Tag Archives: mexican food

Taco Trio—Some Flavors Delight, While Some Still Aren’t Right

13 Mar

Friday night found Mark and I debating on where to eat since we were unable to secure a reservation at essentially any restaurant in town due to the overwhelming popularity of Restaurant Week. I would first like to say that I think Restaurant Week is both a saint and a devil. I think it lures people who wouldn’t normally eat at higher priced establishments (and they probably won’t be back without a gift card or until next year for Restaurant Week), and I think it kind of limits those of us who, umm, just don’t want to eat stuff we don’t really want from your prix-fixed menu that you try to force down our throats. So, that’s my diatribe for the week. Other than that I think it’s great that people get out and about to enjoy the food scene in Portland that I love so damn much.

Mark and I have been traveling fools lately and have actually only been home one weekend out of the past four. We are on total lock-down now though since we are puppy sitting a one, Mr. Marlowe, for our dear friends, Jay and Suzanne, who are in Brazil for three weeks visiting her family (you might remember them from this post).

Mr. Marlowe.

So, we decided it would be a tacos and ice cream kind of Friday, which I, of course, LOVE. Mark is somewhat limited on his choices for food on Friday’s since it’s Lent and that means it is the one time of year when he deems it important to be a good Catholic. I gave that farce up years ago when I decided that God was, well, nevermind…this is about tacos, glorious tacos. Carnivorous ones for me, and fish ones for the nice Catholic fellow I married.

I wasn’t even sure Taco Trio in South Portland was even open when we pulled the car up in front of the restaurant. I was expecting a scene of epic pandemonium—lines out the front door, people everywhere, loud music, etc. etc. etc.—since it was prime dinner time on a Friday. I was actually thankful that it wasn’t the case though since I was starving.

I guess this is the part where I should tell you that Mark and I have been to Taco Trio before, within the first week or two that it was open. The experience was so inexplicably horrible (I won’t go into the gritty details so as not to taint this review) that I never even wrote it up because I wanted to give them another chance. It’s taken me (well us) about 7 months to get up the courage to go back.

The place is very modest inside. The kitchen is exposed so you can watch them prepare all the food in front of you, which I love. Orders are taken at the counter and presented there as well when they are ready. The salsa and drink bar is off to the right and there are tables on either side of the door, with a bar that runs along the wall on the left side. Questionable R&B music played loudly over the speakers, but I digress.

Mark had already decided before we got there to order the Trio of Fish Tacos with Lime Crema and Shredded Cabbage on top. This came with one side of salsa from their homemade salsa bar and fresh homemade tortilla chips.

Fish Tacos

I went with a Carnita Sope, which I was so excited about since I have never had a Sopes, but a fellow food writer, Dan Zarin (of Bollard Breakfast Cereal Fame), said are just plain amazing and that he has been looking for them ever since leaving Los Angeles. My meal also came with tortilla chips and a side of salsa. We also got a side of sour cream, because, well, I love that stuff and could eat it with a spoon! I can’t have anything Mexican without a heaping side of cream. Sue me.

Carnita Sope

I would first like to say that I really loved my Carnita Sope. The pork was so tender it just pulled right apart with a fork and then melted in my mouth. The pinto beans were excellent and everything had very delicate flavoring that really allowed you to taste the corn “bowl” that it sat on top of. It was heavenly and I would totally go back for these. Delicious.

Mark didn’t try them since he was being a “good Catholic” so he really missed out, because his fish tacos were horrendous. The fish was not fresh and the breading was soggy, not crispy in the least. Everything about the tacos tasted old, except for the lime crema—it was the best part about his “dinner.” The breading even had this weird musty taste…I felt bad for the poor guy, he was just so hungry that he had no choice but to eat two…and I am still unsure how he managed to choke them down. Sigh.

I’m really tempted to give this place another try because the first time Mark loved the Carne Asada Burrito he ordered, and this time I really liked my Sopes. I am hesitant though because we typically like to visit restaurants where we both like our meals. I would love to think this has just been a slew of bad ordering on our part, but now that we have tried something from four different sections of the menu I’m thinking they are doing a few things well (meat dishes minus the goat) and just going through the motions with the rest. The salsa bar is a fantastic though—over 12 different choices and all are very well crafted. Mark loved the Mango Salsa he had (I had the chipotle). Maybe we will go there again at some point and hope that the third time will be the charm…

So, on to Red’s Dairy we drove, a place that could never, try as it might, disappoint. Smiles ensued.

