IT'S ALWAYS Christmas in Tacoville. Just hear me out. Every time I step up to the high window of a new truck and place my order for a trio of tacos in that lousy accent of mine, I have no idea what I'll get in return. I mean, I have an idea—it'll be beef parts or pork or chicken, seasoned and cooked in a specific way—but I don't really know what I'm going to get until the plate is handed over to me.
The feeling I get is Christmas morning anticipation, and every taco is a present just waiting to be opened. A treat. A gift. Sometimes you get what you ask for (or more than you asked for) and your heart thrills as you tear into the juicy barbacoa. Sometimes you're disappointed and have a hard time not taking it personally when the chicken bits are dry. Either way, it's the anticipation that matters. Well, that and the joy of tacos, which I believe have the power to bring peace on earth. I know it's July, but let me take an opportunity to say, "Feliz Navidad."
3423 SE Belmont
11 am-7:30 pm daily
Las Loncheritas is a charming little truck in a charming little hideout right along SE Belmont. The street has been in need of tacos, and tacos have arrived. However, the options are admittedly limited, not deviating from the standard: pollo (chicken), asada (steak), carnitas (pork), and pastor (marinated pork). This being Southeast Portland, there is also a bean and onion taco for the veg types.
These little gems aren't the best or the biggest for $1.50, but they are certainly decent little morsels. For my money I'd stick with the lovely tender pollo, or the just-as-tender asada with its nice chunks of steak. Pastor is also good, but the carnitas were a bit dry—a problem solved with a hot, smoky red sauce. Cilantro, onion, and lime standard.
SE 20th and Morrison
Tues-Sat noon-8 pm
Fresh vegan tacos without weird shit like soyrizo and tofu trying to pass as meat? Absolutely. The best part is that Treat Machine pulls off the feat so incredibly well, not from a cart or a truck, but from a strange Road Warrior-esque moped/taco-grill hybrid.
The name of the game is "fresh, fresh, fresh," with taco fillings that include mango, avocado, plantain, and yam. Making tortillas on site certainly doesn't hurt the cause.
The fleshy fruits and vegs make great centerpieces here. The avocado is creamy and fatty, the plantain is hefty and understated, and the mango is deeply tropical and minimally sweet. Combined with black beans, onion, cilantro, and tomato, these substantial tacos are made even better by killer hot sauces like piña colada, chipotle garlic, and coconut cilantro.
SE 11th and Clay
10 am-10 pm daily
Moctezuna Bros. has a couple of unique taco options I haven't seen before in my taco truck journeys. Picadillo is by far the best of these; it's beef cooked with raisins, almonds, potatoes, and olives. In a taco with cilantro and onions, the effect is simply luscious, with the nuttiness coming through strong alongside raisin sweetness. The potato adds heft and character that moves picadillo beyond your average meat filling. Plus, this is one big mother of a taco.
Bigger, though not quite as good, is the machaca taco combining beef with scrambled egg and cheddar. There is a lot topping the tortilla, enough to be worth the $2.25—a premium price when it comes to truck tacos—but I'd stick with the picadillo.
N Interstate and Killingsworth
9 am-6 pm daily
La Chiquita is by far my new favorite taco emporium. It has everything you could possibly want: a tent for shade, a jacked-up sign that reads "Vegan Lovers Welcome," and a whole host of standard meats, prepared incredibly well and doled out in very generous portions.
This sets a new taco standard. The asada is awesome, actually tasting of steak with a lovely grill char. The perfectly seasoned pollo tastes like thigh meat (more flavorful than chicken breast) and is just fatty enough. The barbacoa is tender and wonderfully juicy—a little sweetness from the meat is brought out with lime and pairs well with the bright tomatillo salsa.
But the mark of quality at La Chiquita is the amazing peanut sauce salsa. I've never seen the stuff anywhere else, and it is mind-blowing. That, big portions, and handfuls of cilantro and onion make it my taco heaven. Bless them.