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Saturday morning, December 26, 2015 dawned crisp and clear, with a temperature of 29 degrees, no wind, with a 50-plus mile visibility.  Looking at the snow capped Sierra Nevada mountain range gave me the idea to head 20 miles to the east, visit the foothill town of Auburn, and enjoy a steaming hot bowl of menudo on this chilly Saturday morning.  What a plan!!!

Photo:  El Portal Taqueria is located in a modest size shopping center, on the north-east side of the foothill town of Auburn, the County Seat of beautiful Placer County.  There are several other restaurants in the shopping center, including a Hawaiian BBQ and a Thai restaurant, which gives me plenty of ideas.  It's 10 o'clock on Saturday morning, December 26, 2015, and El Portal has just opened their doors for business.

Photo:  As you walk in the front door, you'll notice how spacious - may I say HUGE? - the dining room is.  There is lots of room to move around in, and I think if you shoved all of the tables to one side, there would be enough room to play a soccer game.  Unlike most other taquerias, where you order and pay for your meal at the counter, El Portal is a full-service, "sit-down" restaurant, where you sit at a table, and the staff brings the menu to you, takes your order, and actually brings your order to your table.  Note the lack of a menu posted above the counter.

Speaking of menus, the restaurant's menu is extensive, and features such Mexican favorites as chili verde, carnitas, enchiladas, carne asada mariscos (seafood,) camarones (shrimp,) tacos, burritos, sopes, ceviche, tamales, and menudo on Saturdays and Sundays.  The menu claims El Portal produces the best Mexican food in Placer County, and I can't really vouch for that claim, but after enjoying a delicious brunch at the restaurant, I CAN tell you the food is AMAZING DELICIOUS!

Photo:  Within two minutes after placing my order, my friendly server, Ofelia, brought chips, in-house-made salsa, and a cold, on-tap Pacifico beer to my table.  Actually, El Portal Taqueria is more like a Mexican restaurant than a taqueria, as they are a full service dining establishment.  Unlike most taquerias, they do not have an all-you-can-eat chip and salsa bar, as the chips are already placed in baskets, and the salsa is already dished up.  If you're hungry for chips and salsa, no worries, as seconds are complimentary.

Photo:  If you want, you can place your order from the counter, as this gentleman is doing.  Note the bottles of beer and soda placed on the counter, so you can get an idea of what drinks they serve.  Of course they have several brands of Mexican beer on tap, which is always a hit with me.  The semi-open kitchen can be seen in the center of the photo.  El Portal Taqueria is a clean, modern, and very comfortable Mexican restaurant.



Photo:  My order of menudo arrived at my table, with a smile, only a couple of minutes after I received my chips and beer.  I'd taken only a sip of my beer, and eaten, maybe one or two chips.  That's lightning fast service!  Ofelia brings my order to my table with a smile.  She was a bit camera-shy, but she allowed me to snap her photo, and I rewarded her with a large tip, to show my appreciation.

Photo:  Thanks, Ofelia for snapping my photo, as I prepare to enjoy a delicious brunch of menudo, corn tortillas, chips, salsa and an icy-cold, on-tap Pacifico beer.

Photo:  My brunch of menudo, with all the garnishes, six corn tortillas, chips, salsa, and a draught Pacifico beer. The chips were fresh and crisp, not semi-stale, which is a pet complaint of mine that most taquerias share, the salsa was fresh and made in-house and very flavorful, and not at all hot, and I received six warm, toasted corn tortillas.

One of the major ways I judge a Mexican restaurant is on their menudo; if a Mexican restaurant doesn't serve menudo on weekends, they lose many points in my book.  Menudo varies widely in both quality and style, among taquerias in Northern California, and I must admit, the menudo I enjoyed at El Portal Taqueria is among the best bowls of menudo that I've enjoyed in my years of dining at Mexican restaurants in the state.  

Many restaurants put too much salt in their menudo, which is a GIGANTIC no-no in my book.  I also don't care for a lot of fat, and I always feel ripped-off when a knuckle is included in my soup, as it takes up about a third of the volume of the bowl.

The large bowl of menudo I enjoyed at El Portal cost only $6.99, which is at least a couple dollars less expensive than most taquerias charge for the same size bowl.  This menudo was perfect in every way, as it was flavorful, all ingredients were the right size, there was little, if any fat, is was not over salted, and there was a generous amount of hominy.  Not to mention it included a stack of six warm, toasted tortillas, and I could have requested another stack at no extra charge.  This is a delicious bowl of menudo, and an outstanding value!

El Portal Taqueria offers a wide array of Mexican "comfort food,"  served in a very spacious, clean, comfortable dining room.  The food is delicious, it's very reasonably priced, the service is lightning-fast, and the staff is super friendly.  Whenever you're visiting Auburn, and you're in the mood for delicious Mexican food, pay a visit to El Portal Taqueria.  Any day is good, as they're open seven days a week.  Muy sabroso!

El Portal Taqueria
13354 Lincoln Way
Auburn, CA 95603
530 745-9585

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