Last Friday, the square dance of COIVD risk levels had diners do-si-do-ing outside and onto the city's patios and decks. This Friday Portlanders will once again be allowed back indoors, in limited numbers, as the county moves from "extreme risk" category down to "high risk" once again. It's a little hard to keep track of, and a real obstacle for businesses struggling to reopen. But if we're eating outside until Friday and beyond (!), at least we're having the weather for it!
I've biked past Güero's streetside deck, off NE 28th, at golden hour and appraised its glory—filled to capacity with jubilant pods of people chowing down on tortas and raising mezcal margaritas. Something about Güero's design and approach feels cool, like they meant to build a big patio NE Davis, no biggie. It's such a nice place you might forget we're under restrictions at all.
Güero has existed off NE 28th, in one way or another, since 2013. Megan Sanchez and Alec Morrison opened their Güero No. 1 Tortas cart in Pod 28, located a little to the south. In 2017, they moved into their current brick and mortar, and word spread quickly about the chips (the chips!), the glorious application of guacamole, and the carrot-habanero salsa that won't quit, but leaves your face intact.
Their tortas are massive sandwiches holding seasoned offerings like carnitas or potato pancake, topped with onion, cilantro, cabbage, pickled onion, and more—delivered on toasted telera bread. But Güero is perhaps best known for their Ahogada, which takes inspiration from sandwiches found in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Pork, habanero slaw, and cilantro are piled into grilled bolillo bread (it's sort of like a baguette) and then the whole sandwich is smothered in achiote tomato sauce. It's a messy but wonderful experience.
At all times Güero is generous with the avocado, but especially on the Cart Bowl, which comes bursting with cotija cheese, poblano crema, pickled onion, radish, cilantro, and ensalada fresca on a bed of lime rice. Topping all that are thick slices of avocado and whatever else you ordered—choices include carnitas, egg, or tamarind tomatoes.
For having such a bustling outdoor dining set-up, Güero is still staffed well enough that their takeout is ready in a speedy 20-40 minutes, depending on the time of day. The site even notes their busiest times. Güero is also a delivery favorite. Although I fondly remember the torta cart, I must admit that I became reacquainted with the restaurant after seeing a friend's takeout and envying it deeply. It lives up to the hype. Everything you've heard about their deliciousness is true.
Güero, 200 NE 28th, (503) 887-9258, guerotortas.com