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Lincoln's Jenn Louis Digs the Barbacoa at Taqueria Portland

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jenn-louis.jpgEach week in our Chefs Off Duty series, we talk to some of our favorite chefs and industry folk around the country to find out their secret late-night spots where they like to grab a bite and a pint when their kitchens are finally closed. Next up: Jenn Louis, the chef and co-owner of Portland, Oregon's Lincoln restaurant and the winner of Food & Wine's Best Chef 2012.

Where do you like to grab a bite when you're leaving your restaurant?

I like to eat food that's different from what I serve at my restaurant. I tend to go to a lot of ethnic restaurants -- Portland isn't tremendously diverse compared to larger cities but we have a few gems that I think are really special. I love Taqueria Portland in the St. John neighborhood.

Their barbacoa soup is amazing. It's super rustic. Your meat comes with the bones attached so you have to dig around it. It's one of my top three soups in Portland and I think it's just delicious. The quesadilla is also very delicious. [Taqueria Portland] feels like you're in Mexico. It's really casual -- it's a cinder block building and has Mexican soccer on the TV. Typically the clientele will be anywhere from 20-60 year-olds and you'll see Mexican families, hipster 20-year-olds and a good variety [in-between]. It doesn't get watered down, though. It stays authentic and it's affordable for everybody.

taqueria portland.jpgTaqueria Portland

How long have you been going there?

For about a year or so. I grew up just north of Mexico, about an hour east of L.A., so Mexican food is kind of my soul food. Being up in Portland, we have some really good Mexican food but it's not like being in California. A staffer told me, "Oh, you have to go to Taqueria Portland" and I went on a rainy day and got this big bowl of soup and it was just great.

What are some of their other specialties?

They use the barbacoa in a few different applications and it's my fave. I think their soups and braised meats are really good. The tacos are wonderful. It's not a fancy place so you're not going to find an extensive beverage menu but they do have margaritas and I believe they have horchatas -- but it's gritty. There's a bunch of booths and counter seating and you just plant yourself and order from the huge menu on the wall.

Taqueria Portland, 7007 N. Fessenden St., Portland; Open daily, 10am-9pm

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