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About the author: Robyn Lee is the editor of A Hamburger Today and takes many of the photos for Serious Eats.
Chicharron preparado is a unique street snack from Mexico that is often hard to find, but pops up every so often during the summertime here in Queens. Chicharron preparado, or prepared chicharrones, are made with the large rectangular fried chicharron de harina, which is then topped with chopped cabbage, diced tomatoes, sour cream, cotija cheese, sliced avocados, cueritos (pickled pork rind slices), and hot sauce, usually Salsa Valentina. Okay, so it sounds weird, especially if you've never heard of half of the ingredients—but trust me, it's delicious. Underneath the 7 train at Junction Boulevard, there is a woman with an unamed cart who sells fresh chopped fruit (fruit picada) that she tops with chile, lime and salt.
As I was driving down 104th Street I thought I spied the words chicharron preparado in front of the restaurant—and so my very helpful husband ran out and ordered one, brought it back to the car, and snapped a phone picture of it all in the space of five minutes.
Viva Puebla's summer outdoor cart has much to offer, and the woman behind it is incredibly friendly. The chicharron was piled high with freshly chopped ingredients, and I know because I watched her chop it all. In front of this small restaurant, where I found the best gordita, is a stand that sells snacks, including chicharron preparado. So much care put into the preparation of the chicharron—and they really went crazy with the toppings. There are more places that sell chicharron preparado here and there, popping up one day, and gone the next—but if you do come across a small sign in front of a deli or restaurant that advertises them, just try it. NEWSDishonored 2 Coming November 11thMore news arriving at Bethesda's E3 ConferenceNEWSMighty No. Since 2008, I've been working with our writers, editors, and community to make Serious Eats a more dynamic and delicious place. Color accuracy of the monitor chip-sample is not guarenteed - monitor color accuracy and brightness vary.
Portland is often called "the city of transplants." Young people move to the Rose City for school, the low cost of living, the outdoorsy opportunities, the music scene, or just to live somewhere ever-so-slightly weirder than their hometown. Ironically, in coming to a town increasingly known for its food scene, those transplants often leave behind beloved food and drink from their hometown—it's why there are so many restaurants dedicated to regional American cooking, and why you can probably find a bar here that serves the cheap domestic lager from your part of the country. Building on the pedigree of his mid-scale Mexican restaurants Autentica and Mextiza, chef Oswaldo Bibiano opened this diminutive, brightly colored taco shack in a "micro-restaurant" development on NE Glisan Street that also features a burger joint, a vegetarian Indian food restaurant, and a meatball sub establishment.
Meats come served as tacos, ($1.50) on massive plates overflowing with rice and wonderfully lard-filled beans ($8), or wrapped up in enormous burritos ($6) with rice, beans, and pico de gallo. The only thing more colorful than the bright turquoise walls inside this hole-in-the-wall on SE 92nd Avenue might be the deep, fiery red hue of their posole ($10.99). The generous hunks of pork shoulder come apart with ease, and what fat hasn't already dissolved in the broth will do so the instant it hits your tongue. Nick Zukin might be best known as half of the pastrami-slinging Kenny and Zuke's team, but he's also a well-traveled and researched Mexican food enthusiast. A recent visit yielded excellent chicken cloaked in a deep and layered chocolate mole, as well as lengua with cactus and potatoes simmered in a bright tomatillo salsa.
This Foster Road taqueria is a bright spot on a stretch of road that seems to only get more depressing as it carves its way southeast. This trendy little Airstream trailer is parked in what's easily the highest-quality food cart pod in the city (Pod 28), and they make some of the best tortas around. The average Portlander probably doesn't have a ton of reasons to go to Gresham, but one visit to this immense indoor Hispanic flea market on SE Stark might be enough to change that.
As good as the barbacoa undoubtedly is, don't be afraid to branch out: this is also the only place I've found serving quesadillas de huitlacoche (pictured at top, $8), the corn smut prized as a delicacy in Mexico. The outer-west suburb of Hillsboro—affectionately known as "Hillsburrito" by many Portlanders—has plenty of destination-worthy taquerias, and Ochoa's might be the best of the bunch.
The umami-rich, juicy and tender braised lengua is the best meat I've tried there; it's also the only time I've heard someone say "it's like kissing a cow" and mean it as a compliment. If the name of this inner SE taqueria doesn't immediately sound the gringo-alarm, then the interior certainly will—replete with toy robots, cartoons on the TV, and a kitschy decor that straddles the line between tiki bar, taco shack, and hobby shop, no one would mistake this joint for a beacon of authenticity.
