ABOVE: Tacos at Los Portales Mexican Grocery in Norwalk.
In my endless search for quality tacos and taco-related foods, I decided it was finally time for a side-by-side comparison of the taco joints on Fort Point St. in Norwalk. A taco throwdown was in the works and along for the ride was reporter Magdalene Perez who, while born in the Midwest, has made enough trips to México, D.F. to be the closest thing I could find to an authority on the subject.
Situated about two blocks from each other on the narrow street near exit-16, Tacos Mexico and Los Portales Mexican Grocery both sling tacos of the authentic variety.
Los Portales really is a small grocery and deli, with a counter in back where you can order food and self-serve salsas and the usual garnishes; radishes, limes, pickled carrots. It’s dark, narrow and rickety, which is really the way it should be.
The tacos come piled with cilantro and onions, served on warm tortillas. The corn tortillas were fresh enough that we had to ask if they were house-made, which they aren’t except on the weekends for the specials.
While the chorizo was spicy and the beautiful orange grease was plentiful, I was more impressed with the couple of bites I was able to sneak of Maggie’s birria veal taco. The meat was tender, well seasoned and above all, abundant.
Los Portales has an open kitchen and we saw a couple of burritos go out that were absolutely enormous. After querying a couple of customers, we learned that these are among the most popular items on the menu.
Unfortunately, the giant burritos would have to wait until next time as there were more tacos to be consumed.
Down the street at Tacos Mexico, I immediately noticed the restaurant has expanded into the space next door. What used to be a tiny three-or-four-table joint now has a separate dining room. The operation also has a pretty rickety appearance and as Maggie pointed out, it looks like they were trying to go a little more upscale and it didn’t work.
Tacos Mexico has table service and I like the horchata [a sweet rice drink] they serve, but the tacos were bland relative to Los Portales.
The tortillas were actually better here though, being a little lighter and just as fresh tasting as those at Los Portales. Their tacos are served with a trio of hot sauces and fire-grilled onions, which is a plus.
I was first alerted to Tacos Mexico several years ago by reporter John Nickerson, who spent a number of years on the West Coast. However, today was the first time I visited and did not order the carnitas burrito, which stuffed with lots of tender pork, rice, beans, cheese and avocados was the closest thing I could find to a California-style burrito.
THE VERDICT: All of this is really good news for those of us in Stamford because, while we enjoyed the food at both of these places [Los Portales being the clear winner], Maggie and I both wholeheartedly agree that the tacos al pastor at Casa Villa on West Main St. in Stamford are superior.
POST SCRIPT: It should be noted that you can also have tacos at Los Portales Bakery, which is on the corner of East Ave. and Fort Point, if you are going for the trifecta.
BELOW: A platter of tacos at Tacos Mexico also in Norwalk.