08 October 2009

[pdx] Where's The Best Damn Horchata In Portland?

2226.Those of you familiar with good Mexican cooking know that when it comes to sweet things, Mexican cuisine has the most amazing things. A serving of flan, for instance, is pure heaven. And perfect horchata is beyond words.

Horchata is made of many things, but when you say that locally, what you're saying is rice milk with a Mexican accent; cinnamon and vanilla. And there's a lot of pedestrian horchata out there, it's not hard to find. A couple of days ago, though, we found heaven in a cup off SE Hawthorne Blvd, in the hip section.

It's not hard to find Mexican roach coaches in Portland, but this one is a little hard to find, so I'll direct you. Behind the Dollar Scholar at 33rd and Hawthorne there's a little pocket parking area; SE 33rd Avenue between Hawthorne and Madison itself looks like an alley. It's a few steps out of your way, but worth the trip. Tucked in behind the Dollar Scholar is the Neza Mexican Food Cart, with a friendly little staff that is clearly family.

Nearly all the food there is in the $3-$4 range, including the quesadillas, that came in pork (which The Wife™ had) and steak (which I had), which will take the edge off the most demanding appetite. They have a limited menu which includes burritos, tacos, all of which looked very satisfying. I have no complaints whatsoever about the food – it was very good.

But it was the horchata that'll keep me coming back. Perfect, creamy, sweet-but-not-too-sweet – just like every good Mexican sweet food – it had a strong vanilla note that the cinnamon played a supporting (but strong) role in. I like vanilla more than cinnamon, and this all worked very well. And while some horchatas leave kind of a coarse texture on the tongue, this was well-blended, smooth, and felt very nice in the mouth.

So there you have it. You want great horchata,  you go to Neza. It's a few steps off Hawthorne, but more than worth the detour.

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pril said...

is it horchata powder horchata or is it the real deal, cooked and soaked and all that? I agree, though, nothing beats a good horchata. Especially over ice on a hot day. I made some over the summer and it was teh noms.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

It seems like the real deal. The proprietor said it was his granny's recipe and it had that creamy uniform consistency that you just can get out of a mix. You know how you drink a drink and you feel it in your mouth and you just KNOW? It was like that.

Horchata and flan are world famous. Good dam reason why.

Anonymous said...


Blah, I hate not having the food carts of Portland.

Ours are so hoity toity. *fist in the air at Seattle*

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Portland's awesome that way.

Some wag recently said that Portland is the kind of town where the gourmet comes looking to eat at the restaurants and winds up eating out of the carts.

And the neat thing is, the carts are run by families, by inspired hipsters (I'm a PDXer who isn't hating on hipsters, BTW, not all of us hate them), by people with frigg'n interesting culinary visions who won't let much stand in their way. And anyone can go. You don't have to dress up. And if you're lucky, maybe Whiffies is having a pie-eat-off or has one of those bouncy-ball playpens for adults. And maybe a Hollywood type who happens to be in town will swan on by.

I try not to be too smug about being a Portlander (yeah, right, boo!) but can't help it here; it's luxury you can afford (and if you're lucky enough that Yarp is open, its affordable, and Pirate Dogs will charge you on a sliding scale …)

Ahhhhhghghgh …