A couple months ago I was contacted by Nick Zukin, local restaurateur and founder of the PortlandFood.org web forum, about a new Mexican place he had in the works. His Mi Mero Mole opened last week selling tacos de guisado, a style of taco less familiar in the US than the grilled meats found at most taquerias. Here’s how he explains it in a Portland Monthly interview:
I was familiar with tacos de guisado—or at least guisados—prior to my trips to Mexico City. Guisados or guisos are Mexican stews and stir-fries. Many large Mexican supermarkets and carnicerias (Mexican butchers and meat markets) will carry some in the United States, and a decent number of taquerias have one or two. One of my favorite places in PDX, Tortilleria y Tienda de Leon out on the edge of Gresham, specializes in them. But it wasn’t until I went to Mexico City that I realized the variety of guisados available or realized how strong a tradition there was for places devoted to them.
Guisados feature more prominently in Mexico City than any other place I’ve been in Mexico. I think it’s because guisados are really home cooking-style dishes. The people in DF, like other very urban cities, probably don’t cook at home as often and so these fondas and puestos serving a variety of home cooking probably sprung up. I rarely have seen a street stand elsewhere, even in large cities like Puebla and Guadalajara, selling tacos de guisados like they do in Mexico City. Some of my favorite stands in DF sell a dozen or more choices. Other than Super Cocina in San Diego, I don’t know of any place in the United States that really offers the type of variety you would see in Mexico City.
One of the things that will set Mi Mero Mole apart, even from really good places like de Leon, will be the variety. I already have several dozen recipes developed and expect to rotate through* 50 to 100 different guisados* in the first year. I’m focusing on dishes that are common in Mexico that you don’t see here enough and interesting dishes that you would really only find in Mexico—and a lot of those dishes are vegetarian and vegan.
This was a new style of taco for me, and having now tried about a dozen of the guisados I am a fan. I’m even ordering some of the vegetarian dishes, which if you know me at all is a pretty solid endorsement.
Mi Mero Mole is all about the tacos, but the place does have a liquor license, which is where I came in. Nick asked me to help select the spirits and create a few cocktails. We were guided by two considerations on this. One was that all of the cocktails would be made with only agave or sugar cane based spirits. The second was that the drinks should all be relatively easy to execute, so that they can be made quickly by multi-tasking staff.
Among the drinks we came up with are the Maldonado Punch, a refreshing mixture of tequila, hibiscus, grapefruit, and other ingredients; El Chingroni, our take on the Negroni with tequila, Aperol, and sweet vermouth; and the Plantain Margarita, which substitutes spiced plantain syrup for the orange liqueur. However my favorite drink on the menu is a last-minute addition we came up with, the Señor Brown:
1 1/2 oz Del Maguey Mezcal Vida
Sidral Mundet sour apple soda
Build in an ice-filled pint glass, stir gently, and serve. Sidral Mundet makes a really tasty sour apple soda that mixes well with the smoky mezcal. The assertiveness of the spirit and the sweetness of the soda balance each other nicely. Plus you have to like a bright green cocktail that actually tastes good.
Mi Mero Mole is at 5026 SE Division in Portland, Ore. It’s open Tuesday-Thursday from 5-9, Friday-Saturday 5-10. Go check it out.
[Photo courtesy of Allison Jones, who writes up a full opening report at Portland Monthly and makes the Señor Brown look ten times better than I could have done with my own camera.]