Monday, August 24, 2009

Taco Trek, Pt. II

After months of waiting, we finally went out on part two of our Taco Trek, a quest to find the greatest pork carnitas taco known to man (within walking distance of our house). Last time, it was just Midge and myself, but the success of our first outing resulted in a larger crew of taco trawlers, including M, C, and B. It was by all accounts a rousing success.

Restaurant #1
La Salsa

6036 SE Division St.
Portland, OR 97206

The first stop was at "La Salsa," a family-fun taqueria on 60th and Division. We had driven by it a hundred times, meaning to stop in. The menu was hand-written on a giant whiteboard above the cash register. Unfortunately for our purposes, the menu didn't include pork. I asked the girl behind the counter if they had any and she replied, "maybe next week," a response I really enjoyed. Since we were unable to order carnitas, we got shredded beef, which was the closest thing to pork in our estimation.

The tacos were somewhat unusual, in that they came with beans inside. The beef was flavorful, although quite sloppy. The tortillas were flour, very tasty, and homemade. We enjoyed them, and will likely return, although I'm pretty sure I'd order something else. The service was great, and they had a big salsa bar (which makes sense, considering it's called "La Salsa"). We got 3 tacos for about $5.00, a good deal.

Restaurant #2
Taqueria los Gorditos

SE 50th & Division St.
Portland, OR 97215

Our next stop was just 2 blocks from our house, "Taqueria los Gorditos," an extremely popular taco cart on the corner of 50th and Division. We've been here before, and are always blown away with the food. However, we've never had the tacos, so it really worked out for us to go on the Taco Trek. Like "La Salsa," this place didn't have pork carnitas. It did have pork al pastor, which is meat in a red sauce. Usually when I've had al pastor elsewhere, it's really greasy and gives me stomach trouble. I did not have that problem at "Taqueria los Gorditos."

The meat was fall-apart delicious, with a taste that can best be compared to Tandoori, the Indian style of baked/grilled meat. It was truly incredible; the meat was tender, with a subtle flavor. We liked it so much we went back for more the next night, only to learn they had sold out already. The tacos were just $1.50 each, which means a great, cheap night out.

Restaurant #3
Por Que No

4635 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, OR 97255

Por Que No is sooooo trendy, which means I am generally loathe to eat there. Don't get me wrong, I've had their food on several occasions, and always enjoy it. But there are things about the place that bug me. First, I don't like the line out the door. It means that people are coming from wherever they live to come and eat "somewhere cool" in my neighborhood. Por Que No made its name in North Portland, and opened this second location in the Hawthorne neighborhood to great fanfare. But like its patrons, I feel like it is vacationing in my part of town because it is a trendy place to be. As a vacation destination, the prices at Por Que No are appropriately expensive. I don't like paying $3.00 for a taco, no matter how the meat absolutely melts in my mouth, mingling with the crumbly cojita... hhghghghghg......

Sorry. I started to lose myself there. There's no denying it, the food is very good. But I don't believe it was worth the 10 minute wait in line to order, the 20 minute wait for the food to arrive, and the high price.

Restaurant #4

4612 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, OR 97215

Dingo's was Midge's dark horse in this competition, because she really loves their tacos. The key at Dingo's is to order the carnitas platter, NOT the tacos. It's a little confusing, I know. The carnitas platter consists of 4 or 8 taqueria-style tacos, simple items consisting of a corn tortilla, meat, and a vegetable garnish. We got an order of 8 for the table, at a cost of $12. The meat is the key at Dingo's. It's sweet, crisp, salty, and delicious, with a definite citrus edge. The restaurant changed the presentation from the last time we went, however, switching from an onion/cilantro topping to chopped tomatoes. While still tasty, I prefer the onion/cilantro mixture. Still, a good taco at a reasonable price.

This has nothing to do with tacos, but while we were sitting outside at Dingo's a local homeless guy was going table to table, obviously drunk, bothering the patrons. Just as he was to arrive at our table, a police officer pulled up. "Hello, Peter," said the cop. "Let's take a walk down to the corner." They wandered off. Moments later, the officer was pulling the guy back towards us and his cruiser. Peter's pants were at his knees, and he was now getting arrested. Midge was treated to some full-frontal hobo, a surreal experience to be sure.

All of the tacos were good in their own way, but this is a list, so let's list them. From best to not-quite-as-good:

1. Taqueria los Gorditos - The taco cart wins. Delicious, cheap, and just a couple blocks from home. What else could I want?
2. Dingo's - An old favorite, solid if unspectacular.
3. Por Que No - Really tasty tacos, no doubt. If this were only about flavor, it would be #2. But I'm rating the experience, too.
4. La Salsa - Very good, but I have a feeling this isn't La Salsa's best dish. We'll definitely go back. We only ordered a few tacos, but they still brought us a delicious basket of fresh tortilla chips. I liked that place a lot.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We Went to Peru!

It was exciting and fun and we did a lot of cool things. But I'll spare you all the details and pictures that I could put here. We've already showed our families the slide show of our vacation photos. So instead, what I'll do is share with you a minor highlight of the trip. We were at a bar in Aguas Calientes, the small tourist town that sits at the bottom of Macchu Pichu, on a Sunday night. The place was dead, and we only chose it because of the 4 for 1 drink special. This is the place's sign:

As soon as I saw it, I said out loud, "That's Shannen Doherty! Remember her from 90210?" My friends, geniuses all, immediately dismissed my idea. "Max," they said, "why on earth would a bar in a tiny town in Peru put Shannen Doherty, of all people, on their sign?"

When I returned home, I was glad that I took a picture, because I was right. M came over to share photos and we began discussing the sign. I said, "I wouldn't be surprised if we found that picture online." And wouldn't you know it, a simple google search of "shannen doherty" in the pictures section popped up this photo:

I am the smartest man alive. Now, I wish I had only taken a photo of the sign in Cusco that had Lindsay Lohan on it...

I give this sign 4 for 1 drink specials, and myself, 5 for 1.