For my money, though, the restaurant's other must-order is the Super Nacho platter ($10.75). One of the stands I wrote about last week, which sells homemade nieves, also offers chicharron preparado as a summer special.
In some Spanish-speaking countries it isn't just pork skin, but pork belly; in other countries it refers to any sort of meat, fried and crisp.


The chicharron was freshly fried and crisp; the tomato slices were perfect—a really ripe, red, fresh summer tomato.
But again, they used lettuce instead of cabbage, barely any avocado, and not many cueritos at all. It took some time for my chicharron to be prepared, since she threw old ones out and fried a new one just for my order. Lots of cabbage, tomatoes, a half of an avocado; cheese, cream, a good amount of chewy cueritos, and hot sauce. When I did the gordita search back in March, I noticed people eating chicharrones, so they may be one of the few places that sells them year-round. The crisp bottom layer was piled high with handfuls of cabbage, three heaping spoonfuls of pickled cueritos; some of the jalapenos and carrots from the pickling mixture got tossed in there as well, an added plus. Originally from southern California, now a Brooklyn dweller who's always trawling for a ripe avocado. Oh, and the food: Portland has a seriously killer culinary scene at prices that make eating out in New York or LA seem like extortion. Some regional favorites are harder to find than others, though: many Portlanders, myself included, are originally from California, and one of the most common complaints I hear from those folks is that there isn't any decent Mexican (or Mexican-American) food in this town.
There's plenty of good Mexican cooking in Portland, but sometimes you have to look a little farther afield. Standouts include rich, earthy beef barbacoa, braised until tender and pulled apart, and carnitas ($2 each) that, while not as crisp as I might have liked, displayed the exceptionally porky juiciness that can only come from cooking meat in its own fat.
Carnitas and cochinita pibil—Yucatan pulled-pork in a spicy citrus and achiote marinade—are my go-to orders at this counter hidden in the back of an otherwise unremarkable Mexican grocer, but I have yet to try something I didn't like. Pork shoulder in a mildly spicy chili verde sauce of tomatillos and green chilies, chicken in dark brown Oaxacan mole negro, and marinated cactus salad are all equally worth your time.
It's a no-frills version of the dish that satisfies simply: a massive bowl of pork and hominy in an intense, fatty, red chili-fueled behemoth of a broth served with diced onion, sliced radish, and lemon, so you can garnish as you eat.
Plump, starchy hominy kernels anchor a hearty soup that all but the most gargantuan appetites would have trouble finishing.
He opened Mi Mero Mole back in late 2011 to highlight guisados, the stews and stir-fries common to Mexico City street food stands. But the real stars of the meal were meat-free: rajas con crema (roasted poblano, Anaheim chiles and onions in a seriously rich sour cream sauce) and a vegan stew of mushrooms, potatoes, and kale in an earthy red chili colorado sauce flavored with hot dried chilies and garlic.
The massive menu offers everything from tacos to hamburgers and Denver omelets, but it's (unsurprisingly) best to stick to the more traditional fare. The crowd favorite carnitas torta ($8) is a stellar sandwich, with layers of tender shredded pork shoulder, cotija, avocado, cabbage and zingy pickled red onions crammed into a light yet sturdy torta roll from Vancouver, Washington's Veracruz Bakery.
These are simply some of the best lard-free refried pintos I've ever had, sporting the perfect textural contrast between firm whole beans and starchy, creamy crushed ones.
Not only can you find everything from underwear to jewelry inside, they also boast one of the best traditional taquerias on the east side of the river tucked into the side of the building. The slightly sweet and earthy fungus is sauteed with onions and healthy corn kernels, and stuffed with queso fresco into a gigantic pillowy handmade corn tortilla. I'd heard tales of the al pastor, but I haven't yet managed to catch them on a day when the trompo (spinning vertical spit) is up and running. Tacos ($1.35) come out automatically topped with onion and cilantro, ready to be doused in one of the many salsas available, of which the aguacate, a bright, medium-heat avocado-based sauce, was the standout. But the name is actually a reference to the kitchen's trompo, which is responsible for Robo Taco's claim to fame: al pastor.
These nachos are anchored by fantastic tortilla chips, which are magically ever-so-slightly greasy yet perfectly crisp, not to mention big and sturdy enough to stand up to a deluge of cheese, pintos, guacamole, and crema. They're the perfect meal for when your head is pounding, you need grease and starch pronto, and you've only got some leftover chips, salsa, and a couple eggs in the fridge.
