Taco Escobarr - Portland, ME

In the faint moon shadow of the cactus, he waits. A shape of silent repose, he sits shrouded in a single soil-stained rag whose tattered ends caress the earth. Dreaming, or at least trying to dream, of feasts long past that can only now be served in the banquet hall of his mind. This is the burden of he who lingers.


The mesa—where the dead dry mud fissures beneath even the lightest foot—is his home. The visions do not come, yet. His stomach snarls in impotent wrath. Nestled into the cool earth, he labors to shake loose the husk of his physical form. In this place—the mesa that abuts the sea ahead and the black valley behind—the spring of life can only burst from within. All else is gone.


He gazes out at the darkness beneath his eyelids. It starts as a search, scouring the haunted flashes of fake light. Then, as always, faintly, as if from afar, the aromas appear.


No rock or thistle of this desolate land rivals the scents recalled by the mind of our dreamer: warm, pliable tortilla, buttery lengua, crisp spines of cabbage and vinegar intermixing with the smooth tang of cilantro. Then, the one he knows too well, the inorganic nip of festive polypropylene lights—thousands of them—hot and pervasive.  This is the place of the feast. He has found it.


Nostalgia overwhelms him and the power of it jolts him from reverie. Along the razor’s edge of the horizon, an indigo sun falls out of sight. The dreamer clutches his threadbare blankets as the specter of his breath appears.


He’d never expected to dream of it, the taco place from a different lifetime. In fact, he’d thought his own memory unable to reach that far into the vanished past. It had come unbidden, unexpected, yet with a vicious force ,unrivaled by other visions,  had it thrust itself upon him.


Surely, this meal would shake the mind’s heavens.


Eyes closed, he tries again. The aromas surround him in a rush. More, this time: thick, savory beef, pork and pineapple and fried white fish. Masterfully, with the subtle motions of his mind, he delves deeper into the meal.


From the unseeable kaleidoscope, a shape coalesces. Square. Tall. A table, black and smooth appears. The dreamer sits before it, perched on naught but empty space. He runs his hands over the rubber guards that line its edge. A stool slides below him and the touch of it is as a baby’s skin against a mother’s lap. He sighs. As if from the ground, sibilance creeps into his ears, the sound of comrades, friends and strangers locked in easy dialogue. Their muffled laughs and jovial gasps pull walls up from the very ground. His mind is letting go of the other place, the vast tomb of reality. In mesh with itself, his mind feeds off its own creation.


Mariachi corpses on the walls rest in jolly caesura. A muscle-bound luchadore explodes from trompe l’oeil brick, a maiden in his crooked arm. Lights, yes, the smelly lights themselves, march across the ceiling, their green and yellow and orange glinting in countless rows. Yes, this is where the acrid smell is from: the lights. But that smell is already in the back of his mind as he thinks it, shoved there by the appearance of an obsidian pillar before him.


Could it be? Glistening and smooth, it rises like a miniature Olympus, stretching to meet the heavens, uno cerveza. Negra Modelo. Casually jutting from its rim, a slice of lime. Of its own accord, the lime squeezes down the neck, sizzling at it plops into the ice cold quaff. With dream-numbed hand, our man reaches to grasp it. And grasp he does, like the drowning man the hand of his brother, he holds it firm, feeling the dew of its crystalline sides cool his fingers. He lifts, pursing his lips to kiss the drink in that blissful moment of connection that is every first sip. The bottle mouth rises to meet his, tectonically slow in its glorious arc. The dreamer’s eye is wet, he holds back a sob as the bottle grows closer, close enough to smell the foil of its neck, the lime melding with the frothing drink and then a gunshot.


His eyes open, and he looks to the west. Fire. Smoke rises in plumes. It can only be the banditos of the new world, raking the countryside for provisions. Looting and burning all they pass, these moral-bare men and women, a malicious forest fire, diligently consuming whatever is left of the earth.


Our man snorts, miffed. He has watched them come and go many times, hidden like a chameleon among the sanguine boulders of the mesa.


He readjusts his position and closes his eyes once more. In an instant he is seated at the table. The refreshment is empty; sweat rings glitter at its base. But glory. But beauty. But holy of all holy. Now a meal rests before him: tacos.


