Monday, October 19, 2015

Fernando's Alegria

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I returned to my most favorite food cart pod in Portland, my own special Disneyland- The Mercado. It's located on SE Foster and 72nd. As I parked across from this utopic wonderland of delight, the smell of peppers and spice and everything nice permeated into my brain, making me viciously salivate like a monster! I ravaged my way over to the burrito cart, Fernando's Alegria. Alegria means happiness or joy, so let's see if they brought me such feelings of contentment...

Fernando's Special Burrito

Price: $8

Ingredients: Steak, grilled onions, jalapenos, tomato, rice, beans, sour cream, cheese

Sides: Red and green sauce

Size: Monster!

I went on a rant a while ago about 8 dollar burritos. It's tough to rationalize what on earth makes a burrito worth 8 bucks. Some places in town use words like "made from scratch," or "artisanal" to make their burritos sound fancy and worthy of the 8 dollar price tag. Other spots have hip atmospheres with apathetic staff, and for some reason this automatically makes the price higher. Fernando's doesn't do any of these things. They just serve up an honest, hearty, gargantuan burrito. Nearly as wide as it is tall, it took at least 3 bites to make it across one row of this beast. 

The tortilla was kissed with a crispness, which I usually like, but this one cracked and crumbled a lot. The ingredients united playfully on my palate, with the morsels of smoky steak twirling around with the pops of perfectly cooked pinto beans. The grilled onion had an enticing sweet crunch, while the tomatoes added a refreshing splash of acidity. The flavors balanced well, but I would have liked more punch from the jalapenos. I may look like a gringa on the outside, but I can take heat with the best of them. The cheddar cheese was melted against one side of the tortilla, while it should have been more central. Though I usually complain about burritos being too dry, this guy was too juicy. The sour cream liquefied and became muddled with the other ingredients, loosing it's calming creamy coolness. The green salsa tasted like how I would imagine licking the back of an iguana would taste- green, grassy, herbaceous, psychedelic! This dude was dense, and if it did indeed contain rice, I didn't even notice. It could easily be made into 2 meals for the average person. I however, devoured it whole in about 5 seconds with my huge, fat, monstrous mouth.

The Rating:

3.5 out of 5

Would I go here again?

Oh, I'll be back at the Mercado. I have more carts to try!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sanchez Taqueria y Panaderia

Venturing beyond the safe, reassuring walls of Portland, further and further Southwest we went; through an endless desolate land of strip malls and cul-de-sacs, ranch homes and parking lots... Until finally we spotted the bright red and green sign on the left side of 99W, with a happy taco mascot welcoming us to this strange, yet homey establishment.

The atmosphere reminded me of some of the spots I visited in La Paz, Baja California Sur. Tiled floors, bright walls, simple tables and chairs. All that was missing was a large central condiment bar of every imaginable salsa and pickled pepper, crema, etc... (Oh man, do I miss Baja).

Carnitas Burrito

Price: $6.95

Ingredients: Pork, rice, beans, onion, cilantro, cabbage

Sides: Red and Green Salsa

Size: Colossal! 

We sat expectantly as a stream of saucy steamy plates of food flowed past us to other eager patrons. Our hunger growing by the second. Then, our mammoth burrito babies finally arrived. So beautiful.

Have you ever received a gift, so exquisitely wrapped, that you were afraid to open it? The tortilla was so warm and light and fresh, it left a fairy dusting on my fingertips that said it was made that morning. 

Have you ever opened that gift, only to find something mediocre inside? You smiled and said "thank you," even though you were disappointed, didn't you? Well, I wasn't blown away by the inside of this guy. It was ok, but I want more pizzazz! Though the carnitas had a nice texture, the flavor was weak and it lacked juiciness. There was too much rice and not enough beans. It needed some cheese, maybe some crema. Haters gonna hate, but I need cheese!!! The salsas were delicious, but I had to rely on them for the added flavor. I think this was a typical case of an establishment having some tasty items, with the burritos being a safety net for the faint of heart. I wish I would have gotten one of the enormous plates of steamy food, or maybe a variety of tacos instead. I had such high hopes, but this guy fell flat. Gimme the greasy spice, gimme the heat! Gimme some fucking cheese!

Thank you.

The Rating:

2.8 out of 5 stars

I hope I just ordered the wrong thing...