In Mexico, there is real chicharron, deep fried pork rinds, and then there is chicharron de harina—deep fried snacks that are made from flour, not pork skin. Then there's the softness and acidity from the tomatoes, smooth chunks of avocado, salt from the powdered cheese, chewy bits of pickled pork, vinegar and heat from the hot sauce, and then the cooling and tangy sour cream finish.
The first time I saw the sign, on a weekday afternoon, I orderd one, but she didn't have the ingredients yet. If I hadn't had any great ones, I might not know any better, and it would be a good snack—but I was spoiled for lackluster topping techniques by the next two places. Soggy, chewy, stale chicharrones are not appetizing, so I appreciated that—it was worth the long wait.


My only complaint is that the tomato was white and mealy, which, in the middle of August, is a shame.
Lots of cheese, lots of cream, beautifully ripe tomatoes, creamy avocados, and a liberal amount of hot sauce on top of the already full plate: I had more of a meal than a snack on my hands.
Go on a rainy day, settle into the deep booths, linger over this warm and delicious meal, and watch the telenovela or soccer game on TV. While the latter might seem like a Latino take on a hippy commune's curry for a crowd (kale isn't the first thing that comes to mind when I think about authentic Mexican cooking), Zukin's not simply pandering to dietary restrictions—you'd find most of the other ingredients throughout the Mexican capital.
You can understand why the folks at Guero go out of their way for these rolls—the perfectly crisp crust gives way easily to a soft, slightly chewy interior that makes the ideal base for a torta. They're complemented by an outstanding roasted serrano and poblano crema for a killer meat-free sandwich. The specialty is lamb barbacoa,, marinated with chilies and garlic and slow-roasted in banana leaves until tender and juicy.
It would take years to work my way through everything they offer, but $1 tacos and a $7 burrito plate are a good enough place to start.
The delicious al pastor is served particularly browned, and the carnitas get an extra fatty kick from bits of pork skin mixed in with the crispy shoulder. While the pork's marinade might not be quite up to what I've found out in Hillsboro, the texture is unrivaled, thanks to plenty of time roasting on the trompo before getting a nice crisping on the grill just prior to serving. This is a structural marvel of a dish in which every chip—every chip!—gets in on a piece of the action. So if you're hesitant to believe me when I say that the best version in town comes from a mid-scale Mexican restaurant with modernist decor on trendy SE Division Street (from Chef Kelly Meyers of Nostrana fame, no less), I'll understand why.
They have a similar crunchy, bubbly texture, and are found in many shapes and sizes; pinwheels, small squiggly lines, small rectangles, and large rectangles. A few days later I went back, and she did, so I happily ate my chicharron while waiting for the train. There was so much stuff on the crispy chicharron that if I hadn't shared it, it would've gotten too soggy halfway through. El Cazador's versions are heartier than many I've had, and come slathered with savory refried beans, covered with your choice of meat (carnitas and al pastor are worthy options, both sporting beautifully crisped crusts and no shortage of fatty pork juices), topped with shredded lettuce and chopped tomato for a hint of freshness, and drizzled with tangy crema and salty cotija cheese. Order the lamb with light and pliant handmade tortillas ($2 per taco), and garnish with cilantro and onion from the generous tray brought to your table.
Tacos come with generous portions of meat on slightly larger-than-average tortillas, with onion, cilantro, and lime on the side. Hispanic grocery stores with carnicerias and taquerias in the back are everywhere in California, but they're comparatively rare in the Portland area—I'm glad to have found this one. Order the nachos topped with al pastor, and you'll be glad these gringos chose to set up shop so close to all your favorite bars.
But a dish like this—not to mention its $12 price tag—is a far cry from a poor-man's hangover cure.
I'm passionate about Android and I'm all in for Google, but I don't stray from Apple nor Windows, so I'll keep you up to date on everything mobile (or stationary). This week I found four places that prepare chicharron con todo, and they won't be around for long—so I tried them all. But instead of cabbage was iceberg lettuce, which is crisp and fresh-tasting, but lacks that bite and crunch. Grab a laughably oversized Styrofoam cup of whatever aguas frescas they have that day, maybe even get a pound of carnitas to-go, and don't forget to check out the vast array of Mexican snacks and pantry staples on your way out.
Freshly fried homemade tortilla wedges get simmered in a chile de arbol salsa until slightly softened, retaining just enough crunch to support pillowy scrambled eggs with chorizo.
The burritos are carefully filled with your choice of meat and the usual rice, refried pintos, and pico de gallo; as if that wasn't enough food, you get even more rice, cotija-sprinkled refried beans, guac, and some ancillary roughage on the side.
Covered in crema and cotija, and served with both tomatillo and avocado salsas, this is a brunch dish for those fancy-booze hangovers.



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