In the Portland food world, sometimes it seems as if everyone has the same idea at the same time, and it’s just a race to see who can fulfill their vision first.

Tacos provide the latest example. Everyone talked about how there was no place in greater Portland you could get a good taco, and then El Rayo opened up, followed by Gogi (Korean/Mexican fusion) and Taco Trio in South Portland. The latest, although more upscale than the other spots, is Zapoteca.

Now we have Taco Escobarr, from the folks who brought us Nosh Kitchen Bar. Here, you can mix and match tortilla shells and fillings to your heart’s content and fill out your order with sides of rice, pinto beans, pickled chiles, guacamole, Mexican corn on the cob or pickled vegetable slaw.

Tacos are just $3 each — still not as cheap as foodies claim they are in California, but probably the best price you’ll find around here. Shells include a soft handmade corn tortilla, a crispy corn tortilla and a deep-fried “puffy” tortilla. Fillings include beef picadillo, carne asada, braised pork, braised chicken and vegetables. You can buy three tacos for $7.50 if you stick to just one kind of shell.

I checked out Taco Escobarr one day with a friend, and we ordered a plate of three tacos but went with the $3 each option so we could mix it up a little.

We ordered the soft shell filled with chicken, which also came with some onion, cilantro and queso; the crispy taco with the carne asada, which also came with onion, cilantro and queso; and a puffy taco with pork, lettuce, tomato and cilantro. We also ordered a plate of fish tacos, three for $10 (or $4 each), on soft shells.


We started with the fish tacos, which were filled with hake and pickled slaw drizzled with crema fresca. They were light and delicious.

My personal favorite, though, was the puffy taco filled with pork. The pork was tender and had a lot of flavor all on its own. While the puffy shell was a bit messy, I really liked the texture.

Food preferences can, of course, be really subjective. I’m a texture person, and prefer when the flavor and texture work together to add to the overall experience.

But my lunch companion viewed the shell as more of a vehicle for the filling. She preferred the soft shell because, she said, it doesn’t detract from the flavor of the fillings.

The meat in the carne asada taco was not tough, but it wasn’t tender, either. The crispy shell that enveloped it was the taco shell we liked the least. It was incredibly greasy and yet somehow still not crispy.

We tried an empanada special later made with the same shell. It was much less greasy, and I got a hint of crispiness around the edges that provided an inkling of what the kitchen is going for — but it still wasn’t a crispy taco. (And the filling was bland.)


You can make your taco order an entree with rice and beans by adding $5 to your bill. There are a couple of salads on the menu for $10 each, as well as “Kilo Burritos” for $10 that include your choice of filling wrapped in a flour tortilla with rice, beans, avocado, onions, crema, tomato, queso and salsa. (Fish burritos are $12.)

Each order includes your choice of cream fresca or a red (mild), green (hot) or habanero (stupid) salsa. Extra sauce is 50 cents each.

What’s up with that? Why are so many places charging extra for a tiny cup of extra salsa? At one place, this policy is actually driving customers away, as I’ve heard many people say they will not return because they feel they are being nickel-and-dimed.

We tried the red and green salsas. I like heat, but not so much that it overwhelms the flavor of the food. I loved the hot green salsa; don’t be afraid to try it, because it’s not too hot. Actually, it made me want to go back and try the “stupid” salsa.

Taco Escobarr also has a bar and a great-looking cocktail menu, which we didn’t try because we had to go back to work and didn’t want to fall asleep at our desks.

I would go back to Taco Escobarr in a heartbeat because the food here is, overall, very good. It’s a great new addition to downtown Portland, and a perfect alternative to fast food for those late-night munchies.

The Features staff of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram anonymously sampled meals for about $7.


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