El Palenque Mexican Restaurant and Cantina Opening on 82nd Ave

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Tasty food and drink. Photo credit: El Palenque Mexican Restaurant and Cantina

Corvallis-based El Palenque Mexican Restaurant and Cantina is opening in the location of the shuttered The Original Taco House on 82nd Avenue. A liquor license application was the first clue (thanks to a tip on Facebook) of their impending arrival, and a little research confirmed the relationship of this El Palenque with the Corvallis location.

I spoke with Eduardo Mendoza, one of El Palenque’s owners, and he gave me some insight into their move to Portland. They’ve been open in Corvallis since 2017 and as La Roca in Albany since 2012 (making 82nd Avenue their third location) and have gotten a great reception from the communities there, and that has encouraged them to bring their own interpretation of Mexican cuisine to Portland, which they feel will welcome their style of food and hospitality. They actually considered Salem as a possible expansion location but in the end chose Portland.

The menu will be a mix of Tex-Mex and California-style Mexican food—think enchiladas, mole dishes, fajitas, carne asada, burritos, chile rellenos, with sides of refried beans and rice. Their ingredients will be made in-house, eschewing canned products for the most part. They also plan to work with local farmers and use local produce.

You’ll also find they use no lard in their beans (and other areas) as well, with the aim to create a healthier and tastier product. Some of the dishes will be gluten-free, too (whether or not they’ll have a dedicated fryer and cookspace is unclear). They also plan to offer seasonal dishes, so the menu will change a bit over the course of the year. I hope they bring their practice of making guacamole at the table to the Portland location (see this video).

Since Portlanders love their happy hours (myself included) I asked about that. It will likely go from 3-6pm with discounted apps, specials and drinks. Imported beer like Carta Blanca, Sol, and Tecate will be available and look for interesting flavors for their margaritas like tamarind, blood orange, and prickly pear; these are the kinds of ingredients you might find in Mexico, as opposed to the lime and strawberry options that are so popular in the US.

As for the look of the space, they’ve painted inside (exterior changes will have to wait until after the rainy season), which features bright blues and yellows with wood trim and terracotta tile. It will be a cheery place for sure, really nice during our dark winters. They are really happy to be in a building that has so much history in Portland and they feel good about becoming part of the community.

A little about The Original Taco House—it is regarded as one of the first Mexican restaurants in Oregon, opening back in the 1960s by the Waddle family. It expanded to five restaurants, then down to two, and the final one closed in December 2017. Locals in the Madison South/Roseway/Sumner neighborhoods have been curious about what’s happening with the 82nd/Klickitat building; now we know. It will be good to have vibrant neighbors there.

El Palenque refers to Palenque (AKA Lakamha), a Maya city state in the northern part of what is today’s state of Chiapas; it flourished in the 7th century, but ruins remain. Palenque also refers to a festival at the San Marcos National Fair, with art and music featuring Mexican and international artists who sing everything from pop to grupera, ranchera to ballads.

Look for El Palenque to open sometime in late January. Best of luck to Eduardo and the whole crew as they work toward their opening!

El Palenque Mexican Restaurant and Cantina (coming soon)
3255 NE 82nd Avenue, Portland
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Bridgetown Bites is written by Meg Cotner, a food loving freelance writer, editor and published author in Portland, OR.

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