Mexican food meca in Woodburn, OR (I-5 near Salem)
On our way back From Silver Falls SP we passed through a number of picturesque towns but it wasn't until we hit Woodburn that we said "wow!" This little enclave turned out to be home to some of the finest Mexican foods around. We counted at least five Mexican restaurant/bakery/grocery shops, but there were most likely many more.
We selected Salvador's Bakery for our lunch and were extremely pleased with our choice. We got some fabulous Sopes and Chile Relenos, but the highlights were the on-the-spot handmade tortillas and salsa bar. So many great sauces and salsas but the smokey red sauce that was so good I had to pick up a bunch of Chipoltes in an attempt to duplicate it at home. We didn't try the meat (Netphemera's family is veg) but I'm sure any carnivore would be pleased with the offerings. They had a full bakery pastry bar which I found adequate but similar to many other Pandarias.
405 North First Street
Woodburn, OR 97071
Across the street might be the real gem. A much smaller restaurant which seemed to specialize in seafood. Since we don't eat seafood we had to skip it but the place was packed, which is always a good sign.
Around the corner from Salvador's you'll find Morenita Tortilla factory. Stop in there and get a package of tostadas, cold tortillas and one package of hot tortillas (for eating right away). While these tortillas are of the machine-made variety, you see the machines making them and with a freshness you can taste. I think they also sell a variety of tacos and other take-out foods, but we didn't get anything else from there.
La Morenita Tortilleria
270 Grant Street
Woodburn, OR 97071
We also spied a place that had signs saying "Pizza" and "Mexican Products" but I don't think they made any "Mexican Pizza". There was another place that looked very promising but it seemed to be closed at the time we were there.
It's easy to get to. Just a few miles off of the Woodburn exit of I-5. Take the exit and head East (on the West side of the highway is the factory outlet mall). Follow the signs that say "Silver Falls Tour Route".
Unfortunately, the town has gone downhill! There are drug dealers in every corner of downtown. While I was walking around downtown I was asked at least 4 times if I wanted to buy any drugs or get a fake greencard/social security. The only place worth going is La Morenita, other than that I would stay away. Also, Salvadors is gone, as well as other businesses.
Thanks for the heads up. Hadn't seen that. I don't do too much looking around at Salvador's anymore since they limited their selection. They used to EASILY have the best chile selection around, both in types of chiles and in quality of chiles. (I'm talking about dried, primarily.) I need to see if a place in Salem has anything good. It's been a while since I explored Salem's offerings.
FYI, Yesenia's in Hillsboro, and possibly the one on Powell in Portland, has a couple mole pastes they sell by the pound that they make themselves.
After lunch we looked around the grocery store attached to Salvador's and picked up something pasty and dark in a plastic tub. I was hoping that it was some sort of mole sauce but there was no identifying marks or ingredient list on the label.
I took it home and prepared it the same as I would a jar of Dona Maria mole. The results were spectacular. It's the best mole I've ever had from a grocery store. Most likely it's the same sauce they use when preparing mole dishes at the restaurant. It's very reasonable at $4.50 a pound.
It's sitting on the shelf in the grocery section. You'll find a deli-style plastic tub with some dark chocalate-colored paste inside and a simle price/weight sticker on the top. If you ask them I'm sure they will show you where it is. (If you need any help preparing the sauce let me know or you can post/search on the main food boards)
Along with the tortillas, I would say this as a must-buy on your next stop in Woodburn.
We stumbled into Luis' a couple of weekends ago, after a soul-less (but necessary) stop at the outlet mall. (Suit for a wedding, Brooks Brothers, great price, fits perfectly, will last for years.)
Luis: Oh yum. You order at the counter, but the food is brought to you. I had pozole, available weekends only. My husband had several tacos. Large servings, low prices, many happy customers. Clean & bustling & large/varied menu.
Interesting cultural note: Almost all the customers were men.
Thanks for the tip on the fresh-tortilla place. We walked around town but didn't go down that side street.
Woodburn is indeed a gem of a town. I keep threatening my wife to take a job in Salem so that we can move there. The little plaza they've built is a nice addition, too. I wish they'd get the money for their gazebo so they can finish it.
Salvador's is my favorite, followed by Luis's. La Morenita actually provides tortillas for a lot of the taquerias around town. If you get a chance, Salvador's carnitas are often among the best I've ever had. Nice crispiness and subtle orange flavor. Very succulent. Sometimes they do spit-roasted al pastor also.
Both of the places across the street have changed owners several times. People may go there for the fish, but the stuff I've had was....fishy. I'm blanking on the name, but the place just another block east on the corner does a lunch buffet that's very popular, mainly because it's cheap.
Here are some photos of Salvador's and Luis's: