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Unlike Last Year, Portland’s New Taco Festival May Not Disappoint

It’s bigger, better, and free of Chihuahua beauty contests

Emilly Prado

Portland loves tacos — but last year, chaos ensued after thousands of hopeful taco devotees gathered for what was promised to be the crème de la crème of taco fests and, well, it wasn’t.

Although the festival was a bust, one vendor isn’t giving up. On March 24, Alfredo Reyes of Portland piña colada popup MexiRican along with Jorge Navarro of Luxury Agave are teaming up to produce the Taco and Tequila Festival. With no relation to the Portland Taco Festival, Reyes says the event will simply be focusing straightforwardly on two items: tacos and tequila, no kitsch necessary (for example, the Lucha Libre masks that plagued the original festival).

The duo are well cut-out for the task: since 2015, Reyes and Navarro have hosted tequila and mezcal tastings in partnership with local restaurants like Xico. Reyes is overseeing the selection of vendors and bartenders while Navarro brings his knowledge and ties to Mexico’s tequila tradition. Navarro, who grew up 45 minutes away from the town of Tequila, Jalisco, has always been fascinated with the cultural significance of tequila.

“My family considers tequila a magical beverage. It’s a spirit we share [during] important celebrations…we are excited to share our appreciation for agave spirits and tradition with Portland,” Navarro says.

“He’s been studying tequila for the longest time and he goes to Mexico four or five times a year for tequila events and tastings. He’s trying to share some of that with this city,” Reyes adds.

The event will feature about a dozen local taco makers including blue maize enthusiasts, Tierra del Sol, and house made tortillas from La Cocina in Northeast Portland. Fifteen brands of tequila are expected to be represented with a variety of blancos, reposados, añejos, and cristalinos available for tasting. Select bottles with also be available for purchase. And for those who prefer to take their tequila with fresh squeezes of lime juice and triple sec, the event is also setting up a mini Margarita Village.

For those in fear of another Portland Taco Festival style fizzle (for example, the festival sold out of tacos in 90 minutes), Reyes assures the organizers are taking preventative precautions.

“We have moved it to the Expo Center because they have all of the technology to allow people to go faster. We have a goal of [allowing entry for] 2,000 people in thirty minutes and we’re prepared for that.”

Beyond logistics, Reyes notes that this festival will aim to put Mexico’s rich gastronomy and culture in the spotlight. “We believe in authenticity and being really traditional doesn’t mean we have to go with stereotypes,” he says.

“The company is based on knowledge of tequila, passion for culture and flavors, and anywhere you go in Mexico, there’s always tequila and tacos… The photos we’re using have been taken in Portland and are of real people here.”

The organizers have also chosen to foster ties with broader community by donating a portion of all proceeds to the Oregon Food Bank.

“Most of all, we want to contribute something unique to the city where we live,” says Reyes. “This is home for us.”

The 2nd Annual Taco and Tequila Festival takes place March 24 from 4 to 10 p.m. at 2060 N Marine Drive; tickets range from $35 to $80, and can be purchased online.