spicy enough

“Please Mr. Postman look and see, oh yeah, If there’s a letter in your bag for me,” sings the Marvelettes. Their 1961 hit “Please Mr. Postman” became the first Motown song to hit the Billboard Hot 100 and tonight I hear that song bebopping out speakers on a peach colored building along North Mississippi Avenue. Inside Por Que No? the song seems to affect people’s mood as employees and patrons alike are putting a swing in their step. Even the line cooks, who are all wearing shirts that say, “I love tacos,” are joking around and smiling at customers awaiting their food.

Po Que No? is a taqueria that does Mexican food a little different. They do not sell burritos and customers pay at a counter and receive their food at a table. I wait in line and decide to order a carne asada taco, a fish taco, a carnitas taco, chips and salsa, and a horchada to drink. There are no immediate chairs available so I mull about waiting for a table outside. Tables are either filled with patrons awaiting their food or, having ate, are simply loitering; unhurried by newer customers. Dusk has nearly arrived when I find a table outside alongside a window and watch the bustling street. Bicyclists walking their bikes along crowded sidewalks and the “click-click-click” of a ratcheting freewheel is heard locally. “These are the best chips I’ve ever had,” announces a fair skinned woman with hair the color of carrots. “They are really thick.” Soon, I receive my own chips and salsa. I find myself in agreement with her statement as the crisp chip snaps in your mouth, and leave a salty aftertaste that compliments the picante salsa. I sip refreshing horchada rice milk as more bicyclists walk their bikes, savoring the scent of tortillas and the sound of oldies tunes echoing out black-framed windows.

A green plastic basket arrives and I look at those beautiful, perfect tacos sit in front of me. I grab my fish taco, noticing the soft, pliable corn tortilla that feels like it was made from flour. Apparently, fresh corn tortillas, which Por Que No? makes multiple times a day, have the soft consistency of a flour tortilla. The fish is moist and melts flavorfully against the roof of my mouth and is topped with a white, mozzarella style cheese. The carnitas were rich with seasonings and spicy enough to require generous gulps of horchada. Finally I eat the carne asada taco, whose fresh steak is as tactile in your mouth as it is delicious in your stomach. “I like the veggie the best,” explains the girl with fair skin. “It has more complex flavor and taste.” Helicopters waft overhead, the rush of a bus swooshes by, and the “click-click-click” of a bicycles being pushed are heard nearby.

The only complaint I could say about Por Que No? Is that their portions are smaller, so hungry patrons can expect to order a few tacos. Dinner can require a wait, so try lunch for a quicker experience. Expect to pay $8-15 dollars without drinks per person

There is something unique going on at 3424 North Mississippi, which probably explains why everyone is so quick to loiter. When fixed-gear bicyclists are walking their bikes, you know everyone in Portland is spending more time on Mississippi Avenue.