After nearly 60 years, the Original Taco House closed both its locations on New Years' Eve.
The family Mexican spot, founded on 82nd Avenue by Dene and Natha Waddle in 1960, shuttered its restaurants without advance notice. "There is simply no Waddle left to greet our customers with the warm sincere welcomeness that has been our family's most essential ingredient since the beginning of our time," wrote co-owner Jeff Waddle, grandson of the restaurant's founders, on a sign posted on the locations' doors.
The restaurant in many ways harkened back to a much older Portland. The Waddles' first restaurant was the 1938-founded Waddles Drive-In on Jantzen Beach, back when that island was still home to the largest and weirdest amusement park in the region.
In 1960, when the Waddles decided to open the Original Taco House, Mexican food was still unfamiliar to most Portlanders—and according to the company history it was the only dedicated Mexican restaurant in Portland at that time. The Waddles since opened locations in Vancouver and Powell Boulevard.
Times have changed, and the Original Taco House became a source of family-style nostalgia more than discovery, known for its long history in Portland and for cheery paintings of babies in sombreros entertained by ducks and puppies. We last visited the restaurant in a piece on old-school Portland spots often overlooked, noting its call to "childhood nostalgia for bubbling cheese, large drinks and ersatz Third World decor." As Waddle writes in a closing message posted on the restaurants, they served their taco bowls and chimichangas to four generations of Portlanders, along with kitschified treats like fried ice cream.
However, the Waddles had to close their Vancouver location last year due to lack of business. This weekend, they closed their final two restaurants. But forever, they will be the restaurant that introduced a much different Portland to their version of Mexican food.
"We are closing our doors to both of our Original Taco House Restaurants Tomorrow December 31st, 2017.
"We sincerely thank and appreciate all of our longtime dedicated customers, our tremendous vendors, and all of the loyal support from our wonderful employees that we have been blessed with for so many years.
"Our Waddle's family business began in 1945 built with my grandparents dreams, hard work, and extreme sacrifices and continued on with many fun prosperous years giving sincere thanks to my parents and 2 brothers for their passionate and devoted efforts that made it possible for our family to successfully serve our quality Original Taco House foods to 4 family generations of customers.
"This final chapter comes as a very emotional decision. There is simply no Waddle left to greet our customers with the warm sincere welcomeness that has been our family's most essential ingredient since the beginning of our time.
"My Sincerest Thanks & Appreciation and Blessings – Jeff Waddle."