Oregon is home to a lot of restaurants, bars, wineries, and breweries, but there are tons of hidden gems that the majority of Portlanders just aren't unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we've enlisted some of our city's many food luminaries to share their under-the-radar recommendations for a weekly feature dubbed Dining Confidential.
Image of Taqueria Y Tienda Santa Cruz courtesy frozenchipmunk via Flickr
Longtime Vitaly Paley protege Patrick McKee recently took over as executive chef of the landmark northwest restaurant Paley's Place, but though his day-to-day work schedule has become more vigorous, McKee still makes time to head over to St. Johns for some killer tacos and a quick shopping trip. Downtown St. Johns's Taqueria Y Panaderia Santa Cruz isn't exactly a "secret" (it's on the Eater 38). While this little gem has most folks driving out of their way for a food fix (McKee's menu favorites are the lengua taco and carnitas burrito), the "tienda" part of the half-taqueria, half-market is often overlooked. McKee recommends taking a closer look at Santa Cruz's shelves — with a few hard-to-find bottles of sauce.
I took a trip down to Sayulita (about 45 min north of Puerto Vallarta) a few years back and fell in love with a bottled salsa I found in the tiny little coastal town. Upon my return to Portland I searched high and low for the stuff. Defeated from my unsuccessful search, I wandered into Taqueria Y Panaderia Santa Cruz in St. Johns looking for comfort in a plate of lengua tacos and low and behold, there it was! This little Mexican market reminds me so much of the little "tiendas" down in Sayulita. Every time I go I head straight for the counter order my lengua tacos and then browse the limited supply of Mexican pantry necessities — my favorite being the Salsa Huichol that is hand crafted in Nayarit, Mexico. I keep bottles of this stuff at home and put it on everything from eggs, to a variety of tacos, and even steak. Also a favorite is their Tajin "Salsa en Polvo" basically a dehydrated salsa with all of the essentials- chiles, cilantro, lime, online, the works. Sprinkled over freshly cut melon, and its the bomb.
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