The former home of Paella Seafood on Forest Avenue will become a global taco spot. Photo by Meredith Goad

The owner of a Middle Eastern grab-and-go spot in Portland and his brother plan to open Loco Taco, “a fusion taqueria,” by the end of May.

Ahmed Abbas, who owns Dina’s Cuisine on Forest Avenue, and Mohammed Abbas are opening the new restaurant nearby at 849 Forest Ave., in the space that used to be Paella Seafood. That restaurant was closed by a fire in September of 2021 and has since moved to a new location. The old space has been repaired, and Ahmed Abbas said that he and his brother are excited to open a global taco restaurant. Ahmed will be the manager, his brother the owner.

“I know how to cook tacos very well, even better than Middle Eastern cuisine,” an enthusiastic Ahmed Abbas said. “We love tacos. I like Mexican food even more than the Arabic,” maybe, he added, in part because he’s around Middle Eastern food all the time.

Loco Taco will offer takeout and also have room to seat about 10 people inside, as well as benches, likely, for another 15 to 20 outside.

Though the restaurant is small, the menu will be large, Abbas said. In addition to tacos (on a choice of tortilla), it will serve quesadillas, fajitas, nachos and burritos. Filling choices will include classic Mexican tacos and an array of global flavors, such as chicken tikka masala, teriyaki, falafel, Greek gyro tacos, shawarma, cheeseburger and more creative flavors. There is something for vegetarians, too: fried tofu or fried vegetable tacos.

The topping choices will be equally broad, Abbas said. Among some 30 different options are the traditional ones like shredded cabbage and pico de gallo, as well as more unusual items items like pineapple, corn, olives and peanut-ginger sauce. The base price for a taco will be $3.99; some add-ons are free, others will add “pennies” to the price, he said.


Loco Taco will not serve pork, “so all communities can eat,” including Jews and Muslims who strictly keep the dietary rules of their respective cultures. He said he got the idea for the restaurant when he was making himself a shawarma sandwich one day but was out of the traditional flatbread. He reached for a tortilla instead. After that, he often played around with the concept, ignoring teasing from his staff. “I kept thinking about it in my mind, until the day came, I said (to myself), ‘Let me make it true.’ ”

A draft website for Loco Taco also credits “an old gentleman from Mexico ‘Papa Alfonso Gonzales,'” a talented cook who once sold street tacos. Gonzales invited Mohammed Abbas over for a meal at his home in Mexico and “all chatted about the food (which) was the main topic since it was a common international language that everyone can speak around that small table in the kitchen.”

Abbas said his own background is a jumble of Kurdish, Turkish, Yemen, Iraqi, Iranian, Shi’ite and Sunni, so variety and diversity come naturally to him.

To start, Loco Taco plans to be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

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