There’s nothing better than a good taco, and now LGBTQ+ Portlanders have a new place to get beautiful and delicious, and unapologetically queer, guisado-stye tacos (tacos filled with braised and stewed ingredients) in Taquería los Puñales on SE Belmont Street. Founded by third-generation taquero David Madrigal and his business partner Brian Aster, Taquería los Puñales has been serving delicious Mexican food as North America's first and only gay taqueria.
Madrigal grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico in the ’90s, and after he came out, his parents didn’t accept him, so he moved to Portland, Ore., when he was 17. Now reconciled with his parents, Madrigal is proud to be able to so unapologetically be himself. “There is no gay taqueria tradition in Mexico,” he said. Aster added that the two “don’t know of another gay taqueria in America, to be honest.”
Los Puñales, which more straightforwardly translates to “dagger,” but is also a Mexican pejorative for gay, one Madrigal heard growing up. Now he gets to reclaim the term as a celebration of not only his sexuality, but his culture and food. “This place is Mexican and gay,” said Aster. “And when people come here, they realize it’s a queer space. We want a progressive crowd that loves and celebrates identifying with queer places owned by people of color.”
Over the last several years there’s been an increasingly loud call from queer communities for more queer spaces that don’t rely on drinking. And while los Puñales definitely has margaritas, cocktails and beer to go along with your tacos, nondrinking foodies can also come and have a great time enjoying the food and nonalcoholic Mexican drinks like Aguas Frescas and Jarritos.
Madrigal is proud to carry on the tradition of cooking from his parents. “My mom would make pork in green sauce in the morning, and the next day steak with potatoes, and the next day whatever,” he told Willamette Week. “That way you could come home from an exhausted day at work, see what’s in the fridge, and make tacos from it.” Now he’s making tacos for hundreds of customers a day.
Many of the items on the menu come directly from Madrigal’s mother’s recipes, including the chicken tinga taco. Other tacos include bistec con papas, barbacoa, chile relleno, adobada, and El Choripapa, made with pork chorizo and potatoes. Of course los Puñales makes in-house tortillas fresh every day, and features 16 different tacos, including vegetarian and gluten free options. Each taco only costs $3.50.
Taquería los Puñales is open daily from 11AM-10PM for outdoor seating.