Restaurants & Bars

[PDX] Mexican (Part 4, N & NE): Pancho, Sirenita, Bonita, Michoacan, Por Que No, Javiers

extramsg | Sep 24, 200502:19 PM     2

Don Pancho: Newest spot on Alberta connected with a nice little market that's been around for a while. My first visit was so-so, but subsequent visits have been much better. On first visit, the pescado taco had some sort of seasoned ground fish in it and wasn't that great. However, the last time I ordered the fish taco, it had a nicely seared and seasoned chunk of fillet, that was moist and tasty. One of the best fish tacos I've had in Portland.

The al pastor is tasty, but the carne asada can be very good. They also make a carne asada platter where the meat is hammered thin and well charred. Prices are cheap for platters. 3 enchiladas, rice, and beans are only $5.50. Mojarra frita is under $7. The big bowl of caldo de res, with very nice looking vegetables, such as corn on the cob, in a beef broth with chunks of boiled beef, is under $6.

Tortillas aren't made by hand, but they're nicely refreshed in drippings and sopes are made by hand.

La Sirenita: I continue to not understand why this place gets such lines. The food sucks. Just bad. The pork tastes gamey -- or if you prefer -- aged. They meats are all cooked dry and chewy. Even the salsas are mediocre. I'm not afraid of the scariest Mexican dives, but the dirtiness of Sirenita just underscores the overall crapitude.

La Bonita: Long-standing Alberta favorite just a couple doors down from La Sirenita. It's so much better, though, and only slightly more expensive. The place is cleaner and the food fresher, as well.

Some of the best tamales in Portland that don't require a trip to the suburbs. Nice guacamole that you can order on the side or with chips as an appetizer. Their meats on well-seasoned and nicely charred, but still moist. Very tasty al pastor and carne asada. Soups are made daily and very good.

Michoacan: As much or more a restaurant than a taqueria. Frustratingly, they often don't serve items that are on their menu, such as the barbacoa which supposedly is roasted rather than steamed. But they do have mariscos, birria de chivo, combo platters, and the typical antojitos.

Even though they're from Michoacan, they don't offer carnitas. But they do a good job with carne asada, flattened and nicely charred. Their huaraches are big, two thick handmade tortillas topped with beans, meat, and lettuce, but not especially good.

Por Que No: Taqueria on Mississippi. Tries to be slightly more upscale than your average Mexican joint. Tortillas are handmade. They use Carlton Farms pork. That sort of thing.

Taco fillings are pretty good, topped with a bit of queso fresco and salsa, except the fish, which is unexpectedly flavorless. Specials are generally better, however, and the ceviche is usually tasty. The ceviche and the guacamole are served with a side of house made chips which are inconsistent. Prices are probably a bit high.

Javier's: Pretty poor Mexican that shares a menu with the Muchas Gracias and Alberto's chains. It does have some specials that make it a little more interesting, but they're just as bad as the regular menu items. Worst tortillas outside of a Taco Bell.

The only good thing about them is they're open 24 hours. They do have a couple items that can get you by if it's the middle of the night: the huevos con chorizo, or even just the chorizo, and the Oregon (aka, California) burrito, which has steak, potatoes, and cheese.

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