Best Tacos Tinga in Portland? The Food Bloggers Weigh In.
One of the great things about eating in Portland is there are so many blogs and forums that opine on every morsel on every menu at every eatery in town. And although it can be a bit overkill at times, it is comforting to know that those dedicated bloggers have pretty much sussed out what’s good and what’s not.
Portland Food Dude’s motto: Throwing ourselves on the grenade of bad food to save you.
One of my favorite strolls is through the Historic Mississippi District. There is much wonderful shopping, sipping and good food. ¿Por qué No? is no exception. On Food Dude’s recommendation, I ordered two tacos tinga and one carnitas for good measure. Delish! The tinga was really a stand out.
Tinga is a dish from Puebla, Mexico. Often with pork, it can be made with chicken or beef (as is PQN’s). Shredded meat is soaked in a sauce of tomatoes, onions and chipotles en adobado, served in tacos, gorditas, and tostadasand generally topped simply with crema and cheese or fresh chopped onion.
A few weeks ago after wiping tinga sauce from my face, hands and shirt, I Twittered my appreciation for these tasty tacos. Not long after, I received a reply from another local food blogger, writer and restaurateur Extramsg who suggested I try Chilango’s –the sauce has a more complex and smoky flavor.
Off to Chilango’s for Tacos Tinga
Sounded like a perfect Mother’s Day plan to me: after my obligatory (and lovely) breakfast in bed and opening of the gifts, I load my crew into the car and off to Chilango’s. I wanted to start there with my fresh palate, then head over to Mississippi (with the hidden agenda of finishing off the taco comparo with a dutch taco for dessert at Flavour Spot).
Extramsg had mentioned about it being a little “divey” — Chilango’s that is. I was prepared for the worst but was pleasantly surprised. It was very clean. It wasn’t a restaurant or a dive per se. It’s a sparsely-stocked Mexican grocery store with a taco counter and indoor tables, but definitely lacking ambience.
Joe and I ordered one tinga and one carnitas taco. They were each amazing.
Extramsg was right– the tinga was smokier and more complex. It was definitely more on the chipotle end of the spectrum as opposed to the tomato end and with that came a lot of heat. I’m embarrassingly a spice wimp, so I immediately began to turn red, sweat and cry.
Those endorphins were flying and my mouth was burning, but the taco was so good. It was simply garnished with cilantro and fresh white onion, and I couldn’t put it down. It was at about this time that I was wishing I had something a little stronger to wash it down with than my Mexican Coke, but alas, no alcohol. ¡Que lastima!
The carnitas did not disappoint either. The perfectly-spiced pork was crispy from braising in its own fat, just the way I like it. Lightly adorned with salsa roja, onion, cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime, it was fantastic. Cradled in freshly made corn tortillas, these were the best soft tacos that I’ve had north of East L.A. I was happy.
Next stop: ¿Por qué No?
At first, I was feeling annoyed – long line, hungry people, small space, fussy seating situation, impatient children (mine). I was even contemplating leaving. But the line moved quickly and once I sat down and took that first cold, strong sip of my margarita the annoyance magically dissipated. I surrendered to the kitschy decor and reggae music, leaned back in my chair and enjoyed the moment.
Not long after, the tacos arrived. The first thing I noticed was the abundance of queso fresco. Chilango’s did not add cheese, and suddenly the cheese seemed out of place here.
It’s funny how it had not even noticed it before. I ate every bite, and the creamy saltiness of the cheese was a delicious counterpart to the hot filling. The meats were considerably saucier than Chilango’s, but delicious. Although my tear ducts did not miss the spiciness of Chilango’s tinga, I found myself pining for the drier crispiness of their carnitas.
In the end we decided that they are both delicious. Chilango’s edged out PQN in authenticity, but we agreed that dining experience was much better as a whole where we were. We lingered there for awhile, enjoying our drinks and taco comas.
Maybe too long, though.
By the time we strolled down the street, Flavour Spot had closed. We stood there disappointed, with our faces pushed up against the locked chain link gate. The kids were mad. I was bummed.
There would be no Dutch Taco for us on this almost perfect Mother’s Day.
We’ll have to save it for another blog.
Chilangos Taqueria Y Tienda Mexicana, 1473 NE Prescott St (866) 224-8815