Name: Esparza’s Tex Mex Cafe
Location: 2725 SE Ankeny Street Portland, OR 97214-1817
Contact information: 503.234.7909
Web address: None
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Cost: $10-$13 average entree cost
Reservation recommended: Not taken – show up early or late to avoid a wait
Good for: Tex-Mex in the Pacific Northwest
Insider tip: Love Tequila? Then love Esparza’s Tequila Shrine with more than 15 types of the stuff
Review: Esparza’s held down the Laurelhurst fort long before the wine bars arrived and continues to feed on its reputation of providing extra helpings of kitsch, booze and Tex-Mex options.
At first glance, the dozens of marionettes that hang from the ceiling look like voodoo dolls and the stuffed animals seem precariously close to falling on the 50s-style table and chair sets. The tables are packed and within 5 minutes a 10-minute wait grows to 25 as people perform contortion acts to slip into a spot near the door.
Thankfully, my group has snagged the last table in the place, at 7:30 on a Saturday night. A round of margaritas for all proves to be disappointing – it tastes like the frozen stuff I use from the grocery store, with none of the alcohol.
No worries, however, as we stuff our faces with excellent house-made chips and salsa and peruse the extensive menu.
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Esparza’s, named after the owner, doesn’t just offer your typical Mexican fare. Ostrich, smoked salmon and brisket are all on the menu. I ordered one of the cheapest entrees – vegetarian tostadas (approx. $9.50) – as there weren’t a whole lot of options for non-meat lovers.
There’s only so much you can do with tostadas, but I still hoped for fresh tostadas with generous portions of homemade guacamole and fresh, local veggies. Alas, it was not to be, but still a satisfactory offering, if a bit overpriced.
The rest of the group generally approved of their meals – salmon, chorizo and egg dishes (for those that are curious, no, the chorizo isn’t made in house).
Esparza’s is where to go for a fun, no-frills, tequila slamming night. Pearl district residents are better off going a few blocks down and curling up their noses at the suggestion of a merlot.