Local Business Spotlight: El Mas Chingon
This month we are speaking with Roberto and Rene Torres, owners of El Mas Chingon. After 20 years of working professionally in the kitchens of Portland's beloved local restaurants and hotels, the Torres brothers bring their own flavors to the table in a move for the title of "Portland's Best Taco Truck".
Phil: How did you come to start a food truck and what does El Mas Chingon mean?
Roberto: I moved from Queretaro, Mexico when I was 19 years old and started working in a well-known local Italian restaurant as a dishwasher. After six months I moved up to pizza cook, and after another six months I moved up to the pasta section and so forth until a few years ago I was promoted to Kitchen Manager. I’ve worked there for 20 years now. My brothers and I (Rene moved to Portland in 2003) wanted to start our own restaurant and decided to start with a food truck to see how it went juggling two jobs. The name El Mas Chingon comes from our childhood in Mexico, and means “the best of the best” but was used in a rebel kind of way.
Phil: To open a food truck, where do you start?
Roberto: We found a truck at a dealership and then took it to a company to have them customize it for our needs. Our location was a two-year process because the owner of the property had to file with the city for permits to add electricity for the truck. With the Pandemic and wildfires over the last two years, PGE was behind in work but eventually, we got the electricity and the truck and were able to open up last month.
Phil: With so many taco trucks, taquerias, and Mexican restaurants in SW Portland, are you worried about competition?
Roberto: Not at all, everyone brings something different. To some people tacos are tacos, but to most, they can taste the difference. For example, what really differentiates us is that we make our tortillas from scratch. They are pressed right here in the truck to order. Having the right kind of tortilla makes a difference in the taste and experience of the taco. Is it big or small? Flour or corn? Does it hold up or get soggy? Our tortillas are corn, hand-pressed, and come in three different colors and flavors (white corn, yellow corn, and blue corn). We make our salsa from scratch because we want it to have more flavor than heat. We use Oaxacan cheese and queso fresco instead of mozzarella and cheddar like most taquerias. For our fish tacos, I buy the whole fish and fillet it myself. We want to make everything we can.
Phil: Your tacos are definitely some of the best I’ve had in Portland, or anywhere for that matter, including San Francisco and Austin. What else should we try?
Roberto: We have enchiladas that are different than the typical sauce-drenched-kind at Mexican restaurants. We dip our tortillas in guajillo sauce first, then roll them with queso fresco on the grill. If you like enchiladas you have to try these. Also we offer a Chingon Bowl which has all the ingredients of a taco but without the tortilla for anyone gluten-free or who just loves bowls. It's almost cliche now to talk about fresh ingredients but it's so important because in the end, it is about bringing out the flavors that we want to have represent us. It's great to see everyone responding so positively to our vision. We hope to see everyone soon, we're open every day 12:00 pm - 10:00 pm.
El Mas Chingon is located at 8805 SW Canyon Lane, Portland (next to Tursi Soccer) 971-379-5557