Angel Food & Fun
5135 NE 60th Ave., 287-7909. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.
Out in Cully sits a cash-only burrito dream world. Sure, Angel Food & Fun is more than burritos. It's a bar with pool tables and TVs tuned to sports. And, yes, it has other very good food, too. The asada quesadilla ($6) is crunchy and gooey in just the right measure, and the tacos ($1.50) are lovely little bites. But the asada burrito ($6) is why you came here. It's a perfectly structured meat-rice-cheese-guacamole masterpiece with the wild card of lettuce that requires you to eat the burrito immediately and not save it for tomorrow. You're going to have to wait a few minutes while the kitchen staff creates this wonder—toasting the outside and melting the cheese—but look! There's sports on the TV. And burritos this good are worth waiting for. LIZZY ACKER.
15803 SE Division St., 750-1253. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
Before Pollo Norte and Pollo Bravo and Polli-Tico, and long before Chicken and Guns, the only truly great slow-cooked, crispy-skinned, spice-rubbed Latin chicken was all east of I-205, whether El Inka in Gresham or this taco truck fronted by a grill tightly packed with beautifully browning pollo al carbon massaged with Sinoloan flavors. A $20 bill is a ticket to an entire succulent chicken and sides—although you'd be a sucker to pass up lesser-seen items like gooey-cheesed vampiros or ceviche freshened by an extra lime squeeze as you watch. Ever wonder where Mexican-born cooks working in other kitchens eat when they get off shift? This is the spot. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Chicken and Guns
Chicken and Guns, 1207 SE Hawthorne Blvd. (Cartopia), 234-7236,chickenandguns.com. 11:30 am-midnight daily.
Stop all the rotisseries, and turn off the spits. Cartopia's Chicken and Guns' Latin-inspired birds have all places beat with old-fashioned grilling over mesquite and oak. The birds are moist and smoky from bone to charred skin, dry-rubbed with spice and served with onion and tomato, smothered in spicy Peruvian-style jalapeño-vinegar sauce that bursts with freshness. We brought two whole birds ($24 each) back to our office, and cussed joyously at the sheer wonder of it. One writer went back there for dinner the same day. Small wonder it's one of our two Carts of the Year in 2016.
113 SE 28th Ave., 593-8846. Lunch and dinner daily.
Operating out of an Airstream trailer dotted with surf-shack signage, Güero has narrowed its output almost exclusively to tortas—roughly speaking, the submarine sandwiches of Mexican cuisine. These are fat two-handers piling mounds of avocado, cabbage and pickled onions atop Veracruz Bay Bakery bread. The meat selection rotates and doesn't lend itself to memory quite as much as those copious veggies—which gain additional kick from the cart's signature sauce, a carrot-habanero salsa available by the squeeze or the jar.
Southeast 33rd and Hawthorne Boulevard, 347-4270, facebook.com/holymoleportlandor.
Not much has changed since Holy Mole was crowned our Food Cart of the Year for 2015, but that isn't a problem for chef Juan Fernando Otero. As Otero prepared our sharp, tactile jicama and purple cabbage slaw, earthen corn tortillas and mole poblano—a 30-plus-ingredient sauce as rich, dark and complex as your favorite novel, served with chicken ($10.75) or tempeh ($11.75) and rice—he explained that the recipe he uses from his hometown of Puebla, Mexico, has been unchanged for 400 years. Otero prepares his meals with a reverence traditionally reserved for holy rites, keeping everything fresh to ensure it gets to the customer in the best possible shape. If you're famished, it isn't a terrible idea to order a potato-filled taco dorado ($2) or two while you wait for your piece of history.
6034 SE Milwaukie Ave., 232-1826, portlandironhorse.com. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
This taverny Tex-Mex spot is one of the most welcoming restaurants in Sellwood, in part because it's less restaurant than it is Sellwood's greatest specialty: a dive bar. It plays classic rock, and there's not much in the way of decoration beyond a few strings of Christmas lights and some sombreros, although the tasty strawberry margarita ($8.50) is plenty festive. The encyclopedic, cheese-heavy menu includes everything from Dungeness crab enchiladas to a pesto chicken quesadilla. There are three salsas, and servers will bring you little containers of each, but good luck with refills. Chile Colorado is made with sirloin and came inside a cheese-smothered burrito ($13.95) on a plate with Spanish rice and plump black beans.
