Wednesday Food: El Rayo Taqueria

Hello again from Portland, Maine!  This week we are headed out to dine at my favorite local spot. 

We don't go out to eat very often, but when we do it's usually cheap and damn good. And when searching for restaurants in a new city, we look at things that maybe other people aren't looking at. We have friends who own food service businesses, and Eric and I have spoken many many many times about having our own. We know it is extraordinarily hard work, but it also means giving back to the community. Enter El Rayo Taqueria (I'm gonna refer to them as ERT)


This fabulous Taqueria opened recently around the corner from our house in an old gas station. Now when you can turn that out properly, you know you got something good! The interior is fun, bright and lively! The owners are always there when we go in to dine, which I love to see. It gives the business personality to see who is making it work and putting it all together.

A little side note about me.....I actually don't like writing restaurant reviews.  I'm not really into picking out every little thing about an establishment, and it can kills the enjoyment of eating there if the person had a bad experience. So if I'm writing about a restaurant, its more than just the food. It's the atmosphere, the way they conduct their business and/or because they are just doing a good job!

We start this meal with my favorite Lime Daiquiri and a Passionista (margarita w/ passion fruit juice). And if you were wondering - YES, that is a blue swordfish in my drink. If they let me, I would drink these all night till I fell off my stool - I've come close a couple of times!  Usually, we also start with guacamole or salsa and chips (which is some of the freshest I've had), but this time we started off with a meatier appetizer, cheese nachos with chorizo. Nachos tend to be weighed down with tons of beans, veggies and cheese. These are more simple and you feel like you can still eat your main course afterwards.

I'll admit, I'm kinda weird about restaraunts. If I find something I love on the menu, I don't wanna eat anything else. I've tried a few other entrees, but my absolute favorite is the Pollo Chilaquiles. There is really only one odd reason why I like Chilaquiles so freakin much. This dish is basically taking left over, stale tortilla chips and stewing them. I love taking something that would normally go in the garbage and making it DELICIOUS! I like that it doesn't look pretty, it's just tasty! This dish is stewed in a rojo sauce with swiss chard and served with cotija cheese, creme fresca and avocado.  Yum.

Eric had the Yucatan Burrito, which is stuffed to the brim with grilled achiote seasoned fish, coleslaw, avocado, rice and chipotle mayo. I personally have not tried this burrito, but I love fish tacos or burritos! Such a lighter alternative to heavier meats. Eric seemed to be enjoying it just fine - I'm not sure I could have gotten a bite from him! That is ERT's signature hot sauce Eric has dripped over his burrito. They just started bottling and selling it.

ERT has impressed me with not only their authentic Mexican food but also how they run their business. I receive weekly emails from them, updating me on what exciting things they are getting themselves into. They frequently do 10% days on Sundays, where 10% of their day's sales goes to a help a local not for profit focused on the community. Which for us, is a wonderful thing. When you can't donate money easily, at least we can go out for a meal and feel like we've contributed in a small way. They update us on what local farmer is providing them with the freshest produce, which makes me feel like I'm getting the inside scoop!

They are also very supportive of their staff. If they have an employee acting in a play, their band is performing at a certain venue, or artwork being displayed in a gallery, they take their time to promote, show their support and congratulate them!

When we first started going to ERT, it felt like a home away from home. We really miss San Francisco, particularly because we couldn't get food like this! So I made a point to proclaim to the owners that I hadn't had a burrito so delicious since I left San Francisco! (my fave burritos were at Nick's Crispy Taco) They were very pleased to hear it. I hope El Rayo Taqueria sticks around even long after I've left Portland, ME.

Remember, when the kitchen gets too hot, get back in there and keep cooking!

-Baby Stella
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