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[PDX] La Catrina (Tortas Gigantes) and Morelia Taco Truck

e
extramsg Nov 19, 2005 04:14 AM

Was down south on 82nd at Linens and Things looking for an inexpensive but decent food mill. No luck. (Any suggestions? Didn't like the one at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Trying to keep it under $50.) Wanted to get a cheap, quick bite and Trillium's rec was recent in my memory so when I saw a taco truck advertising Tortas Gigantes, I quickly pulled in.

The name of the truck is actually La Catrina. They do indeed have giant tortas, and that's their specialty, so Tortas Gigantes may actually be a better name. They also sell quesadillas, tacos, burritos, and tamales. I did get two tacos, asada and cabeza, both of which were good, but I was more interested in the tortas.

They have dozens of combinations of ingredients and most are priced at $7.50. I went ahead and ordered the kitchen sink of tortas, the torta cubana, with tomato, white and yellow cheese, ham, hot dog, milanesa, and fried egg. They had a salsa bar where I added a very spicy pureed guacamole, sour cream, and lettuce.

There were two further choices with the cubana, the cubanita for $6 and the full sized torta for $10. I wussed out and went for the smaller version. Even that was quite large. Bigger than tortas at most places. About as big as my head.

Good bread. The fillings were typical, but tasted great all together. The milanesa wasn't chewy. I'd definitely get one again. One of the better tortas I've had around PDX.

The cart was located at Bob's Auto and Gas (only $2.15/gallon), just south of Johnson Creek Blvd on 82nd. It was open at 7pm, the time we were there, tonight.

My wife was with me and because of the spicy guacamole didn't each as much of the sandwich as I expected. So we headed north about half a mile or so and quickly hit the Morelia taco truck I've reported on before. Good tacos as before. But the noteworthy thing was that they also had pambazos, champurrado, and arroz con leche. Pambazos are tortas where the bun has been dipped in chile sauce, like enchiladas, and then griddled. Champurrado is chocolate atole. Atole is a warm drink, essentially water or milk thickened with masa (the paste used to make tortillas). Arroz con leche can either rice pudding or, in this case, a thickish rice and milk drink. We got the champurrado and it was a pretty good version. Quite creamy in texture with a milk chocolate flavor.

I hate pictures of myself, but you gotta have a sense of the size of the "small" torta. (My wife loves to take a picture of me in these situations so she can show me how ridiculous I look.) This one was half-eaten:

Link: http://www.extramsg.com/modules.php?set_albumName=album481&op=modload&name=gallery&file=index&include=view_album.php

Image: http://www.extramsg.com/albums/album4...

  1. dogthis Mar 1, 2010 02:10 PM

    We Love La Catrina, but just learned they left their 82nd Ave. location!! Does anyone know where they are now? Gotta find them. They're my favorite Tacos al Pastor.

    3 Replies
    1. re: dogthis
      extramsg Mar 1, 2010 06:58 PM

      No, they're still there, just a couple blocks away on Lamphier. They also have a second location near 148th & Stark. They also, I believe are in the process or have opened a restaurant on N. Killingsworth. btw, those photo links above are out of date. Photos of their great tortas can be found here:

      http://www.portlandfood.org/index.php...

      1. re: extramsg
        s
        StarkRaving Mar 1, 2010 11:01 PM

        Hi, this cart sounds great. Can you be more specific about the location? I'm not familiar w/ Lamphier...

        1. re: StarkRaving
          extramsg Mar 2, 2010 01:45 PM

          There's a map at the link, I believe. It's south of Johnson Creek.

    2. k
      Koner Jun 13, 2006 08:10 PM

      hell yeah La Catrina is the best tacos i ever had. if theres a place that beats the taco's for 1$ or under ill bow to them. ive turned Numerous people onto La Catrina. they know me as a regular. so i isually just pull up and they start making my food first if theres a line. i even went they like 5 mins b4 closing and they broke the shit out that was already put away and hooked me up. i love that they stay open till like 1-2 am everyday.

      1. t
        trillium Nov 21, 2005 04:06 PM

        I'm glad you found the truck, it sounds like the same one we've gone to, except I don't remember anything about La Catrina (but I doubt that there could be two torta gigante trucks in the same place). The partner was in 7th heaven when he got the sausage torta and it turned out to be 3 hotdogs split and fried and then put on one of the full size tortas. It was during avacado season, so the guy put on a sliced up avacado too (because there wasn't enough fat with the fried dogs and bun and cheese and mayonesa already). I go with the more dainty ham and egg one. And Jill, if you don't put any salsa on it, it's just a really tasty warm sandwich.

        At the truck near 33rd and Powell they've started serving atole with oaxacan chocolate (but they just call it atole). I haven't tried it because it's always sold out when I get there. He's also going to start making menudo, pozole and albondigas. The tacos and sopes are better when he makes them (vs the son), but still pretty good any time (especially the carnitas with buche and the al pastor, I've never tried the chicken and the carne asada is my least favorite). On Friday he had us try a new salsa cacahuate (peanut) that had roasted peanuts, pasilla and guajillo chillies and raw garlic all pureed smooth.

        regards,
        trillium

        1 Reply
        1. re: trillium
          e
          extramsg Nov 21, 2005 04:16 PM

          It looks like they're set up pretty solidly right now. They had a somewhat heated covered area behind the taco truck (I'm talking about La Catrina/Tortas Gigantes) with their salsa bar, etc. They were advertising champurrado, but when I tried to order some they said they didn't have any. Don't know if they were just out, or if it's just on the board even though they're not selling it. The name is on the front window of the truck in the calligraphic decals that our Chicano brothers love. My wife pointed it out to me. It's also underneath the painted sign that says "Tortas Gigantes Tacos" but is covered by an aviso warning about car parking.

          Eventually I'll have a car again and be able to get around more and check out that one on Powell. I'd like to do a report on taco trucks in Portland proper. (Too many out west to do as one report.)

        2. p
          PDXNaomi Nov 20, 2005 08:50 PM

          Nick "The Boa"
          Impressive, in any case.

          1. j
            Jill-O Nov 19, 2005 04:04 PM

            Yep, Bob's gas is often the cheapest I can find on that side of the river. Too bad Mexican carts don't thrill me...although it's a good lookin' torta, fer sure...

            Good picture Lisa!! ;o)

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jill-O
              e
              extramsg Nov 19, 2005 10:22 PM

              Went by there today on our way down to Woodburn (filled up the tank and had lunch at Jin Wah). Went down 3 cents to $2.12 in one day!

              I still haven't found anything besides the pho at Jin Wah that's really worth getting. So if anyone has suggestions....

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