9603 SE 82nd Ave., 890-5625. Lunch and dinner daily.
You're forgiven for driving straight past La Catrina. Located in an inauspicious gravel lot, across from a McDonald's, in Happy Valley, a part of town most Portlanders reading this wouldn't ever think to tread, it's one of those carts that seems as if it'd prefer to stay a secret—never mind that it was once a ubiquitous brand around town. And it probably would've remained a taco truck known only to the neighborhood were it not for the torta—a massive sandwich that seems to consist only of meat and bread, with "hints" of tomatoes, onion and guacamole. You could play rugby with the half-size alone; a whole could help you fend off muggers on the way back to your car. You should be glad this place is way out on deep 82nd. Otherwise, it would've killed you already. MATTHEW SINGER.
1625 NE Killingsworth St., 888-5687. Dinner daily, late lunch Saturday-Sunday.
If you've ever sat in front of a pile of moist, meaty brisket at Podnah's and thought, "All this needs is a lake of gooey melted cheese," you are both probably Texan and absolutely right. Start with the house-fried tortilla chips and brisket queso, which might be the best thing you've ever purchased for $6.50, and follow it up with the stacked brisket enchiladas ($12). But in the event you've scarfed all the queso before your dining companions got there—and who could blame you?—get a puffy taco, which is clearly the best form of taco ever invented. For $5, fillings like beef chile rojo, topped with lettuce, crema, cheese and pico, wrapped in a soft, deep-fried shell will be enough to top you up.
Mi Mero Mole
5026 SE Division St., 232-8226; 32 NW 5th Ave., 971-266-8575;mmmtacospdx.com. (Division) Dinner Tuesday-Sunday, lunch Saturday-Sunday; (Chinatown) lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
First, the disclosure: Triple-M boss man Nick Zukin is a sometime-contributor to WW, and someone we reach out to for intel on other spots in this guide. Zuke's own place is dedicated to his passion for Mexican street food, particularly the stewy taco fillings known as guisados. When it comes to selecting a filling for your taco or burrito, always err on the side of richness: While we found the chicken verde on our most recent visit a little dry, in a sauce lacking the biting crispness we look for in tomatillo, his smoked lamb knocked me on my ass. It's a deep-brownish red in color, and tastes just a little gamey and a lot smoky. I've also really come to appreciate the house tortilla chips, which are fresh-fried from leftover rustic corn tortillas, ending up thick and rugged in a very satisfying way.
212 Molalla Ave., Oregon City, 655-7197. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Friday; breakfast, lunch and dinner Saturday.
The masa is the star at this Oregon City institution, which straddles the line between taqueria and family Mexican restaurant. Most of the meaty platters come with excellent handmade corn tortillas, and if you bring a baby, the waitress might hand her a ball of the pliable cornmeal, which is both a toy and a snack. Everything Mitzil makes shows a deft touch—the sauces have bright, fresh flavors, and even the flavorful, fluffy white rice is of a better class than you get elsewhere. The best dish of all might be the enchiladas, which find those tortillas covered in a thick blanket of cheese and baked until they're kissed with crispness.
Mis Abuelos Barbacoa
8145 SE 82nd Ave., 481-7346. Lunch and dinner daily.
In the Cartlandia pod right by the Blue Room, Abuelos is devoted to the food of central Mexican state Hidalgo, with rarely seen items like corn smut and the thick-fried decadence of corn-masa tlacoyos. But it makes sense to take the cart at its word and buy some of Grandpa's barbacoa recipe—amid other filling options from carnitas to squash blossom. The slow-cooked pork comes either by the pound for home consumption or in taco form for immediate absorption. It is tender, sweet, spicy and lovely. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
7238 SE Foster Road (Portland Mercado); 8145 SE 82nd Ave. (Cartlandia), 395-7022; mixtecapdx.com. (Mercado) Lunch and dinner daily; (Cartlandia) lunch and dinner Wednesday-Monday.
