I know I'm not the only one who feels taunted by the food cart in front of Taqueria Nueve just south of Southeast Stark Street. After a long-delayed opening, it serves lunch only in unreliable fits and starts—a brisket-taco dream constantly deferred.
Well, we've got a new sidecart now.
As a business plan, the Frogtown cart is Nueve's opposite. Conceived as a temporary pop-up to benefit a family member in legal trouble, it instead operates with heartening consistency. It's open every weekday for lunch, with a steady line of construction workers and firemen alongside fashionable graphic designers and pale-faced engineers wounded by each blush of sun.
Cocina co-owners Benjamin Gonzales and Shannon Dooley-Gonzales have a friend with a house there, it turns out, and so the cart operates under the second-story deck, serving up street tacos for the same $3 as the very cheapest ones at gringo favorite Por Que No. Except these tacos are heaped generously with lovely meat and garnish on fresh, handmade tortillas; two handily satisfy a light appetite, and three will stuff you.
And they're goddamn gold.
Among the six-deep menu, my favorite is the lovely Yucatecan-style cochinita pibil, its rich and smoky pulled pork brightened with beautifully acidic habanero-lime salsa and just-crisp pickled onion.
But the vegan nopales taco is equally savory and acidic, umamified with mushroom under a salsa made with roasted tomato and serrano. That same tomato-rich ranchera spices up the carne asada taco. The pollo pibil and chorizo verde come with a piquant chile de arbol that stabs the tongue with lancing heat, then massages it with warm depth.
Only the pork adobada cecina—diced thin, and too thin on flavor—was a disappointment.
As a bonus, the cart is located across the street from the Altitude Mt. Hood Meadows store, which has a still-secret bar with two taps—most recently Barley Brown's Pallet Jack and Pfriem IPA for $5 apiece. It's a guilt-free spot for a cheeky lunchtime pint, and they don't mind if you bring your tacos.
EAT: Frogtown Tacos, 1616 NW Northrup St., facebook.com/frogtowntacosa. 11 am-3 pm Monday-Friday.