Taco Trio on Urbanspoon


Ladies’ Night goes South of the Border at El Rayo

8 Nov

Nothing says the weekend like margaritas and a Girls’ Night Out. Friday night I stepped out with some very lovely ladies to eat, drink, and (salsa) dance the Portland night away.

We started our evening at El Rayo Taqueria. I had eaten there once with Mark over a year ago and we hadn’t been overly impressed. My friend Bitzy is a fiend for their fish burrito and begged me to reconsider trying the restaurant again because a) she didn’t think I gave it a fair shot and b) she obviously had an intense fish burrito craving. I decided it was time that I gave it another shot. After all, maybe I just had a bad meal there.

We strolled in at seven o’clock, and literally walked in at the perfect time. The place erupted with business about 5 minutes later. We only had to wait about 15 minutes amongst the intensely bright and overdone (and also somewhat cheesy) décor. It was just long enough for everyone to get a drink. Bitzy and Laura love tequila so it was all Margaritaville for them. Alicia decided on the Rosa Limonada, a vodka drink, since she isn’t a tequila girl. I, being a lover of all things mojito, decided to give El Rayo’s version a test drive. It was very well done— quite strong with just the right amount of mint. The only complaint I have is the price. For $8.95 it could have been about two or three times the size. I switched to beer after I finished it for fear of going broke.

We sat down and ordered some chips, salsa, and guacamole as an appetizer for the table. Everyone agreed that the guacamole was great, though nothing like “authentic” versions I have had in other Mexican restaurants. It was not creamy and there was a lot of cilantro. I like it when guacamole can stand more freely without all of the extras, so overall, while this was good, it wasn’t great in my opinion. The salsa, however, was stellar. I could tell it was made in-house and I appreciated the fresh taste and slight “kick” that it provided.

Chips, salsa and guac

When it was time to order Bitzy went straight for her Yucatan burrito. It has fried fish (haddock perhaps?), coleslaw, avocado, rice and chipotle mayo. She said she’s has better versions of the same on other occasions, but overall I could tell she was overjoyed to be eating it. I tasted it as well, and it was delicious.

Her love for the Yucatan Burrito knows no bounds

Laura had never tried the tacos there so she ordered three different varieties to see what they might be about. Since she usually orders a burrito when she goes, she felt change might be a good thing. She ordered one frijoles (black beans, cheese, pico and lettuce), an Al Pastor (slow braised pork with pineapple salsa and shredded lettuce) and a pulled pork (topped with cotija cheese and lettuce). The frijole and pulled pork tacos were her favorite. She said the Al Pastor was very dry and lacking flavor. I must say though, from the looks of the tacos El Rayo is on the right track. They doubled up on the tortillas to avoid soggy breaking (everyone hates that, right?) and the accompaniments were minimal. After all, tacos are meant to be simple Mexican street food. I think next time she goes back she’ll be back on the burrito bandwagon.

A taco trio—Frijole, Al Pastor, and Pulled Pork

Alicia decided to get the Carnitas burrito with pulled pork, caramelized onions and a ranchero sauce. She was happy with her choice, and though I didn’t try it, it looked absolutely delicious. I would probably give it a try if I go back another time.

I decided to order the enchiladas that were on the specials menu for that evening. Pork enchiladas with cheese and onions covered in with red sauce served with black beans and rice on the side. The pork in it was excellent—tender and flavorful. The red enchilada sauce left a lot to be desired though. It was practically non-existent and what little was put on top had already soaked into the tortilla. I was definitely disappointed.

Pork Enchiladas

All in all, it was a good start to a fun night. While not my favorite place to get burritos, tacos or enchiladas in Portland I don’t think that it’s terrible. I can’t put my finger on exactly what is lacking there for me, but if a friend wanted to go have a causal dinner there again, I would certainly go. I would not, however, get the enchiladas ever again. The quality of the pork was good, so it gives me hope if I decide to go back sometime and try a pork dish another time around. I just don’t think I’ll be knocking down their door anytime soon though. I apologize profusely to Bitzy and other El Rayo frequenters, but it’s just not my jar of salsa kids.

Next stop? Taco Escobarr?

El Rayo Taqueria on Urbanspoon

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