After Thai food, decided to try a few tacos. Salem is really an unexplored, or rather, undocumented, goldmine of Mexican food. I usually tell people that Woodburn is a great place for Mexican in Portland metro. But truthfully, Woodburn is closer to Salem than Portland. On the way home today, I drove 99E up from Salem to Portland.
All along the way are restaurants, taquerias, tiendas, car lots run by Mexicans with all their signs in Spanish, clothing stores that remind me of Mexico with the super low waist jeans on manequins with extra big booties. There was even a spot just south of the 30 mile mark where I saw three taco trucks all gathered within 20 feet of each other. (btw, there are several produce stands and farms with stores and bakeries aching to be explored.)
Lancaster has tons of Mexican food places and stores. I was disappointed to see that a supermercado had apparently closed down (or maybe it has yet to open). I've always wanted to explore the area.
But the recommended place I went, JR's, is on the other side of I-5 not far from the fairgrounds. It's a typical, but very clean, taqueria. They have all the usual items. I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary (except the TV was at a reasonable volume and wasn't competing with a jukebox).
I ordered three tacos: carne asada, carnitas, and birria de chivo. They took a little bit longer than normal, but that's probably because the tortillas were freshly made, Very nice. All meats were good. The carnitas had a little bit of an off flavor, but was nicely seasoned and the right texture. I'm pretty sure it was made in a classic Michoacan style. The carne asada consisted of nicely caramelized bits of steak, also nicely seasoned. The birria could have been a little more tender, but certainly wasn't tough or dried out. It had a really nice flavor. You could taste the cumin and onion that it was stewed with. Very good birria.
A very good taqueria. It would also hold its own in Portland, and maybe even be among the best in Portland proper, though I'd have to explore more to see if it could compare to Salvador's, La Ochoa, Poncho's, or de Leon.