Doña Paula Asunción, from El Carmen Tuxtitlan in Oaxaca, worked in fast food and farms around Portland for 20 years before starting her tamale business at the St. Johns farmers market three years ago. Her intense 15-spice mole negro plate, in particular, is so beautiful it caused passersby to stop and ask, oh dear Lord, what is that? But Asunción's moles shine best on the tamales. Cooked Oaxacan style, in plantain leaf, they are moist, tender, pleasantly frictional and richly redolent of corn, with none of the mucoid texture endemic to far too many banana-leaf tamales. Get one with Asunción's chileajo (red mole), a sauce fiery less with simple heat than with deep smoke and spice: the essence of flame rather than its painful effects.
Mole Prehispanic Cuisine
5885 NW St. Helens Road, 875-9134. 11 am-4 pm Monday-Friday.
Mole Prehispanic Cuisine serves some of the best Southern Mexican moles and empanadas in town—and it's one of our top 5 Carts of the Year in 2016. Chef-owner Luis Ochoa's cart draws from a lifetime in the restaurant industry, starting with his parents' Baja California beachside restaurant to his time as chef de cuisine at Cibo on Division Street. Inside, he crafts four distinct indigenous-style moles, none of which resembles the chocolate-sweet concoctions you see poured over enchiladas at family joints in the suburbs. ZACH MIDDLETON
5427 NE 42nd Ave., 287-0669, pollonorte.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Pollo Norte cooks up estilo-Distrito Federal pollo on a rotisserie imported from Mexico, slow-cooking meticulously sourced and brined birds spiced with lime juice and achiote powder on a rotating spit, while letting the juices drip down onto the cabbage served with it. The shop's been industrious this year, building a pod out back housing not only neighbor carts but also a walk-in fridge that lets it brine and store a lot more chicken. The chicken is moist and flavorful, the skin browned to a lovely crisp crackle. We found no use for the distracting smoked ancho sauce, but the best-in-Portland coleslaw is fresh, citric and spicy, the meaty pintos are rich as hell, and the tomatillo sauce remains one of the freshest-tasting salsas in the city.
San Felipe Taqueria
6221 SE Milwaukie Ave., 235-8158. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
San Felipe Taqueria, a fiery red box on an otherwise bleak stretch of Sellwood, is a world of never-ending chips and salsa for $1.75, $2.25 soft tacos with housemade tortillas, and $6 house margaritas that come in glasses the size of small bowls. Although the taqueria claims it's only a Saturday special, the $7.25 pozole is offered every night, served in a wide, deep bowl dense with pork and hominy and a side of tortilla chips. Its prices would suggest a dive, but San Felipe juxtaposes its exposed kitchen and ancient cash register with a surprisingly domestic dining area, with a vase of red and white carnations on every table and framed vintage Mexican film posters hanging on the yellow walls. SOPHIA JUNE.
17420 SE Division St., 477-5947; 970 SE Oak St., Hillsboro, 352-5525. Lunch and dinner daily.
The two Supermercados Mexico bookending Portland—one in Gresham, one in Hillsboro—offer a vision of grocery shopping that's a lot like a child's birthday party. There's impossibly sunny music, a wealth of piñatas and balloons, and a taco feed with a kickass salsa bar. The Gresham location even has a little frutas stand in the back serving fresh fruits in a cup doused in lime and chili. But really, you're here for tacos and guisados and pollo al carbon by the pound if need be, followed by a delicious tres leches cake straight out of the deli case.Tacos Chavez Express 2
