20 Mar Locals go Loco for Tacos
Behold the taco, that tasty combination of soft corn tortillas, meat, fresh toppings and a dash of salsa. A staple of Mexican cuisine, tacos first arrived in the United States in the late 1800s with an influx of Mexican migrant miners. It is believed that the word “taco” originally referred to a piece of paper that the miners would wrap around gunpowder to blast ore out of the rock. Today, it is not a stretch to associate tacos with dynamite. Add a little hot sauce and you’ve got a spicy plate of goodness.
Central Oregon has a fantastic selection of taco destinations, ranging from the simple taquería to fancier restaurants. I—a verifiable taco fanatic—have rounded up the best of the best for you.
The True Taco Truck
At the corner of 3rd St. and SE Cleveland Ave., Bend
Tacos Pihuamo has only a small outdoor seating area, but I’ll go to this classic taco truck even in the dead of winter for a plate of beef birria tacos. Birria, a stew originating from the Mexican state of Jalisco, is made from beef, chicken, goat or mutton and is reputed to be a hangover remedy. No matter how you feel, it is deliciously wrapped in what I’ve decided are the best tortillas east of the Cascades (they told me they buy them from a tortilleria in Sandy, Oregon). All of their tacos are enhanced perfectly with a dollop of their very tasty avocado sauce.
Downtown Bend’s Lunch Spot
1133 NW Wall St., Bend
As a freelance writer, I often have to be creative with my lunch meeting places. Fortunately Super Burrito, on the north end of downtown Bend, satisfies nearly everyone. My picks for tacos are the carnitas (Mexico’s version of pulled pork), tacos and the carne asada (steak) tacos, but they also have excellent enchiladas. If you’re extra hungry, the super nachos, with your choice of meat, hit the spot. And you can wash everything down with an ice cold Mexican Coke in a glass bottle.
The Dinner Date Taco
221 SE Fifth St., Madras
Rio is worthy of a trip to Madras for a warm dinner atmosphere and great fish tacos. Be sure to start with their prepared-at-the-table guacamole fresca and a signature margarita such as the fresa apasionada, a mix of tequila, strawberry puree, passion fruit and lime. Their fish tacos include big chunks of fried white fish with a mango slaw and chipotle sauce. If you need a break from tacos, go for the puerco enmolado, featuring their seven-pepper mole sauce.
The Salvadoran Spot
122 SW 5th St., Redmond
Whenever I’m in Redmond, I plan for lunch at La Fondita to sample their tacos and pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran street snack. Pupusas are thick masa flatbreads stuffed with cheese and a variety of fillings such as refried beans, pork or veggies. They are served piping hot with cabbage slaw and salsa. La Fondita’s tacos are traditional street style, with delicious homemade tortillas. For a special treat, try the molcajete, a huge dish of chicken, steak, shrimp, cactus leaves, avocado and vegetables.
The Classic Taquería
304 SE 3rd St. and 221 NW Hill St., Bend
This first time I went to Esta Bien, they were cooking carnitas in a giant pot on the stove. When I asked what they were making, the cook gave me a plate to sample. So began my love affair with their carnitas tacos. Esta Bien also has great tamales and authentic pupusas. All plates can be paired with an Esta Bien margarita, a ballena (literally translated into “whale,” but it is a 32-ounce bottle of beer) or a Tranquilo Especial MSA, a locally brewed Mexican ale.
The Tiny Taco Place
803 N. Main St., Prineville
Mi Tiendita, which means “my little store,” is exactly that. Housed in a tiny Mexican market, Mi Tiendita is Prineville’s go-to place for a quick taco lunch. There are only five small tables, but they have a full menu of tacos, burritos, nachos and enchiladas. My favorite is their al pastor taco. In Mexico, an al pastor consists of finely shaved pork topped with pineapple, onions and cilantro. At Mi Tiendita, the pineapple is mixed right in with the pork, giving it the right amount of sweetness.