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Esparza’s Tex Mex Cafe

Name: Esparza’s Tex Mex Cafe
Location: 2725 SE Ankeny Street Portland, OR 97214-1817
Contact information: 503.234.7909
Web address: None
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Cost: $10-$13 average entree cost
Reservation recommended: Not taken – show up early or late to avoid a wait
Good for: Tex-Mex in the Pacific Northwest
Insider tip: Love Tequila? Then love Esparza’s Tequila Shrine with more than 15 types of the stuff

Review: Esparza’s held down the Laurelhurst fort long before the wine bars arrived and continues to feed on its reputation of providing extra helpings of kitsch, booze and Tex-Mex options.

At first glance, the dozens of marionettes that hang from the ceiling look like voodoo dolls and the stuffed animals seem precariously close to falling on the 50s-style table and chair sets. The tables are packed and within 5 minutes a 10-minute wait grows to 25 as people perform contortion acts to slip into a spot near the door.

Thankfully, my group has snagged the last table in the place, at 7:30 on a Saturday night. A round of margaritas for all proves to be disappointing – it tastes like the frozen stuff I use from the grocery store, with none of the alcohol.

No worries, however, as we stuff our faces with excellent house-made chips and salsa and peruse the extensive menu.

Esparza’s, named after the owner, doesn’t just offer your typical Mexican fare. Ostrich, smoked salmon and brisket are all on the menu. I ordered one of the cheapest entrees – vegetarian tostadas (approx. $9.50) – as there weren’t a whole lot of options for non-meat lovers.

There’s only so much you can do with tostadas, but I still hoped for fresh tostadas with generous portions of homemade guacamole and fresh, local veggies. Alas, it was not to be, but still a satisfactory offering, if a bit overpriced.

The rest of the group generally approved of their meals – salmon, chorizo and egg dishes (for those that are curious, no, the chorizo isn’t made in house).

Esparza’s is where to go for a fun, no-frills, tequila slamming night. Pearl district residents are better off going a few blocks down and curling up their noses at the suggestion of a merlot.