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An overhead picture of Tierra del Sol’s mole amarillo on the left and mole verde on the right
Moles from Tierra del Sol
Brooke Jackson-Glidden/EPDX

Portland's 17 Standout Mexican Restaurants and Food Carts

From mole to menudo

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Moles from Tierra del Sol
| Brooke Jackson-Glidden/EPDX

Portland’s Mexican food scene doesn’t get enough credit. It’s tempting to constantly frame a city’s Mexican food against that of Los Angeles or El Paso, but in the case of Portland, that flattens the great Oaxacan and Yucatecan spots that have been thriving here for years, not to mention the uniquely homegrown takes on the cuisine that compellingly argue for compressed watermelon aguachile and fried cauliflower in pipián. Portland’s Mexican restaurants, food carts, and mercados use heritage masa nixtamalized in town for tamales and tacos, stock delis with flavorful nopales salads, and simmer moles passed down through generations. From the old-school tiendas ladling bowls of menudo to the newer carts slinging birria, these destinations reveal the layers and nuances of the city’s take on Mexican cuisine.

Don’t see a favorite Mexican restaurant? Check out the birria, burrito, and taco maps.

Note: Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Los Pinchis Burros Percherones, Dogos y Tacos

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Located right between Forest Grove and Cornelius, Los Pinchis serves up a variety of different Sonoran specialties (think: Sonora-style hot dogs, percheron burritos, and caramelo quesadillas). For those who might be unacquainted with Sonoran hot dogs, they come with juicy bacon-wrapped frankfurters and loads of toppings like mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, french fries, and even other meats. Meals should finish with house-made flan or one of the made-from-scratch agua frescas.

La Mixteca Oaxaca

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A Hillsboro staple, La Mixteca Oaxaca has two locations in town that are less than a mile from each other. The menu boasts a substantial amount of traditional Oaxacan dishes including mole Oaxaqueño, tlayudas, cecina, entomatadas, and even chilate de pollo. Two particular standouts include the tender braised goat birria and crispy grasshoppers.

La Poblanita Cemitas

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After years as a food truck, La Poblanita has transitioned into its brick-and-mortar home right off TV Highway. La Poblanita is one of the only places in the metro area that specializes in cemitas, a style of Pubelan torta on a specific sesame-seed bun. Poblanita’s tortas come in varieties like milanesa, cueritos, or the queso de puerco. Diners not interested in cemitas can still enjoy some other hard-to-find specials, like Poblanita’s tacos arabes or mole poblano.

El Jefe Mexican Grill

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This Beaverton food truck can be spotted a mile away by the large plume of smoke rising from its immense charcoal grill, where chefs grill chickens “al carbon” in front of the cart. The cart serves the chickens whole, in a combo plate, in a taco, in a burrito, in a quesadilla, or even in a salad, juicy and smoky with char. If chicken isn’t the only desire, visitors can choose from a variety of other standard taco meats, as well.

Tienda Y Panaderia Santa Cruz

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Hidden behind a St. Johns mercado and panaderia, this no-frills taqueria is known for its lime-laden avocado salsa, so beloved that the owners have set limits on how much one diner can take. The salsas are particularly nice on the shop’s gargantuan burritos, straining to contain mounds of cabeza or carnitas. However, a bowl of the restaurant’s deeply rich and broody menudo is hard to beat, avocado salsa or not.

República

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After spending over a year in its Ecotrust space, República now splits its service between daytime lunch fare and and its evening tasting menu. The daytime service will move to the new space in the park blocks, while the evening tasting menu will remain at the current restaurant. The evening tasting menu is the crown jewel of the restaurant, featuring courses of meticulously plated food paired with wines from Mexican vintners. Chef Lauro Romero flexes his creativity with dishes like mole made from almonds and peaches, aguachile made with compressed watermelon and cucumber roses, and composed fideos, incorporating chile negro and escamoles (ant eggs, a pre-Colombian staple). Through the meal, servers detail the historic and personal context of each dish, fleshing out the larger story of exceptionally nuanced, artistically rich dishes. Reservations are a must for the evening tasting menu, which changes regularly.

