Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Portland Restaurant: Tamale Boy

What: Tamale Boy
Where: 1764 NE Dekum St
When: Tues-Fri 11am-9pm-ish, Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 10am-3pm
Honeys Heart: Cochinita Pibil 

Oh to be young again. Well, younger back when we still had "summers" and our parents helped us pay for stuff. My cousins, Kendall and Reed, stopped in Portland towards the end of their month-long (yep, month-long!) sibling road trip around the country and of course we needed to take them to a Portland hot spot. I still hadn't made it to Tamale Boy so we decided to make the trek to NoPo.

Tamale Boy has you order at the register, get a number, and take a seat. The five of us took some time with the menu but finally settled on some food and drinks. Adam kept it classic with a Margarita ($9) and I went for a sweet and spicy El Diablo ($9) with jalapeƱo vodka and mango puree. Both were refreshing, but Adam's won the vote for favorite by the rest of the table. I still stand by my choice. I'm a sucker for mango. 

Kendall's friend from USC, Ian, went for the Tamarind Whiskey Sour ($9) with Burnside Bourbon, tamarind puree, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg whites, which was also good, but almost too tart. Surprising coming from me, I know!

For food, Reed opted for two Carne Asada Tacos ($2.50) and the Cochinita Pibil ($4.50) a Oaxaquenos tamale, aka a banana leaf wrapped tamale, with slow roasted pork cooked in citric juices and spices. Adam and I got both of these items also and were definitely happy about it. The banana leaf wrapped tamale seemed to have less masa than the corn husk wrapped versions which I thought provided a bit more balance. The tacos were also a favorite. Adam could have had more of those!

There were a couple special tamales on the board and Kendall decided to go for the Tamale con Kale and Brussels ($9) wrapped in kale with brussels sprouts and capers on the side. I definitely liked the kale wrap on this tamale, but at $9 it was a bit pricey compared to the other options and probably not as filling. If you're looking for "bang for your buck" I would probably stick to the main menu.

Ian opted for another one of the specials, the Quesadilla. I don't think you can ever really go wrong with a quesadilla and this was no exception. The meat inside was flavorful, and a little spicy, and it came with a verde sauce and a spicy sauce.

It already sounds like a lot of food, but we also shared a few tamales from the Norteno Tamales ($3.50) section of the menu, or cornhusk wrapped tamales. To really experience the menu we went with one of each. A Chile Verde with pork cooked in a green tomatillo sauce, a Tinga de Pollo with chicken cooked with onion, garlic, and chipotle in adobe, and a Rajas with roasted pasilla peppers, onion, corn kernals, and queso fresco.

The Chile Verde was my favorite from this bunch (the tamale on the far left of the photo below). The tomatillo sauce made it the most moist of the three, while the other two were a little dry.

Not pictured, we also ordered the Guacamole ($8) that claimed to be made tableside. It wasn't, and for $8 it was not nearly as big as I wanted it to be. I'd skip that next time. Overall, the patio was great and the food and drinks were good. If you navigate the menu so you don't spend so much on guac and specials, it's also a pretty affordable option. I'd definitely recommend it on these warm summer nights!