New Bar Colibri Livens Up Pearl District with North Mexican Spirits and Cuisine

Jaime Soltero Jr., the chef behind Tamale Boy, pays homage to family with his fourth restaurant.

Colibri brunch, photo courtesy of Jaime Soltero, Jr.

A little bird might’ve told you there’s a new Portland bar serving Northwest Mexican dishes and drinks.

Colibri, the fourth restaurant and first bar by Tamale Boy founder Jaime Soltero Jr., celebrates its grand opening on Thursday, May 2, for the First Thursday art walk. Colibri quietly opened in the Pearl District on March 14, feeling out the neighborhood and developing a cocktail program based around spirits made from North Mexican agaves, including bacanora and sotol.

Colibri’s launch party will feature single-serve-size offerings of aguachile, chilorio, vegan ceviche, and a party-size zacahuil. Soltero says zacahuil, best known as “the tamale of tamales,” are made across Mexico, but Colibri’s menu will mostly refine its taste from his mother’s home state, Sinaloa, though the restaurant’s brunch will use North American breakfast staples like birria cheese grits. Soltero consulted with the late chef Lauro Romero on Colibri’s menu and direction.

“We want to do something very unique to the neighborhood that fits the scene,” Soltero says. “Being up there with the top-quality restaurants we already have all over the city—that’s one of the reasons I love this city. We have such a diverse palette of cuisine.”

Colibri’s menu is from Soltero’s mother’s side of the family, but credit for naming the bar goes to his wife, who loves hummingbirds. Dozens of hummingbird species call Sinaloa home and hold special reverence in pre-Columbian Mexican culture as heavenly messengers and symbols of strength.

Soltero admits that he was apprehensive about opening a new venture in downtown Portland. But opening so close to Peruvian restaurant Andina, whose location he wanted to launch his own career in nearly 20 years ago, is something of a full-circle moment.

“I love Portland,” Soltero says. “I was in a funk a couple of years ago and I was all negative about the city, and I was thinking about just focusing more on the suburbs. But the more I thought about it, we can’t give up on the city—we’ve got to keep trying to change.”

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