Nuestra Cocina

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Despite Division’s constant turnover, Nuestra Cocina has held its spot on the edge of Ladd’s Addition for over 15 years, attracting crowds for sopes, chiles rellenos, and piles of tortillas made with the family heirloom tortilla press. The menu does change fairly often, swapping in seasonal dishes like sweet summer corn elotes. Mosaic-tiled tabletops and warm wood give off a homey vibe, fitting for a restaurant that’s named “Our Kitchen.”

Mole Mole Mexican Cuisine

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It is unclear how, exactly, the team at Mole Mole is able to make as many dishes as it does in such a small space, but this Alberta Street cart successfully smothers enchiladas and burritos in various shades of mole, serves brick-hued pozole in colorful ceramic bowls, and gussies up plates of cochinita pibil with pickled onions and radishes. It’s hard to go wrong here, but considering the name, it’s best to start with anything featuring the cart’s moles.

Nightingale

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Kerns’s Nightingale could be described as a small cocktail bar that also serves creative Mexican-Pacific Northwestern food; that translates to seasonal margaritas made with local peaches, or rockfish ceviche. Nightingale’s chef, Luis Tirado-Christy, is now concocting dishes like mole verde with grilled broccolini, shrimp and scallop aguachile, and queso fundido.

Taquería Los Puñales

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Belmont Street’s unapologetically queer taqueria showcases subversive art and campy photos, as well as serious guisados based on co-owner David Madrigal’s family recipes and his industry experience. Customers can expect traditional braises like chicken tinga and pork adobada, as well as vegan mole and carne asada with pesto, served atop small, handmade corn tortillas. Visitors can pair their tacos with margaritas or aguas frescas.

Principe Maya

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Principe Maya, a food cart in the Portland Mercado, is one of the newest additions to the city’s Yucatecan scene, and offers more than the ubiquitously available options like panuchos. Diners can branch out with kibis (yes, derived from Lebanese kibbeh), fried football-shaped croquettes made from cracked wheat and a mixture of ground beef and pork with a hint of mint; the cart’s polcan — pan-fried masa disks filled with a mixture of white beans, ground pumpkin seeds, pickled cabbage, and epazote — are another standout hard to find on other Portland menus. It would be a grave mistake to miss out on Principe Maya’s punchy habanero salsa and pickled onions, two trademarks of the cuisine.

Kibis, brown croquettes topped with red pickled onions, in the foreground.
Kibis and polcanes at Principe Maya
Krista Garcia/EPDX

Tierra Del Sol Cuisine and Catering

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While all of the carts in the Portland Mercado are worth sampling, Tierra Del Sol is a Mexican standout for its substantial tlayuda, a thin grilled corn tortilla that’s big as a plate and plenty for two, served open-faced and topped with chicharron, black beans, Oaxacan cheese, cabbage, tomatoes, avocado, and more. It might seem easy to skip the tetelas stuffed with creamy beans and rich Oaxacan moles, though it’s not recommended.

El Zalsoso

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Located just minutes from the Clackamas Town Center, El Zalsoso fills handmade tortillas with carnitas, loads fries with asada, and stuffs footlong burritos with whole chiles rellenos. The corn-made section of the menu features noteworthy specialty dishes like machetes, mulitas, and huaraches, showing off the flavor of the masa.

Birrieria Carlos

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One of the earlier birria spots in Portland, Birrieria Carlos has recently opened another location in Gresham after finding success in Happy Valley. At Carlos, the menu started off simple, but has grown to accommodate many of the hot birria dishes exploding in popularity nationwide — quesabirria, mulitas, vampiros, keto tacos, birria pizza, and even ramen. The move is to zero-in on Birrieria Carlos’s melty quesabirria and the crunchy keto tacos, filled with tender braised meat.

Tortilleria y Tienda De Leon’s

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Tortilleria y Tienda de Leon’s, a Mexican grocery store on the Portland-Gresham border, isn’t exactly a secret among Mexican food lovers. While the deli case up front is filled with well-priced guisados, tender carnitas, and cochinita pibil, a scoop of the nopales salad is a crucial accompaniment. Souvenirs like tubs of salsa, pints of birria, or poop emoji piñatas are available to go.

Don Kamaron Restaurant

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There are a handful of Mexican seafood restaurants in Portland: Cully’s Mariscos El Malecon might be more central, but it’s worth crossing 205 and heading to Don Kamaron, which recently relocated to a larger, modern space with moody black walls and bar seating, for cocteles, shrimp empanadas, and molcajetes brimming with shrimp, octopus, and oysters. Still, the zarandeados, spicy, grilled head-on shrimp, is a house favorite.

