OK, I'll say it. I think the best, most authentic, Mexican food in Oregon is in Salem. And there's lots of it.
My friend Sambamaster came down from Portand and we took my daughter with us on a Salem taco crawl. We started at the north end of town at Los Temos. The speciality here is birria de chivo (goat). We wanted to pace ourselves so we had one birria taco each. But you've got to get a cup of the "consome" (a soup made from the birria broth) to go with. And then we noticed a sign saying "uchepos hoy." Uchepos are an unusual tamale that's all corn. It's pretty sweet but is good with crema (Mexican sour cream) and green salsa. It was all good. We noticed someone eating another kind of triangular tamale wrapped in green corn husks, also not on the menu. Next time.
Next stop was Plaza Morelia in Keizer for some lamb tacos. My friend the Sambamaster went all out and got a lamb huarache instead. Again we ordered the consome that derives from the cooking juices. It wasn't as flavorful as the goat consome at Los Temos but it was satisfying.
Having had goat and lamb, it was time for pork. This is easier to find. There are a lot of Mexican meat markets in Salem that also sell tacos with the carnitas (pork cooked in its own fat) that they make in house. We tried two different places. Carneceria El Rodeo is way up on the northside. Their carnitas tacos are cheap ($1.50) and the meat is very fresh and good. It almost has a smoky flavor. Finally we went to La Concentida Carneceria behind the Taco Time on Lancaster. Their little carnitas tacos are only $1. They are small, but the flavor of the meat is outstanding. You can watch the pork cooking in the big pots while you are eating your tacos. The owner here is super-friendly and likes to hand out free samples if you show an interest in his food.
We thought about stopping by Los Panditas for their excellent tacos al pastor, but we were stuffed, so we called it a day. We just scratched the surface with great authentico tacos and other great Mexican food in Salem.
Salem has a lot of bad Mexican food too. The places that cook for gringos are predictable and not worth your time. But if you seek out the places where one out of five Salemites who hail from S. of the border eat, you'll get some great chow.
7000 Portland Rd NE, Salem, OR 97305
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