Nuestra Cocina's Slabtown Food Cart Is Serving Very Fine Street Tacos

Frogtown Tacos is a gift to Northwest Portland.

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.

Nuestra Cocina—the decade-old Division Street Mexican restaurant that's likely still the city's finest—is running a terrific taco cart in Slabtown called Frogtown Tacos, named after the tiny L.A. neighborhood. It's been open for five months, half as long as T9 has been promising al pastor.

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.

Frogtown Tacos (Henry Cromett)

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.

Frogtown Tacos (Henry Cromett)

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., 11 am-3 pm Monday-Friday.

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