Following the trend of recent years, there has been a bit of a shakeup in the Best Mexican Restaurant in Portland category, but only in the placement on the list. Relative newcomer Xico (pronounced “chico”) is continuing to climb, vaulting over more established restaurants such as Autentica. Mextiza has closed giving room for others to move up.
1,288 votes were cast for this question:
1. Nuestra Cocina – 14.17% of the vote.
Nuestra Cocina has been on every list since I started taking this survey, and the frequent lines further support its popularity. “The style of cuisine can often be considered old peasant style Mexican cooking. Recipes and flavors spanning far as the high desert state of Zacatecas to the coastlines of Vera Cruz and Tampico.” Full liquor license. Open Tuesday – Saturday 5 pm – 10 pm. My review $$
- 2135 Southeast Division Street Portland, OR 97202 (503)232-2135 Map
2. Xico – 11.84% of the vote.
Xico calls their menu “aggressively modern Mexican” with a focus on Oaxacan food. The chicken dinner offered Monday nights is quickly reaching legendary status, feeding two people for $22, but I like their lamb barbacoa, slow-roasted in banana leaves. You find interesting items like Mexican pot roast style beef tongue with parsnip purée, masa gravy & chipotle, trout pozole, and an excellent queso fundido. Full liquor license, open for dinner 7 days, lunch Wednesday thru Saturday – see website for latest hours. $$$
- 3715 SE Division St., Portland 97202 (503)548-6363 Map
3. ¿Por Que No? – 9.2%
This two restaurant chain is incredibly popular, most likely due to its no-frills comfortable environment and good Mexican food at the low-end of the price scale. Tacos are the specialty here, though you can also get salads, ceviche, guacamole, etc., all made with fresh tortillas. I tend towards “Bryan’s Bowl”. Owner Bryan Steelman opened the Mississippi branch in homage to his experience in a town called Morelia, and followed a few years later with the Hawthorne Blvd. location. Expect lines, but they will move quickly. The service is pay at the counter, then sit down. Bryan focuses on paying his employees a good wage, local hormone and antibiotic-free meats, and sustainable ingredients – all the way to recycling waste oil from the kitchen into the errand vehicle. Full liquor license. Open daily from 11am. My Review $
- 3524 North Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR. 97227 (503)467-4149 Map
- 4635 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR. 97215 (503)954-3138 Map
4. Mi Mero Mole received 8.54% of the vote.
Now with two branches, the restaurant focuses on a rotating menu of “guisados”, home-style dishes, especially stews and stir-fries along with other traditional dishes from Mexico City. “Our tortillas are made fresh using ground nixtamal rather than commercial Maseca. Everything we serve, including our moles, salsas, rice, and beans, are made from scratch.” The mole poblano makes me happy. Look for taco Tuesday with all-day, all-you-can-eat tacos (current record 14). Counter ordering. Full liquor license, with margaritas at bargain prices. Open daily for lunch and dinner, except NW 5th is closed on Sunday. $
- 5026 SE Division St., Portland, OR. 97215 (503)232-8226 Map
- 32 NW 5th Ave, Portland OR. 97209 (971)266-8575 Map
5. Autentica – 7.96% Primarily focused on food from the Guerrero region of Mexico with a well-rounded menu of seafood, tacos, salads, soups and full-sized entrees. It’s hard to go wrong with the slow-roasted goat, or the pork leg roasted in chile negro, but explore the entire menu. Thursday nights bring an excellent pozole, a pork and hominy stew. Full liquor license. Open Tuesday – Sunday, with an interesting Mexican brunch Sat – Sun. My review $$$
- 5507 Northeast 30th Ave., Portland, OR. 97211 (503)287-7555 Map
6. Taqueria Nueve – 5.63%
Yes, this is the new version of the NE 28th Avenue location which closed in 2008. The focus is “authentic Mexican food” including a mole of the day, seafood, grilled chicken, buffalo brisket and much more. Full liquor license, so you can get your margarita fix. You may remember this review of the old location, and they still have a passionate following. Dinner only. Closed Monday. $$
- 727 SE Washington Street, Portland OR 97214 (503)954-1987 Map
7. Cha Cha Cha! – 4.47%.
A large menu is available at this popular local chain, with six wild seafood menu items such as wild salmon burritos, shrimp tacos, and grilled fish tacos along with more standard fare. Many items are available vegetarian, some gluten-free as noted on the menu. Full liquor license. Open 7 days, lunch and dinner. $
- Ten locations. See website for details.
8. Verde Cocina – 3.69%
Committed to using locally sourced food where possible with a huge focus on fresh produce. Almost every item is available in a vegan or vegetarian option. House-made tortillas. The Pearl district (NW) location is a bit of a secret, but worth tracking down. New takes on some old standards such as quinoa in the chile relleno, garbanzo-white bean mash, and the use of sauteed tofu to replace pork skin normally used in chicarrones. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. $$
- 524 NW 14th, Portland 97209. (503)894-9321 Map
- 6446 SW Capitol Hwy, Portland 97219 (Hillsdale). (503)384-2327 Map
9. Los Gorditos/Taqueria Los Gorditos – 3.3%
This is fairly standard taco/burrito fare. I go with the “garbage burrito”, which is so big I never know whether to eat it or throw it over my shoulder and burp it. Vegan and vegetarian menus available. Open daily breakfast – dinner $
- 1212 SE Division, Portland, OR. 97202 Map
- 922 NW Davis, Portland OR. 97209 Map
- 902 North Killingsworth Street, Portland OR. 97217 Map
- Food truck at 50th and SE Division St.
Results from previous surveys:
- 2013: Por Que No? -18%, Mi Mero Mole – 15%, Nuestra Cocina – 12%, Mextiza – 7%, Autentica – 11%, Xico – 4%, Verde Cocina 3%.
- 2012: Nuestra Cocina – 17%, Autentica – 15%, ¿Por Que No? – 12%, Mi Mero Mole 11%, Mextiza – 5%, La Bonita – 4%
- 2011: Autentica – 21%, ¿Por Que No? – 19%, Nuestra Cocina – 17%.
I’m saddened by the fact that you are in Portland, Oregon and not Portland, Maine. I thought there might actually be someone in New England that had a handle on their Mexican food dishes, but alas, that is simply not the case; that is to say, unless I want to roll the dice and venture to Boston, but I’m not fan of big cities… unless they’re west coast cities. Please, someone from the west coast, come to New England and open an amazing Mexican food restaurant and I will funnel money into your pocket as you funnel delicious food into my face. Thank you.
Grant Harper says
All of these restaurants sound fantastic! I would love to find some new Mexican restaurants to try, since I haven’t found very many in my area. All of these restaurants sound like they have very different styles, but they all sound really great. It might even be fun to try all of them, just to see what I think is best! Thank you for sharing the different votes!
What I find seriously lacking in this town is a decent mid-scale Mexican restaurant where you can get a basket of chips, a cup of salsa, and table service without a hefty bill to show for it. The above restaurants, while I have not been to Verde Cocina, are either pretty spendy or are order at the counter. None offer the aforementioned chips and salsa. Sigh.
sorry, I am late to reply Dazer. There is such a place: Fajitas out on 82nd street by the new Sunrise Fwy. Ask for their salsa picante instead of the standard served. It is flipping amazing, super flavor with a med heat punch. They also have a green guacamole style hot sauce (avocados and jalepenos) that they provide gratas if you ask but don’t standard deliver. The only downside of this place is when it’s busy it can be really slow. So don’t go in a hurry.