After decades in business, the final two locations of Portland taco mainstay The Original Taco House closed down unexpectedly over the New Year’s weekend.
Both the SE Powell and NE 82nd locations shuttered on Sunday (December 31). The Mexican restaurant was started in 1960 by Gene Waddle and his family (the people behind the eponymous but defunct family restaurant Waddles), and was later handed down the generations — grandsons Nate and Jeff Waddle took charge of the mini-chain, although Jeff Waddle ran it alone since his brother Nate’s unexpected death in mid-2017.
There was no clear reason given for the shutdown of the final two restaurants, although a note on the door announcing the closure seems to suggest that nobody in the family had the will to keep the restaurants operational, with the line “there is simply no Waddle left to greet our customers with the warm sincere welcomeness that has been our family's most essential ingredient since the beginning of our time.”
We are closing our doors to both of the Original Taco House restaurants tomorrow, December 31st, 2017.
We sincerely thank and appreciate all of our longtime dedicated customers, our tremendous vendors, and all of the loyal support from our wonderful employees that we have been blessed with for so many years.
Our Waddle's family business began in 1945 built with my grandparents dreams, hard work, and extreme sacrifices and continued on with many fun prosperous years giving sincere thanks to my parents and 2 brothers for their passionate and devoted efforts that made it possible for our family to successfully serve our quality Original Taco House foods to 4 family generations of customers.
This final chapter comes as a very emotional decision. There is simply no Waddle left to greet our customers with the warm sincere welcomeness that has been our family's most essential ingredient since the beginning of our time.
My sincerest thanks & appreciation and blessings.
The Original Taco House was likely not regarded by many as a great Mexican restaurant, but it does have something of an iconic status on Portland’s dining scene. It claimed to be the first to introduce Mexican cuisine to the city, making itself something of an icon in its own right, even if the menu laden with melted cheese and fajita sizzle plates and decor peppered with sombreros would pale in comparison to more contemporary understandings of Mexico’s cuisines. Willamette Week put it nicely when it revisited the restaurant, with the observation that it digs up “any childhood nostalgia you may have for bubbling cheese, large drinks and ersatz Third World decor.”
There were possible signs that the restaurant was struggling: its Vancouver location vanished off the map in 2017, with Nate Waddles citing a lack of business as the reason. But little notice was given for the restaurant’s total demise — an Eater tipster notes that gift certificates were being sold up until the end.
- Don't Pass Me By (Original Taco House) [WW]
- The Original Taco House closes in Vancouver [The Columbian]