Birrieria La Plaza

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Over the last few years, Portland area’s birria scene has grown by leaps and bounds. Everyone might have their favorite cart, but Birrieria La Plaza remains foundational. Customers come for the gooey, chile-oil-slicked quesatacos, dunked in spicy consomme, a secret recipe credited to owner Oracio Hernandez’s mother; the cart also features the tender braised beef in dishes like mulitas, vampiros, and other exemplary goodies.

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Los Pinchis Burros Percherones, Dogos y Tacos

Located right between Forest Grove and Cornelius, Los Pinchis serves up a variety of different Sonoran specialties (think: Sonora-style hot dogs, percheron burritos, and caramelo quesadillas). For those who might be unacquainted with Sonoran hot dogs, they come with juicy bacon-wrapped frankfurters and loads of toppings like mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, french fries, and even other meats. Meals should finish with house-made flan or one of the made-from-scratch agua frescas.

La Mixteca Oaxaca

A Hillsboro staple, La Mixteca Oaxaca has two locations in town that are less than a mile from each other. The menu boasts a substantial amount of traditional Oaxacan dishes including mole Oaxaqueño, tlayudas, cecina, entomatadas, and even chilate de pollo. Two particular standouts include the tender braised goat birria and crispy grasshoppers.

La Poblanita Cemitas

After years as a food truck, La Poblanita has transitioned into its brick-and-mortar home right off TV Highway. La Poblanita is one of the only places in the metro area that specializes in cemitas, a style of Pubelan torta on a specific sesame-seed bun. Poblanita’s tortas come in varieties like milanesa, cueritos, or the queso de puerco. Diners not interested in cemitas can still enjoy some other hard-to-find specials, like Poblanita’s tacos arabes or mole poblano.

El Jefe Mexican Grill

This Beaverton food truck can be spotted a mile away by the large plume of smoke rising from its immense charcoal grill, where chefs grill chickens “al carbon” in front of the cart. The cart serves the chickens whole, in a combo plate, in a taco, in a burrito, in a quesadilla, or even in a salad, juicy and smoky with char. If chicken isn’t the only desire, visitors can choose from a variety of other standard taco meats, as well.

Tienda Y Panaderia Santa Cruz

Hidden behind a St. Johns mercado and panaderia, this no-frills taqueria is known for its lime-laden avocado salsa, so beloved that the owners have set limits on how much one diner can take. The salsas are particularly nice on the shop’s gargantuan burritos, straining to contain mounds of cabeza or carnitas. However, a bowl of the restaurant’s deeply rich and broody menudo is hard to beat, avocado salsa or not.

República

After spending over a year in its Ecotrust space, República now splits its service between daytime lunch fare and and its evening tasting menu. The daytime service will move to the new space in the park blocks, while the evening tasting menu will remain at the current restaurant. The evening tasting menu is the crown jewel of the restaurant, featuring courses of meticulously plated food paired with wines from Mexican vintners. Chef Lauro Romero flexes his creativity with dishes like mole made from almonds and peaches, aguachile made with compressed watermelon and cucumber roses, and composed fideos, incorporating chile negro and escamoles (ant eggs, a pre-Colombian staple). Through the meal, servers detail the historic and personal context of each dish, fleshing out the larger story of exceptionally nuanced, artistically rich dishes. Reservations are a must for the evening tasting menu, which changes regularly.

Nuestra Cocina

Despite Division’s constant turnover, Nuestra Cocina has held its spot on the edge of Ladd’s Addition for over 15 years, attracting crowds for sopes, chiles rellenos, and piles of tortillas made with the family heirloom tortilla press. The menu does change fairly often, swapping in seasonal dishes like sweet summer corn elotes. Mosaic-tiled tabletops and warm wood give off a homey vibe, fitting for a restaurant that’s named “Our Kitchen.”

Mole Mole Mexican Cuisine

It is unclear how, exactly, the team at Mole Mole is able to make as many dishes as it does in such a small space, but this Alberta Street cart successfully smothers enchiladas and burritos in various shades of mole, serves brick-hued pozole in colorful ceramic bowls, and gussies up plates of cochinita pibil with pickled onions and radishes. It’s hard to go wrong here, but considering the name, it’s best to start with anything featuring the cart’s moles.

