Wedged between a gas station and a string of houses lining 13th St.,Los Portales looks like just another hole-in-the-wall South O restaurant. The food, however, stands out from the crowd.
The robust orange and yellow paint welcomes restaurant-goers inside. Los Portales is a seat-yourself establishment, so no need to wait to grab a booth or table. In sider tip: avoid the booths near the TV. A Latin American music video channel is always on, which adds to the atmosphere but makes it hard to hear.
Once settled, a server will come by to drop off menus. Service quality depends on how busy the restaurant is. Though the servers are always friendly, it could be a few minutes before menus are handed out.
A free appetizer of chips, refried beans and both red and green salsa helps curb hunger. Be prepared to make a mess with the salsa, though, since appetizer plates aren’t provided.
The menu has a nice range of traditional and Americanized options, including tortas, tamales, tacos and nachos. Los Portales stays true to its identity. Picky eaters won’t find burgers or pizza available like at other taco restaurants.
Its dealer’s choice when it comes to ordering. Diners choose what meat they’d like for the bulk of the menu items, including tacos,tortas and quesadillas. Options include chicken, pork, steak –or for the more adventurous –tongue or head.
Extra toppings, including avocado and sour cream are available and help to make orders more personalized.
The best way to sample all Los Portales has to offer is to order off the a la carte section of the ala care menu. This also enables you to get the most bang for your buck since a la carte items are cheaper than their pre-envisioned plate counterparts.
Speaking of price, Los Portales is very affordable, especially on a college student’s budget. Menuitems range from $1.50 for rice to$12 for fajitas.
During one visit, I was able to eat for right under $5 by ordering two chicken tacos and a side of rice. The corn shells of the tacos were stuffed full of seasoned, shredded chicken, cilantro and onion and definitely earned my stamp of approval.
The pork and steak tacos are fantastic as well, but the star of Los Portales’ menu is their pork tamales in green sauce. For about$2, the tamales are packed with meat and carry a spicy kick, which is why you should be careful not to finish your drink before your food arrives since glasses aren’t always refilled.
Make sure to save room for dessert, too. Freshly-fried cinnamon sugar churros are made to order.Even if you’re too full to enjoy them right away, at $2.50 for an order of three, they’re worth taking home for a late night snack.
If a cold treat sounds better, a Goodrich ice cream counter stocked with a wide range of flavors, including classics like mint chocolate chip and cookie dough are available.
It’s best to order a cone before settling the bill at the register since credit and debit cards can only be used if the total is more than $5. Make sure to have cashon hand just in case.
The great food at a low price makes Los Portales well-worth a visit. The restaurant is located at 2614 S 13th St and opens at 9:30a.m. Monday – Friday. Closing hours vary from 10 p.m. – 2:30a.m. depending on the day.