Por Qué No, the new taqueria on Mississippi, is, at present, a yuppie joint. This isn't really the fault of the restaurant or owner--they seem down to earth and the space is modest, comfortable, filled with fresh air, and looks like a small, well-kept restaurant in a Mexican beach town. I guess it's a result of the location, the hype--a the owner comes fresh from oft-lauded restaurant clarklewis--and the fact that yuppies love to try new things.
On a recent Friday afternoon, Por Qué No was teeming with business. Tanned, obscenely attractive Caucasian 30-somethings were ordering Carlton Farms pork tacos served on sturdy, homemade tortillas. Sleek umbrella-outfitted tables out front were crowded with sporty couples and women with plunging necklines and designer sunglasses, all enjoying Negro Modelo, Tecate, and iridescent purple prickly pear juice over ice (a cactus with a slightly berry, melony taste).
Despite my continuing loyalty to Mexican family taquerias like La Bonita and Don Pancho--both on Alberta--there are a few items that will send me running back to Por Qué No consistently. The restaurant's guacamole is utterly amazing. It's rich, bright green, peppered with red onion and cilantro, and mixed with visible chunks of avocado. The tortilla chips are thick, crispy, and likewise, house made. Fish tacos are hearty and delicious, stuffed with moist, flaky fish, and topped with cabbage and mango. Recently, the homemade ceviche was a blend of shrimp and white fish doused in a typical but lovable lime marinade and served with chips--an item which would certainly make me drive out of my way.
Keeping in line with the Portland shtick, Por Qué No uses meat and produce from local farms, and you can taste it in the freshness of the tacos. The carnitas taco is loaded with musky pork; the Porque Tinga Taco tops incredible shredded beef with a mild, smoky chipotle sauce. Carne Asada tacos are authentically simple, sprinkled with grilled onions, cilantro, and salsa. While you won't find a burrito on their menu, Por Qué No does offer a tasty mixed green salad topped with warm fried flautas (tortilla flutes) stuffed with veggies or fish and an uncompromisingly spicy tomatillo-avocado dressing.
Really, I have no complaints about Por Qué No other than it seems a little like a gentrified taqueria. White folk work the front of the house and entertain themselves by practicing Spanish with the yuppie customers, and Mexican folk work in the kitchen wearing T-shirts that sport the humiliating slogan, "I Love Tacos." Cars parked outside include VW buses strapped with kayaks and Subarus with bike racks, and muscley sunglass-clad surfer dudes feel free to roll into the restaurant without shirts. Granted, this casual style is refreshing and I'm never one to look away from a shirtless washboard stomach, but it all seems just a little too precious.
I prefer La Bonita's simple cafeteria-style booths and the fact that the people working the counter know my name. I like their amazing, deliciously dry and crispy pork and their fish tacos slathered with sour cream. I don't know, maybe I'm a traditionalist, maybe I'm prejudiced against honkified taquerias, or maybe I'm just loyal to my old haunts. Por Qué No is no doubt a great Mexican restaurant, it's just not--like La Bonita--a place where I feel entirely at home.