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Super Burrito Express

I was driving in circles around the outer fringes hunting for burritos today, and I passed 3 abandoned taquerias before deciding just to go here. It's in Milwaukie, next to the Safeway at SE 42nd and King Road. Milwaukie... what can I say about this... town? It's truly weird. They don't have to try to be weird, it just flows through their veins! It's as though the entire place exists inside of an alternate universe where Walmart is the overlord.

The looks of Super Burrito Express are a turn off. It's a local joint, but the facade screams out corporate fast food hole, only grimier.

The Super Burrito

Price: $6.80

Ingredients: Steak picado (cooked with tomato, onion, cilantro), chile relleno, refried beans, avocado sauce

Sides: Red and green sauces, pickled jalapeno and carrots

Size: Big but not toooooo big

My feelings for this one are conflicted. The steak picado was rich and savory, with the tomatoey oniony peppery sauce adding a comforting allure, followed by a wave of spicy gusto. The texture, though, was a bit off. Some slices were too fatty, spawning an unappealing chewiness, while others weren't chopped small enough, making it difficult to get that perfect mouthful. Ingredient dispersion was out of balance, with the first 5 bites or so being almost all bean. The relleno's cheese was not melty enough and had a squeaky texture. There was no rice or lettuce taking up space (yay!), but that also made it very heavy in the belly. I couldn't twist at the waist after finishing up, and I kind of wobbled out to my car, uncertain about who I was or where I was or what I was. I think I sprouted an extra roll of fat above my love handle. Each day I get closer to becoming a circle person with stick arms and legs!

The Rating

2.2 outta 5 stars

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

El Pato Feliz

el pato feliz

I reviewed a carnitas burrito from their food bus, El Pato Feliz 2, back in 2013. This is a review for the little restaurant on SE 92nd in Lents, near the current home for the infamous Belmont goats, who were evicted from their previous residence to make way for a mass development (ugh). But the goats are here, and they are still chewing and standing and laying around and you should visit them.

This cute, cozy little spot features a duck collection and orange walls. Those of you who know me, know that my favorite color is orange and I used to be obsessed with ducks, so I was a pato muy feliz myself as I waited on my order.

Asada Burrito

Price: $6.00

Ingredients: Asada, beans, rice, lettuce, sour cream

Sides: 5 tasty salsas!

Size: Gigantosaurus! 

el pato feliz, mexican food portland
Nothing about this guy really stood out as amazing to me, except for maybe some of the flavor my tasters extracted from the salsas. The asada was standard and the beans basic. There was too much rice and the lettuce was of course, boring. Like it's cousin over at the food truck, I don't think it had cheese? The price to size ratio was impressive, considering the price for a burrito is sky rocketing to upwards of 8 dollars at some places... 8 dollars! EIGHT. DOLLARS. This is becoming a serious crisis, people! Where can a little working class gal like myself find a substantial meal for 5 bucks anymore?

The Rating

3 out of 5 stars. 

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Gonzalez Taqueria

This little taco truck is in the Overlook neighborhood, sitting next to a gas station on Killingsworth, just west of Interstate Ave. I've been wanting to try it for a long time, but it's limited hours (9am-6pm, M-F) have prevented that. So, I was super excited to finally have the privilege. If you don't want to sit in the covered seating area, you can grab a burrito and head over to the bluff for a nice view while you eat. Bring lots of napkins, perhaps a bib.

Waiting in line, I could tell this place was packed with locals who love it. The owners were super friendly and chatting with everyone. They were sweeties.

Carnitas Burrito

Portland Burrito Junkie, Carnitas
Price: $6.50

Ingredients: Carnitas, rice, beans, pico, cheese

Sides: 4 tasty salsas

Size: Perfecto

Portland Burrito Junkie, CarnitasUpon the initial unwrapping of this burrito, I noted the perfectly toasty tortilla, with its happy little brown freckles smiling up at me. The underbelly, however, was saturated with a greasy sheen. After the first bite, I was a smitten kitten. Luscious, fluffy flakes of braised pork tickled my receptors, burrowing deep into my core, searching out my soul. My heart was set all aflutter as I sampled the wealth of salsa delights. The fresh pico tunneling through the central burrito zone was the perfect counterpoint to the greasy pork. The minimal amount of rice cradled the main ingredients, letting them shine while soaking in the porky juices. Despite the escaped grease, this guy held together fine. Whether it was the humidity or the intensity of flavors, I do not know, but when it was all said and done I had my own glossy sheen- of sweat. Our fluids mingled, my soul was touched... I just might be in love (or lust).

