Saturday, May 16, 2009

Taco Trek Part I

Midge and I recently realized that there are eight restaurants within walking distance of our house that serve tacos (not counting Taco Bell). Last night, we went to four of them. We were trying to get to six restaurants, but we got a late start and two of them had closed by the time we got there. It actually kind of worked out, since that split the restaurants in half.

All of the samples were the basic versions of that restaurant's pork carnitas tacos.

We drove my car down to the farthest restaurant and parked it for the night, then walked home, stopping at the taco spots along the way. Here they are, in order, with my ranking at the end.

Restaurant #1
La Palapa

1864 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, OR 97214

We'd purchased fresh tortillas at La Palapa before, and they are fantastic, so we had high hopes for the tacos. They didn't disappoint. The meat was very flavorful, as were the tortillas. The pork was more chunk-like than shredded, but still was tender and fell apart when you touched it. The onions in the tacos were a bit much. They were too roughly chopped and dominated the taco. It was good on its own, but came with a very nice homemade hot sauce. The major downside to La Palapa was the price: $2.99 each.

Restaurant #2
Taco Del Mar
3106 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR 97214

As the photos probably tell you, these were different that the previous tacos. Taco Del Mar's version of the carnitas taco comes with lettuce, tomato, and cheese. It was the only taco of the night that wasn't wrapped in two tortillas. I prefer the double layer. The lettuce and tomato add a nice freshness to the taco. The meat was flavorful, but really mushy from soaking in a container of broth all night. These tacos were 2 for $4.19.

Restaurant #3
Cha! Cha! Cha!
3433 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland

Cha! Cha! Cha! was third on the list. It was also the first on the list to serve beer, which was appreciated. The tacos are similar to La Palapa: pork, onion, cilantro. The pork was shredded, and had a good consistency. The onions were finely diced, and didn't overwhelm the taco. However, the tacos were somewhat bland. There were two hot sauces on the table, a green and a red, but adding them made the tacos taste like hot sauce, not tacos with some hot sauce on them. I wanted the pork to have a more distinct flavor. I feel like these tacos had promise, but didn't quite live up to it. The price keeps dropping, however; these were $2 each.

Restaurant #
3832 SE Hawthorne Blvd

It turns out, we saved the best for last. The tacos at Pepino's were by far the best, and the cheapest. The $.99 taqueria taco special is fantastic. The pork was delicate, flavorful, and tender. The onion/cilantro mix was just right, a perfect compliment to the meat. This taco also came with a nice salsa to add a different flavor, but again, the real star here was the meat. The other elements of the taco served to improve the flavor, not distract from it. The tortillas were also well-done. They had just a bit of a crunch, which I really enjoy.


Overall, I enjoyed all of these tacos. It's pretty tough to mess up such a perfect culinary creation. But here's my list:

1. Pepino's - Flavorful, delicious, cheap. What more can you ask for?
2. La Palapa - Tasted great, but a bit pricey.
3. Cha! Cha! Cha! - Lots of promise.
4. Taco Del Mar - Really deserves to be in its own category, but on this list, it's fourth.

Still to come: Dingo's, Por que no?, La Salsa, and the cart on the corner.


Midge said...
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emmo said...

Damn... I'm so jealous. Sounds like a brilliant way to spend an evening. :o)