5222 SE Foster Road, 926-1506, facebook.com/tacoscex2. Lunch and dinner daily.
There's only a single California-style burrito available anywhere between 82nd Avenue and the West Hills that I ever wake up thinking about—and only one that would ever motivate me to get in a car. It is the $7 french fry-stuffed carb monster at Foster Road hole-in-the-wall Tacos Chavez, a pocket of crisped housemade flour tortilla folded around a mess of starchy fries, a char-flecked half-pound of delicious carne asada, bright guac, magmal flows of cheese and a lightly piquant pico de gallo. Neither the porn store next door to the takeout-counter taqueria, nor the jack shack across the street, could concoct anything as extreme as Chavez's own version of XXX, which is the label on the taco shop's near-virginally pure chile de arbol salsa, which could easily sear a hole through your sinuses if misapplied. This burrito is what other burritos would ogle, if burritos made pornography. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Taqueria Hermanos Ochoa's
943 SE Oak St., 640-4755. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
When people say they want "authentic" Mexican, what they mean is this little taqueria in the heart of Hillsboro. Here, the champurrado comes in in styrofoam cups, the meats are grilled out under a tarp, the meats include all manner of offal, and the taco platters come with sliced onions and fat jalapeños charred into soft, smoky beauty. It's more than atmosphere, though—every sauce is spot-on, every meat is well-seasoned, and that corny, cocoa-y champurrado will warm you up on the dreariest of winter days. Our entire meal was consumed by a conversation about what would happen if this place weren't 40-plus minutes from the center of the city.
820 SE 8th Ave., 232-7000. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
Straight outta St. Johns, Taqueria Portland is like a fine family Mexican restaurant in crisply efficient counter-service form—a home to $7 margaritas if you'd like them, as well as soupy beans and red rice and saucy enchiladas ($10.79), plus mojado burritos ($8.99) swimming in red sauce and cheese on a plate hot enough you shouldn't touch it. But the tacos are like a secret menu in plain sight—tacos on 8th that you could usually only get on 108th, if also a bit higher in price. Both the $3.25 fish tacos or $2.10 al pastor are pleasant, served with a salad of cilantro on a housemade corn tortilla ever so slightly kissed with grill char. As an added bonus, if you're not in the mood for a margarita, you can wander over to Growler Guys with your silly-big burrito and choose from an unholy selection of beers that may or may not include Breakside and Pfriem. Who knows? It might!MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Tienda de Leon
16223 NE Glisan St., 255-4356. Lunch and dinner daily.
If you go west, you go to Taqueria Hermanos Ochoa's. And if you go east, you go here, to the back of a little grocery store, where Lucy de Leon serves magical guisados and barbacoa and pollo asada, with perfect housemade tortillas, at prices that seem too cheap; addictive nopales just at the edge of tartness; and spicy green salsa sweetened and thickened by secret ingredients like lettuce and probably cocaine. On certain weekends her father, Anselmo, will arrive to make tender short ribs whose recipe only he knows. Soon, de Leon said on our last visit, the restaurant will move to the front of the store and will feel less like a secret. What's more, New Seasons will soon carry her tamales on its hot plates at select stores on the westside; it's already selling her salsas. But if there's one thing we've learned, it's that the best food is best when shared.
Tienda Santa Cruz
8630 N Lombard St., 286-7302. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
It's worth the trip to North Portland 2.0 for arguably the best avocado sauce in town, drizzled on asada tacos or shamelessly dousing an al pastor plate. The signage on this fiery red grocery promises a lot: "Panaderia Santa Cruz Taqueria, Tienda Mexicana, Carniceria." And a golden cross. That's the universal sign for taco heaven. The asada or pastor are your best choice, heaped with onions and cilantro onto two corn tortillas for tacos that are both crisp and chewy ($1.25 each). But it's that lime-spiked, cilantro-flecked guac that holds the key. Tucked in the back of a slightly dodgy grocery, past marinated meats and piñatas—NoPo denizens, University of Portland students and new apartment transplants come together over the open salsa bar that's a local legend. Regulars actually shoo moochers away when they try ladling guacamole into containers to go. You'd think the green stuff was gold. ENID SPITZ.
210 W Evergreen Blvd., Suite 700, Vancouver, Wash., 360-718-8193, woodystacos.com. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
With gleeful green mountains of chopped lettuce and Day-Glo orange shredded cheese, the plates at Woody's Tacos are often brazenly Tex-Mex, but influences from Baja and other Mexican regions make the menu a hard thing to pin down. Woody's makes their own tortillas, and their bottles of salsa are as oily and palate-searing as those at any taco stand in D.F. But then, the beer list at the counter had brews from Ex Novo and Backwoods Brewing. It's like the Canadian tuxedo of Mexican food. But sit down with one of their massive grilled shrimp tacos, a shredded beef tostada and a beer, and you'll realize whatever they're doing, it works. ZACH MIDDLETON.