Fourteen years ago, when the Hernandez family moved from Mexico City to the United States, they had one dream: to open a restaurant where they could share their beloved hometown cuisine.
After years of hard work, they bought a food truck in Portland. Miguel Hernandez, the patriarch, wanted to have more space so he could expand the menu. Several months ago, the family of four opened Los Alambres on Mill Plain Boulevard.
The name Los Alambres translates into English as “the wires.” Alambre is a decadent dish of grilled Mexican sausage, carne asada, bell peppers, onions, and ham topped with melted cheese and served with corn tortillas.
The extensive menu at Los Alambres has specialties from Mexico City, a food lover’s paradise, that aren’t commonly found here. There are huaraches (a slab of tender corn tortilla stuffed with beans and topped with green salsa, onion, cilantro and crumbled cotija cheese), tlacoyo (corn tortilla stuffed with pressed pork, topped with beans, green salsa, onion cilantro and cotija cheese), kekas (thin corn tortilla folded and filled with pork, onions, cilantro, lettuce and cotija cheese), and pambazos (grilled bread seeped in guajillo chile sauce filled with potatoes, chorizo, lettuce, sour cream and Mexican cheese).
There are small dishes like rich gorditas, tasty tacos and gooey quesadillas. If you have a healthy appetite, there’s a long list of enormous torta sandwiches and an 18-inch long quesadilla called The Machete that is filled with mushrooms, cheese, velvety huitlacoche, squash blossoms, beef, pastor, chorizo, and various types of stewed beef (suadero, birria). To make The Machete, the Hernandez family imported a special tortilla press from Mexico.
For those new to these dishes, Isaac Hernandez has some advice: “Be open-minded about Mexican food. Mexican food around here isn’t the most authentic. If you have questions, ask. Everything here is fresh. It’s good to come here and try a little bit of everything.”
The menu has detailed explanations of each item in English. There’s also several television screens perched above the counter with vivid photos of various dishes helping diners decide what to order.
One Mexico City delicacy that isn’t on the menu is the tacos de canasta (or basket tacos). They’re available by special order with a minimum order of 30 tacos and three days’ notice to make them. These small treasures wrapped in aluminum foil are steamed, allowing the tortilla to become moist and meld with toppings like ground meat, potato, and refried beans. They come with a special light salsa of avocado and cilantro.
It takes time
Food takes longer here because everything is made to order. Bring a book, sip on a lime or tamarind agua fresca or a creamy horchata. (The restaurant doesn’t serve alcohol.) Eat a fruit or shrimp cocktail. Soak in the smell of pastor on a spit, the sound of carne asada and onions sizzling on a grill, and the joyful noise of people sharing a meal. It takes time to press fresh masa and cook it. It takes time to properly grill meat and vegetables. The perpetual sound of a metal spatula scraping the grill makes it clear that things in the kitchen are constantly in motion and orders are moving as fast as humanly possible.
The Hernandez family is still playing around with the menu and the hours of operation trying to find the right fit for the new location.
“We want to make it easier for people who haven’t had this food,” Isaac Hernandez said. “We may change the menu.”