The Rating

4.2 outta 5 stars. I'm drooling over it right now.

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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Portland Mercado

This place!!! This place makes me so happy. It opened back in April, and according to their website, "The Portland Mercado is an economic development project based on Latino cultural heritage and brings together diverse cultures through entertainment, art, and food." Basically, they are helping people in the Latino community open up businesses, and bringing delicious food and an economic uplift to SE Foster.

If there were ever a Disney Land built just for me, this would be it. Screw Mickey Mouse, this place has 8 different Latin food carts! They've got Cuban, Argentinian, Colombian, Salvadorian, and a variety of regional Mexican vittles. You can taste all the arepas, tamales, tacos, pupusas, empanadas, huaraches, etc... that you could ever want. Inside there's a market with fresh produce, a bar, and a carniceria (which had some tasty looking marinated asada).

With so many choices, it can be difficult to choose what to get. I recommend trying a couple of different places, and going with a group and just sharing everything! This time I got some pupusas from 5 volcanes. I know, not a burrito, but come on people!

I was so excited, that I forgot to snap a picture before taking a bite. Sorry! I got one Pollo and one Frijole Pupusa for $6. They came out steaming hot, with a side of curtido (spicy cabbage slaw). I've had pupusas in the past that were really soggy, greasy, and inadequately filled. These were the opposite of that- gently crisped, very little grease, and abundantly stuffed with the main ingredient and melty oozy cheese. The cabbage slaw was perfect, adding a dynamic texture and piquant punch. SO GOOD! I want another one right... now!

The Mercado not only offers tasty grub, but the people watching is top notch. It's a pretty diverse crowd, with native Fosterians mixing freely with Inner SE Imports. Cute families run around, old ladies lug carts, and girls with blue hair chat on phones. Who knows what you'll see? We need more places like this. Support them!

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tacos Chavez Express 2

**WARNING** You may need to repent after reading this one.

Looking to get your jollies on Foster and 52nd avenue? Just across from Devil's Point, and sharing a wall with a shadier than shady lap dance/ jerk off joint, sits this tiny taqueria. I felt a bit dirty sitting here waiting on my enormous burrito, imagining all the nasty men chowing down on their greasy Mexican meat before heading next door or across the street for other festivities. Then, I thought of the women coming here for a quick bite between business ventures, and I felt dirtier still. But you know, to each his own... everyone needs sustenance. Besides, this is what makes Foster so edgy and cool, right? Anyway, this business was very clean and the guy was nice, so don't let location put you off.

Now that I think of it, there seems to be a correlation between strip clubs and cheap Mexican food. They always seem to be in such close proximity... Oh my God, are burritos just the smut of the food world? No! This can't be! They have more class than that, don't they? I know they're cheap and filling, but that doesn't mean they should bring on a cheap feeling.

The California Burrito

Price: $7

Ingredients: Fries, Steak, Pico, Sour Cream, grilled onion

Sides: Red, Green, Habanero Salsa

Size: 10 inches of beastliness.

Yep, you read it right, there were french fries in this burrito. I guess this is a California thing? I've seen these burritos on menus around town, but this is my first time trying one. I've enjoyed potatoes in burritos many a time, just not in fry form. Other burritos on their menu were only 5 bucks, but I felt like being extra fat today.

I did so enjoy this combination of ingredients- the way the fries and steak sort of... melded together to clog my arteries faster. The fries could have been crispier- they were pretty soggy. This wasn't so bad though, because the squishiness allowed them to soak up more steak grease, creating these perfect little sponges of heaven. The steak itself was nicely cooked, though a couple bites had some chewy fat. The menu says it has cheese and guacamole, but I didn't taste or see any. You know what would have made this guy over-the-top disgustingly good? Nacho cheese.

The experience was like watching a movie that's so bad it's good. You feel kind of embarrassed to enjoy it so much, and like your brain is melting because of it, yet you just can't stop watching. Yeah.

The Rating

3 out of 5 stars

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