The Portland area certainly has a plethora of Mexican food options, but sometimes it seems very few of them are worth your hard earned dinero. In the heart of downtown Beaverton sits an almost DayGlo-colored painted building that advertises their video lottery machines. It’s not exactly the place you’d expect to find some of the tastiest Mexican food around…but it is.
Mexicali Express has actually been around for a couple of decades (they were originally located on West Burnside where Gaya Gaya Sushi is now). From my experience, local fast food places tend to diminish in quality over the years, get run out of business by the national chain behemoths or attempt to expand on their own.
Happily, Mexicali Express has remained almost exactly the same for the 20+ years I’ve been eating there, so I feel a little nostalgic every time I walk through the doors. The décor is FAR from fancy, and the relatively recent addition of a video lotto lounge doesn’t help—but you’re not coming here for haute cuisine; you’re coming here to nosh!
The menu is typical Mexican fast food: Tacos. Burritos. Nachos. Quesadillas. Fajitas. Enchiladas. You know the stuff. But this is no Taco Bell. The freshness and quality of the food is remarkable considering the slightly rundown location.
I almost always go with a burrito, a taco AND the Mexicali fries (which comes to about $6 total). I’m not usually a fry person, but there’s something special about those lightly seasoned potato discs that I can’t resist…especially dipped in ketchup. Yum!
Practically everyone I take to Mexicali mentions the tortilla chips and taco shells with delight—they’re light, crispy, and offer the perfect crunch. I always suggest ordering a side of chips and salsa or guacamole for your table as a starter. (Sorry, no free chips and salsa appetizer here.)
The food is full of flavor and seasoned well, but they do serve almost everything on the mild range of the spicy scale (of course, some items can be ordered with a more spicy sauce option). If you need that extra kick, they do offer an extensive fresh salsa bar with a boatload more options than you’ll find at your local Baja Fresh (that place is so bland and boring, right?).
Mexicali Express opens at 9 a.m. for breakfast (you can order breakfast burritos until 1 p.m.) and stays open until midnight daily. They also offer a convenient drive-thru. The service is fantastic, and I get the feeling that this is a family run operation because you tend to see the same faces behind the counter again and again.
Overall, this is the perfect place to hit up for a quick, fresh meal that won’t break your budget. Simple. Fresh. Fast. Delicious.
- Fresh, fast food
- Very reasonable prices
- Fresh salsa bar
- Friendly service
- Open late and there’s a drive-thru
- The video lottery area is a little weird
- The building is a bit of an eyesore