Nightingale

Kerns’s Nightingale could be described as a small cocktail bar that also serves creative Mexican-Pacific Northwestern food; that translates to seasonal margaritas made with local peaches, or rockfish ceviche. Nightingale’s chef, Luis Tirado-Christy, is now concocting dishes like mole verde with grilled broccolini, shrimp and scallop aguachile, and queso fundido.

Taquería Los Puñales

Belmont Street’s unapologetically queer taqueria showcases subversive art and campy photos, as well as serious guisados based on co-owner David Madrigal’s family recipes and his industry experience. Customers can expect traditional braises like chicken tinga and pork adobada, as well as vegan mole and carne asada with pesto, served atop small, handmade corn tortillas. Visitors can pair their tacos with margaritas or aguas frescas.

Principe Maya

Kibis, brown croquettes topped with red pickled onions, in the foreground.
Kibis and polcanes at Principe Maya
Krista Garcia/EPDX

Principe Maya, a food cart in the Portland Mercado, is one of the newest additions to the city’s Yucatecan scene, and offers more than the ubiquitously available options like panuchos. Diners can branch out with kibis (yes, derived from Lebanese kibbeh), fried football-shaped croquettes made from cracked wheat and a mixture of ground beef and pork with a hint of mint; the cart’s polcan — pan-fried masa disks filled with a mixture of white beans, ground pumpkin seeds, pickled cabbage, and epazote — are another standout hard to find on other Portland menus. It would be a grave mistake to miss out on Principe Maya’s punchy habanero salsa and pickled onions, two trademarks of the cuisine.

Kibis, brown croquettes topped with red pickled onions, in the foreground.
Kibis and polcanes at Principe Maya
Krista Garcia/EPDX

Tierra Del Sol Cuisine and Catering

While all of the carts in the Portland Mercado are worth sampling, Tierra Del Sol is a Mexican standout for its substantial tlayuda, a thin grilled corn tortilla that’s big as a plate and plenty for two, served open-faced and topped with chicharron, black beans, Oaxacan cheese, cabbage, tomatoes, avocado, and more. It might seem easy to skip the tetelas stuffed with creamy beans and rich Oaxacan moles, though it’s not recommended.

El Zalsoso

Located just minutes from the Clackamas Town Center, El Zalsoso fills handmade tortillas with carnitas, loads fries with asada, and stuffs footlong burritos with whole chiles rellenos. The corn-made section of the menu features noteworthy specialty dishes like machetes, mulitas, and huaraches, showing off the flavor of the masa.

Birrieria Carlos

One of the earlier birria spots in Portland, Birrieria Carlos has recently opened another location in Gresham after finding success in Happy Valley. At Carlos, the menu started off simple, but has grown to accommodate many of the hot birria dishes exploding in popularity nationwide — quesabirria, mulitas, vampiros, keto tacos, birria pizza, and even ramen. The move is to zero-in on Birrieria Carlos’s melty quesabirria and the crunchy keto tacos, filled with tender braised meat.

Tortilleria y Tienda De Leon’s

Tortilleria y Tienda de Leon’s, a Mexican grocery store on the Portland-Gresham border, isn’t exactly a secret among Mexican food lovers. While the deli case up front is filled with well-priced guisados, tender carnitas, and cochinita pibil, a scoop of the nopales salad is a crucial accompaniment. Souvenirs like tubs of salsa, pints of birria, or poop emoji piñatas are available to go.

Related Maps

Don Kamaron Restaurant

There are a handful of Mexican seafood restaurants in Portland: Cully’s Mariscos El Malecon might be more central, but it’s worth crossing 205 and heading to Don Kamaron, which recently relocated to a larger, modern space with moody black walls and bar seating, for cocteles, shrimp empanadas, and molcajetes brimming with shrimp, octopus, and oysters. Still, the zarandeados, spicy, grilled head-on shrimp, is a house favorite.

Birrieria La Plaza

Over the last few years, Portland area’s birria scene has grown by leaps and bounds. Everyone might have their favorite cart, but Birrieria La Plaza remains foundational. Customers come for the gooey, chile-oil-slicked quesatacos, dunked in spicy consomme, a secret recipe credited to owner Oracio Hernandez’s mother; the cart also features the tender braised beef in dishes like mulitas, vampiros, and other exemplary goodies.

Related Maps