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A Veggie Fiesta at Los Portales

By John DiGilio in Food on Jun 22, 2011 6:20PM

Vegetarian food is not exactly hard to come by in Mexican restaurants. It does not take a whole lot of effort to throw some standard non-meat ingredients on a tortilla or taco shell and label it vegetariano. It takes more talent and a better understanding of the veggie palate, however, to serve up meatless meals with real south of the border flare and authentic Mexican taste. The folks at Los Portales in Rogers Park possess that skill.

Los Portales has one of the most vegetarian-friendly menus we have ever seen in a Mexican eatery. Virtually every traditional entree on it has a meatless equivalent. Vegetarians can choose from tortas, tacos, sopes, gorditas, burritos, and more. Throw in a fantastic selection of meat-free appetizers, salads and sides such as veggie empanadas and roasted sweet corn and you have yourself a vegetarian feast worthy of a hat dance. Don't miss the lunch specials for a mid-day savings or the desserts list to round out your meal.

We decided to visit Los Portales on a surprisingly busy Sunday afternoon. It is not a big place, but it certainly is cozy and welcoming. The staff was friendly and helpful. The soccer fans that had gathered to watch a game there added a festive air to our visit. For us, however, it was the food that scored the real goals. We sampled a few of the vegetarian entrees with great results. The tortilla of the veggie taco was just supple enough to wrap around the pile of lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions and cilantro that filled it. The huarache, a Mexican dish that consists of a crispy, flat, oblong tortilla layered with toppings, was a real standout. It was heaped with beans, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, greens, sour cream and cheese. ¬°Delicioso!

Los portales, Spanish for the gates or gateways, is an apt name for this little eatery. Why settle for mediocre meatless Mexican fare when you can introduce your taste buds to a flavor that is every bit as robust and authentic as Latin food should be? As an added bonus, Los Portales will fill your belly without emptying your wallet. Most entrees cost well under $10 and worth every peso.

Los Portales is located at 1418 W. Morse Ave.