Trigger’s Side Pipe
Image: Kate Madden
Trigger’s Side Pipe

Under the watchful eye of Jane Fonda’s  supersize still from 1965’s Cat Ballou, Portland rockers trickle down from the Wonder Ballroom into Trigger’s gut-busting world of Tex-Mex. Queso oozes from every corner, dueling margarita machines slush away, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid flashes across a tiny screen. This is Tex-Mex as reimagined by Bunk Sandwich kings Tommy Habetz, Nick Wood, and Matt Brown: a subterranean, eclectic, big-flavored, high-low approach to tortilla craft.  

Duck the low-slung wooden beams and terrariums filled with desert-scapes of cacti and airplanes to discover a land where Velveeta cheese signals an authentic queso and sizzling steak fajita platters are buttressed with the expected rice and refried beans. But it’s not all tangy nachos and bubbling chili. The menu expounds Bunk-style gusto, pressing pulled lamb shoulder, goat cheese, and mole between flour tortillas, and sandwiching BBQ pork shoulder with hazelnut mole into thick slices of quesadilla, to be dipped in smoked chile sour cream. 

Trigger
128 NE Russell St
503-327-8234

The Bunk overlords assembled a talented cast to help steer this cattle drive, with former Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty chef Jimmy Albee in the kitchen and Laurelhurst Market’s previous butcher-master Ethan Bisagna manning the meat smoker. Fifteen-hour brisket crowns multiple dishes, the best of which is a four-inch tortilla smeared with pinto beans, queso, a zippy tomatillo sauce, and piles of the tender beef—Trigger’s champion of Tex-Mex gluttony.

At the bar, crimson, soda fountain–style chairs sidle up to a judiciously curated tequila selection, from rarely seen 7 Leguas to supersmooth Antiguo, all under $12. A trio of balanced margaritas churns continuously in colorful machines, including the “Agua Fresca,” which features rotating flavors like cucumber and blood orange. And don’t miss the “Side Pipe” cocktail, a titanic 20-oz goblet of frozen margarita sporting an upturned Coronita bottle, glugging away as gravity does its trick. 

Two Side Pipes deep, and it’s time to heed the handwritten warning above a spring-loaded children’s rocking horse: “Do not ride Danger Pony.”