Tacos at Portland’s recently opened Nosh Taco in Canal Plaza, from left, cheeseburger, carnitas, birria. Photo by Tim Cebula

I’d been looking forward to trying Nosh Taco ever since it opened late last year in that funny little concrete and glass oval building at 5 Canal Plaza.

The building last hosted Copper Branch, a Canada-based vegan restaurant chain that opened there in 2019 and closed up shop in fall of 2022. The team behind Portland’s CBG Bar & Grill and Nosh Kitchen Bar launched Nosh Taco in early December, hoping to bring some life to a “boring bank plaza” and create a new lunch venue for Portland’s 9-to-5ers, even as their ranks have shrunk since the pandemic and the work-from-home movement took hold.

Inside, the space is upbeat and bright, with plenty of natural light flowing in through the walls of windows that wrap around most of the building. The decor, like a giant image of surfers on the far wall and overhead lamps with woven straw shades, gives the restaurant a subtle – but not kitschy – beach bum vibe.

Nosh Taco had only a handful of customers when I arrived around 1 p.m. on a Wednesday, though others trickled in while I dined. I sat at one of the perimeter tables, with wooden butcher block-style tabletops; the attractive blonde wood curved bar seats another 20 or so.

A server came to my table within two minutes with water in a hefty rocks-style glass and a menu. The streamlined menu features about five kinds of tacos, with the same proteins also offered as tortas. I opted for a carnitas taco ($4.50), a standard taco order of mine, as well as a cheeseburger taco ($4.50), which I’d never tried, but figured was something the creative comfort food whizzes behind Nosh Kitchen and CBG would probably nail.

I also was fortunate to come on a day when birria tacos ($5) were the special (in more ways than one), so a birria rounded out my trio of tacos.


My food arrived in under 10 minutes. The corn tortillas are not house-made, and while they weren’t as tender or supple as some, they had a pleasing chew and plenty of bold corn flavor from yellow masa harina.

The carnitas taco was filled with succulent shredded pork shoulder. The pork was meaty yet mild and slightly undersalted, though it had a faintly fruity sweetness that kept it interesting, as if it had been braised with pineapple. A fresh, crisp pico de gallo and vibrant cilantro added bright accent notes.

The cheeseburger taco was essentially an excellent smashed burger with lettuce, tomato and special sauce on corn tortillas. Personally, I think I prefer my cheeseburgers on buns, but it’s a fun and tasty dish, and good to know the option is out there.

The birria was the showstopper. Birria is made from beef marinated in a vinegar-based adobo, then braised in adobo broth. The griddled tortillas are filled with the shredded beef and melted oaxacan cheese, gooey like mozzarella, then topped with chopped white onion and fresh cilantro. Wonderfully salty cotija cheese, reminiscent of Parmesan, coated the sides of the tortillas.

Birria tacos traditionally come with a cup of beef braising liquid for dunking the taco, a kind of “Mexican dip” beef sandwich. The Nosh Taco liquid is what puts the birria tacos over the top.

The menu called the liquid “consommé,” which strictly speaking would be clarified, but that’s nit-picking. The braising liquid, or jus, was opaque, rich and packed with savory umami flavor, with a slightly thickened consistency that helped it cling to the tacos.

The jus was so good I couldn’t resist dunking my other tacos in it too. They both benefited, though it made the moderately spicy birria taco absolutely sing.

I would have enjoyed my food at Nosh Taco even if it weren’t birria day, and will surely be back for a workday lunch or a casual dinner to try some of the other tacos on the regular menu, like fried hake, buffalo chicken and the vegetarian option. But the next time I hear it’s birria day, I’m dropping what I’m doing and heading straight to Canal Plaza, because they’re too good to miss.

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