Portland Shamrock: more gas station eats
It’s always a pleasure to run across tasty food in unlikely places. This is something EatAroundOKC specialized in back when we had our Shady Restaurant of the Month series. The series is no longer, but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring it to your attention when we find new hidden and unpolished gems. So, it’s my great pleasure to introduce you to the tasty, handmade tamales, burritos, and more found inside the Shamrock Station at NW 50th and Portland.
The outside is run down, though not completely dilapidated. And though they have big exterior signs promoting their “Hot Food,” it’s not really the type of place one would seek out in an effort to find good eats. But take a step inside and you’ll discover the Portland Shamrock’s secret. They really do have “Hot Food,” and it’s better than you expect.
Now, I’m not going to overstate things and recommend you drop everything and drive across town to experience this place. But, if you’re in the area and looking for a quick breakfast, lunch, or snack at a good price, it’s definitely worth a try.
The very best thing here, in my opinion, is the Chicken Tamale with Salsa Verde. This is definitely worth the visit. The green sauce is quite spicy and very flavorful. It reminds me a bit of the Pork with Green Chili taco at Taqueria Los Comales. It has chunks of very tender, all white meat chicken. The tamales are kept in a steam bath right on the counter at the front which keeps the masa very moist and a great consistency. They also have a Beef version with Chili Rojo, though I didn’t enjoy it as much because the large chunks of beef were a little dry and didn’t blend as well with the masa to me (see a pic of the beef and chicken tamales).
At $1.50 for a 5oz tamale, these are hard to beat. A little more expensive than Tamales El Patio when you purchase a dozen, but these are bigger and more filling plus you can buy them individually. The only trick is that you never know if they are going to have them available. Sometimes they may be out of the beef or the chicken or both. It’s a bit luck of the draw when you visit here.
Portland Shamrock also offers a large selection of burritos. There’s a poster behind the counter that displays all the filling options, but as with the tamales, you never know which ones are going to be available. I’ve tried three varieties, as follows. The Breakfast Burrito contains sausage, egg, potato and cheese. Mine was really heavy on the potato with very few of the other ingredients, so it wasn’t my favorite. The Mexican Breakfast Burrito had chorizo, fried corn chips, cheese, onion and jalepeno. It was heavy on the very tasty chorizo, which wasn’t even very greasy (a nice surprise). I enjoyed this one much more. The Pork with Green Chili (see a pic) has pork, the wonderfully-spicy Green Chili sauce, and Mexican rice. It was good but I’d opt for the chicken over the pork (you can get a Chicken Burrito as well). The burritos are 3/4 pound and at $2.99 each, are a great value.
The only problem with the burritos is that they are kept warm under a heat lamp on the counter in order to be immediately ready for you. I understand this approach since this really isn’t a restaurant and the food needs to be instantly ready to go. But it does have the effect of causing the burritos to be a bit dry. The dryness varies, of course, based on how long they’ve been sitting. This is why I prefer the tamale, since they can more easily be kept warm and moist until served.
For a long time, I thought tamales and burritos were all they had here. But that’s because I was going in the mornings. If you go a little later in the day, you’ll find a larger variety of items ready under the heat lamps. Everything from Fried Chicken to Potato Wedges to Fried Rice or Chicken Lo Mein (which looked rather tasty, I must say). Plus, you can order a few items that are cooked to order. There are pictures of these items behind the counter and they include a Pastrami Burger and an Onion Cheeseburger. But, as with everything, you just have to ask what they have available. When I was there, the woman at the counter shouted back to the woman in the kitchen to see what was possible and I ended up trying the Pastrami Burger.
Now, the Pastrami Burger is actually more of a Pastrami Sandwich (see a pic). A very big Pastrami Sandwich with several things going for it. The Pastrami is thick-cut with a smokey-flavor and they warm it up nicely before piling it on the sandwich. The bread is like a huge baguette, similar to what you’d find on a Vietnamese Bahn Mi, and they grill it a bit as well to get it ready. Then there’s some thick-cut tomato and some standard shredded iceberg lettuce. All in all, a pretty good sandwich, but the price confused me. It was $6.99 by itself. Compared to everything else they are selling this seemed pretty high. It was good, but there are a lot of good sandwiches and burgers to be had for seven dollars so I’m not sure if I’d get this again. But I can tell you what I will get again — those Chicken and Green Chili tamales for $1.50!
There are a couple of tables and chairs inside the food mart here if you’re looking to “dine in,” but naturally the Portland Shamrock is more set up for grab and go. Oh, but before you go, be sure to grab some of their salsas which are included with the tamales and burritos. These are located toward the bottom of one of their convenient store style refrigeration units. The cashier can point you in the right direction. These salsas are homemade and they are quite good (see a pic). There are two varieties — red and green — which I can only assume are the same red and green sauces used in the tamales. The green, again, is really tasty and very spicy.
So, when you find yourself around NW 50th and Portland and a bit hungry, why not take a quick food adventure and give the Portland Shamrock a try? Life is too short not to take advantage of tasty food in gas stations!
Have you been to the Portland Shamrock? Tell us what you think in the comments below. We’ve got to convince others to give this one a shot!