. Don't leave without trying dessert tamales made
with fresh fruit—pineapple and strawberry on our visit—that are almost
worth the drive on their own.
Ideal meal: Pozole ($13.95), cochinita pibil ($13.95) and a fruit tamale ($3.95).
Best deal: On weekdays you can get a giant lunch burrito for $10. But if you're going here for a burrito, you're missing the point.
Pro tip: Amelia's serves breakfast, but it does not serve any alcohol.
10 am-8 pm Monday-Thursday, 10 am-9 pm Friday, 9 am-9 pm Saturday. $$.