A platter of tacos sits steaming, in fact, soft shells laying flat beneath bales of seasoned lengua, tangy cabbage and thinly sliced radish. Their earthy scent fills his nostrils, intoxicating his starved mind.


Hot sauces reveal themselves as his gaze rises beyond the plate. He chooses one, deep brown and thick. Carefully, with trembling hand, he portions out spots upon the filling. Melding with sour cream, the redness of the sauce is revealed in microscopic dots.


The dreamer folds a taco and lifts it from the plate. Juice, light and steaming, drips from the opposite end, pattering to the plate.  The crack of another gunshot sounds out, followed by a dog’s muffled bark, this time closer. They are coming.


Our man’s meal quavers, his vision threatening to fade at the distraction, but he holds it firm. He opens his mouth until it becomes a yawning cavern. The meat’s intoxicating smell, one he remembers too well, is only a memory and thus as sweet as his mind can make it.


The pace of his dream slows with every yearning second. The food’s parabola stretches for miles until he and the bite are an ocean apart. Still, the man dreams and the mouthful of sustenance advances, surely and unyieldingly, it searches for his waiting maw.


The banditos are getting closer. He can hear gruff voices mixing with the grating cackle of women. The squeaking joints of their carts rattle across the untamable sand.


Why would they be coming here, thinks the dreamer, holding the two parts of his mind separate so as not to lose either. One watches the progress of a taco infused with that most delicious spice: pure hunger. The other’s worry grows.


There is no reason for them to come to the coast. There is nothing here but the turbulent union of rock and sea. No matter, thinks our man, what I must do is clear. I must finish this bite.


There is nothing left upon the soil for anyone, even the banditos. Perhaps they know that. Perhaps they’ve come to march into the sea in one final, ritualistic dousing of their ever-burning flames. Perhaps they are simply aimless, wandering like our dreamer, without purpose. Whatever the cause closer, they came. Closer still.


In the feasting part of his mind, the dreamer is almost at his journey’s end. The taco hovers, an inch, less, from its destination. A single bite, that is all he wishes for. One  simple gift to himself from the endless bank of his memory. He can give it to himself; he knows he can. He must simply let all else fall aside.


He dives full into the dream. The mariachi skulls look eagerly from the walls. All other tables are empty now and simply our dreamer sits solitary in the place. The lights above twinkle and sway in a phantom breeze. With grace and care, the taco slips past the threshold of his mouth, steam fills his nose and his taste buds prickle in anticipation. His jaw shuts on a mighty bite, its savory fullness finally trapped in the ravenous gullet of his mind’s creation.


It tastes pretty good. I mean, thinks our dreamer, yeah this is fine. It’s not the best taco he’s ever had. I mean, like, compared to other tacos it’d be like a seven. But it’s not a bad taco. Solid.


With this final thought, the yips of the banditos are upon him. It is too late to run. Our man keeps his eyes shut and lets what may happen do so.




3.0 Stars

Both the tacos and enchiladas are solid. The ample options for filling, from seasoned chicken to battered fish to pineapple-y pork Al Pastor, are tasty. Nothing to stop the show but a good legitimate meal.


Friday Lunch

With a beer you’ll be around the $20 mark with tip. Entrees hover around $10. Not unreasonable.


United States of A-Mexico

Aside from the B-Movie posters in the bathroom (which are legitimately awesome) the rest of the décor is cool, if not trying a bit hard. Also, the lights that are strung up from the ceiling legit smell. It goes to the back of your mind pretty quickly. But in a place made for eating, that hot, beach-ball smell of party lights isn’t necessarily the most appetizing.


Fool Me Twice

Escobarr’s biggest problem. Not the servers themselves, they tend to be quite nice, I'm talking the actual pace of the meal. I’ve been there, twice now for lunch, when, being one of three people in the place, it’s taken over an hour to get food. I suspect it’s a lack of chef-help, or something behind the scenes, but this place seriously needs to figure something out, because nobody has that much time for pretty-good Mexican. Especially with other, superior, options close by (Taco Trio, El Rayo).



I would have said eat if the service, of late, had not been so weak. Other than that, Taco Escobarr is a perfectly legitimate Mexican spot that’s taken great strides in recent months to make itself up to par with local standards. But sweet mamma, do they need to do some hiring in the kitchen.