By Jade Yamazaki Stewart and Henry Houston
Imagine a world where there’s one long stretch of road with several stellar Mexican restaurants and carts along the way.
The good news is, that reality exists in Springfield. The number of Latin American food spots on Main Street makes sense since the area’s Hispanic population has grown: According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 data, the city’s Hispanic population is 11.9 percent (Eugene’s is 9.8 percent). These four spots we tried barely scratch the surface — make sure you try out Los Farelos, El Pique and Memos, which are also on Main Street.
El Buen Taco Taqueria
The name gives away what to get: tacos.
For $3 per taco, you get a generous portion of meat, onion and cilantro all on a fresh made corn tortilla — specialty meats like lengua (cow tongue), cabeza (cow head) and tripia (cow intestine) are extra. And I can’t emphasize this enough: The meat is moist and flavorful. A bite into an al pastor taco is a medley of flavor that includes pineapple chili spice and everything nice. The taqueria occasionally offers a family-sized meal: For $25, you get eight tacos and eight ounces of rice and beans each.
Since El Buen has meats that are spiced and marinated perfectly, you can’t go wrong with anything else from the menu — from burritos to their nacho asada fries. On the weekend, El Buen offers one of the best mega-bowls of menudo in Eugene-Springfield. Although I don’t seek the refuge of this tripe-based soup for hangovers anymore, it’s still an occasional weekend treat for me. El Buen brings everything to the table when you order menudo. You get all of the oregano, onion, chili, as well as fresh made fluffy corn tortillas to dip into the soup, and the tripia is clean and cut into manageable chunks. — Henry Houston
El Buen Taco Taqueria is at 868 Main Street. Find them on Facebook for updates and hours.
Tucked inside a mall on 22nd and Main, the only thing larger than El Angel’s menu is the plate of food you get. The menu ranges from breakfast items to mojarra frita (fried fish) to pozole, so finding something to eat can be tough for those afraid of commitment in restaurants.
We tried El Angel’s red enchiladas filled with carne asada, a meat that can easily serve as a barometer for a restaurant. And El Angel passes. In fact, the carne asada retains its flavor despite being drowned in enchilada sauce — which is honestly good enough that I would drink it if I could. The enchiladas aren’t just haphazardly filled with cheese, either. They add Cotija cheese on top and inside so it’s not an oozy mess.
Although pozole is usually available at restaurants on the weekend, you can buy a bowl of it at El Angel anytime. But don’t think that means it doesn’t taste fresh. Their pozole is filled with chunks of chicken, hominy and a slightly chili flavored broth. The spiciness of the pozole could be stronger, but, hey, that’s what the red pepper flakes are for — or Tapatío.
You can easily eat at El Angel every day and not repeat a meal for weeks. And with affordable menu prices for such fresh food, that’s a journey I would take any day. — Henry Houston
El Angel is at 2120 Main Street. The regular hours are 7:30 am to 8 pm every day.
El Trenecito means “little train,” a fitting name for the tiny taco shack with a big metal chimney on 15th and Main. The shop serves all the basics: tacos, burritos, tortas, quesadillas. And it makes everything well.
I recommend the tacos, which are everything that I want when I get a bad taco craving. They’re made with small, thin tortillas, which come two per taco. The meat is heavily flavored and satiating. And they come loaded with onion, tomato and cilantro.
El Trenecito has all the ordinary taco meats like carne asada, adobada, carnitas and pollo, but it also has some harder-to-find items like cabeza, lengua and tripia. The tripia at El Trenecito has a great texture, similar to that of a thin piece of fresh calamari, and hardly any flavor of its own — a good start if you want to get into eating organ meats or just want to push your textural comfort zone a little bit.
Another specialty of the shop is the quesataco, a mix between a taco and a quesadilla. El Trenecito’s version is made by putting cheese between two tortillas, letting the quesadilla get crispy on the griddle, then putting your choice of meat and all the regular taco toppings on top. The best of both worlds. What more could you ask for? — Jade Yamazaki Stewart
El Trenecito is at 1505 Main Street. The regular hours are 10 am to 10 pm, Tuesday through Sunday.
Quack Taco is a lime-green food truck parked between a market and an auto parts store near 35th and Main. The eatery does something that’s rare among food trucks and restaurants: It serves a huge variety of dishes without sacrificing quality. The cooks at Quack make tacos, tortas and quesabirria, among many other dishes, with the same expertise.
The tortillas are thick, soft and expansive, and are made to order in a wooden press in the corner of the truck next to the griddle. They serve as the perfect blanket for the generous piles of meat included in each $2.50 taco, especially for the carnitas, big tender chunks of pork dripping with fat served with onion and tomato.
The tortas at Quack Taco are also a deal. For $7, you get a big fluffy brioche-style bun twice the size of hamburger bun stuffed with your choice of meat, refried beans, lettuce, cilantro and sour cream.
But the quesabirria is the star of the menu, partly because it’s one of the only places I know of to get quesabirria in Eugene or Springfield, and partly because Quack Taco’s rendition is so good.
Quesabirria is a dish that’s been taking over U.S. cities in 2020, probably because it’s as decadent as any true American staple, and it looks amazing on an Instagram feed. Quesabirria is a marriage of birria — goat, lamb or beef slow-cooked in a stew with spices — and a quesadilla. It’s often served with consomé, a rich beef broth flavored with chili that you can sip between bites.
At Quack Taco, the quesabirria is stuffed with beef birria and cheese and comes with consomé, onion and cilantro. The corn tortilla is crispy from the griddle, the cheese is melty and plentiful and the consomé soul-satisfying. Try it, you won’t regret it.
— Jade Yamazaki Stewart
Quack Taco is at 3400 Main Street. Find them on Facebook for updates and hours.