People who live on the Portland peninsula have access to a cornucopia of eating options. Not just the places you hear about all the time, like Fore Street and Central Provisions, but some of the city’s better sandwich shops and grocery stores that serve cheaper eats, like Blue Rooster Food Co., Dutch’s, the Crooked Mile Cafe, and Kamasouptra.
When I lived on the West End, I spent way too much money at Aurora Provisions. If I still lived there, I’d probably be broke now that a Rosemont Market has opened just down the block. But then I became a homeowner and now I’m an off-peninsula gal, surrounded by a sea of Subways, Amatos and McDonald’s. (One bright spot: Borealis Bakery and Cafe on Ocean Avenue.) So imagine my surprise and delight when I heard that Taco Trio, the popular casual Mexican joint in South Portland, was going to open a second location just three miles from my house.
Even better: It was going into a building that briefly housed a dreary-looking Indian grocery that served unfortunate food.
All summer long I found excuses to go through to the Riverton neighborhood, like an ex-girlfriend doing a drive-by, to see if the new place had opened yet. In September, the “Open” flag was finally flying.
If you’ve been to the South Portland Taco Trio, there’s not much to say about the food because the menus are the same. Tacos are three for $11, made with soft corn tortillas and filled with carne asada, pollo con mole, chorizo, carnitas, barbacoa de cabra – that’s goat meat – or one of several other choices.
The menu also includes burritos ($10.15), enchilada plates ($11) and sopes (3 for $11). For my first meal there, I chose a quesadilla ($10.15) because I figured it would be done properly here, and it was. Ten bucks seems like a lot for a quesadilla, but this truly was a meal – a 12-inch tortilla stuffed with mounds of smoky grilled chicken and lots of cheese. It came with chips and two salsas.
The salsa bar at Taco Trio in South Portland is popular, and the set-up is similar here. Choices include habanero for diners who like it hot, grilled pineapple for lots of flavor, chipotle and verde for folks who like it medium, and pico de gallo and mango for the feint of heart. The bar also includes sour cream and limes. I have the same complaint about the salsa bar I’ve heard from others: It’s parceled out like caviar, in little plastic cups.
Taco Trio also serves authentic Mexican drinks such as horchata and hibiscus, and has applied for a liquor license to serve margaritas, beer and mojitos – and may very well be serving them by now.
I can’t say enough about what they’ve done with the run-down space that used to be here. It’s completely transformed, with bright orange and yellow colors and lots of table and counter seating. I found myself admiring the shiny new kitchen while I was waiting for my order.
Apparently it can get quite busy during lunch and dinner hours – I’ve only been later in the evening, when you can park wherever you want, there are no lines for ordering, and the wait is minimal. (Timing is everything.) Just pick a time and go. Especially if you live there, Taco Trio is a welcome addition to the North Deering/Riverton areas. Now if only other restaurants will follow…
1706 Forest Ave., Portland | taco-trio.com | 207-536-1395
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
WAIT: About 5 minutes during after-dinner evening hours
PARKING: Limited spaces in front and on the side, plus street parking
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No – big step at the restaurant’s front door.