¡Bienvenidos! Painted in vibrant shades of pink, yellow and turquoise, the newly opened Portland Mercado shines brightly as an innovative cultural hub for Portland. Opened in April 2015, the complex provides affordable launch space for local Latino-owned businesses. With 19 enterprises — including a neighborhood grocery, meat market, coffee shop and food cart pod — in place, the Mercado has also become one of the city’s most delicious destinations.
For diners, the fun begins inside the Kaah Neighborhood Market, where fresh-baked concha pastries, chili-coated candies and creamy fruit salads perfume the air. Shoppers stock up on spicy sausage and Latino imports — think dried chilies and Nestle Abuelita Mexican chocolate — and fill growlers with wine, beer and sangria at the adjacent bottle shop, Barrio. Piñatas from Fiesta Tradicional decorate the communal seating area, where patrons linger over cups of chocolate champurrado and mango chai from the mercado’s resident coffee shop, Sandino Coffee Roasters.
Outside, a row of rainbow-colored food carts plate up traditional recipes infused with Portland flair. “Let’s try something different!” declares the banner on Colombian cart Que Bacano, and the carts make that easy, with menus that represent five regions of Mexico, as well as Colombia, Cuba, Argentina and El Salvador, each with distinct cuisines. Order an earthy vegan mole, belly-warming pozole, thick and cheesy Salvadorian pupusas or pizza-like Oaxacan tlayudas (14-inch crispy tortillas topped with queso fresco, fresh veggies and pork rinds). In other words, this is way beyond standard Tex-Mex fare.
In addition to providing tasty, authentic food and incubating new local businesses, the market serves as a touchstone for Latino culture: The Mercado’s calendar of public events includes community festivals featuring mariachi music, Aztec drumming, salsa dancing and other regional arts.
“This market is more than just an opportunity to support our local economy,” says Senator Ron Wyden, who helped champion the Mercado. “It is an opportunity to celebrate and appreciate our diverse backgrounds through food and other goods and services.”
Whether proudly Latino or eager to explore diverse cultures, visitors from all over the world can find plenty to love about this unique neighborhood market. ¡Vamos al mercado!