$ Cheap (entrees less than $10)
$$ Average (entrees $10-$18)
$$$ Expensive (entrees $19-$25)
$$$$ Half a paycheck (entrees $26 and up)
Ratings are based on a four-star scale
**** Excellent food, creative items and top notch service.
*** Good food, good value and nothing below reasonable expectations.
** Two stars are given to restaurants that are adequate but need improvement. You wouldn’t go out of your way to eat there again unless changes in quality and menu were made.
* One star is reserved for places that you would not recommend under almost any circumstances.
Por Que No? Taqueria
3524 N. Mississippi Ave. and 4635 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland
Authentic. Unpretentious. Memorable. If this describes how you prefer your Mexican cuisine, look for the line of people spilling out of the shockingly pink joint on Mississippi Ave. and your quest ends at Por Que No? Taqueria. Its popularity birthed a second location on Hawthorne Ave. With generations-old art, concrete floors and weathered tables, you’ll feel like you’ve clicked your heels three times and landed in Central Mexico. Owner Bryan Steelman has treated Portlanders to his concept of melding great food with a vibrant and lively atmosphere since 2004. The kitchen is a whirlwind of activity as handfuls of grains are transformed into the best house-made tortillas this side of Acapulco. Locally grown pork from Carlton Farms, chicken from Draper Valley Farms and beef from Cascade Natural are then stuffed inside and layered with fresh toppings: pineapple, cilantro, onions and queso fresco. Translation: savory Mexican cheese locally made at Ochoa Queseria in Albany.
Our recommendations? Camarones tacos, wild shrimp with crema and cabbage; barbacoa tacos, beef brisket braised inside banana leaves in a Yucatan-style three chile salsa; and calamari tacos with chili seasoning. Scratch margaritas with fresh sliced fruit deliciously calms the fire from the spices. Simply put—the best taco in town for $3.
920 NW Bond St, Bend
Price: $$ – $$$
The fourth location of this locally owned restaurant chain recently opened in Central Oregon right in the heart of downtown Bend. Within the bold and artistic walls of this “nuevo Mexican Peruvian” restaurant, full dinner service is offered until midnight (rare in town), but unlike the other locations, menu options are heavy on the Peruvian and light on the Mexican. Still, bright and flavorful margaritas ($9-$12) come with half-ashaker refills in mango/vanilla or tamarind rimmed with chili salt. The standard chips and salsa routine is elevated with an incredible verde cilantro sauce and light, crispy potato chips. Order the guacamole ($10) and your server brings out all the fresh ingredients whole, whipping up a custom dip worthy of its Aztec roots. Entrees ($14-$19) are full of intriguing and distinctive elements. From fried banana and wild prawns in mole to coca-cola braised pork to tropical quinoa, there is no risk of a bland experience. The traditional Peruvian—Asian influenced—dish, Lomo Saltado ($18), is excellent.
3628 S. Pacific Hwy, Medford
Tacos Michel is parked on a small lot on the outskirts of Medford and serves some of the best authentic Mexican food. The namesake tacos are among patrons’ favorites as perfectly seasoned, thinly chopped chicken, beef or pork options are cradled in a double layer of soft corn tortillas topped with fresh cilantro, cabbage and homemade salsa. A lime wedge and grilled onions add more flavor. The chicken enchilada plate includes three healthy enchiladas, homemade beans and rice. The menu has a little something for everyone, from $1.50 tacos and $5 burritos, to shrimp platters and cow tongue. The recession-proof menu tops out at $12.50 for a seafood platter including shrimp, octopus and crab, while $7.50 gets you a filling quesadilla or enchilada plate. The house special horchata or the fruit soda jarritos quench your thirst. With its old peeling signs, Tacos Michel is not about the ambiance—it’s all about the food.
84 SW 4th Street, Madras
It’s not your first date and maybe not your second but, after the pretense has washed off in cloth napkins, La Posada in Madras is where you go if you want authentic Mexican food. Alongside bright colors and endless accordion music, La Posada serves up excellent carne asada burritos ($5.80), with onions, tomatoes, peppers and avocados. A side cart carries four tomatillo and garlic sauces, grilled onions and sautéed peppers— all on ice. The chips are homemade and the salsa is a simple and tasty pico de gallo. The horchata ($1.60) is a sweet and authentic counterpoint to the spice of the meal. The menu covers all the traditional foods, but the burritos are the main attraction.