Walking into Portumex, it is clear that this is a family restaurant. Diners look at ease over heaping plates of beans, rice, and tortillas. There are many regulars who walk straight to the staff and begin chatting away. This restaurant has been around for a while, and in its time a large and devoted following has developed -- and for good reason.
Since 1987, owner Antonio Moura and his wife, Maria Del Rosario, have served thousands of flavorful meals out of their 23rd Street restaurant. The restaurant is a perfect hybrid of the couple. Antonio is from Portugal, and Maria is from Mexico, and together they make Portumex. Beyond the name, the food and feel of the restaurant is a combination of their cultural backgrounds and familial bonds. The food holds unique flavors, and the layout of the restaurant itself feels like a family home. Sturdy, warm wooden tables fill the dining area which is lined by orange and green walls. Right by the kitchen is a table converted into a desk, where Antonio can be seen doing bookkeeping, or just enjoying a glass of wine with a few regular customers. There is even an outdoor area full of flowers, hanging plants, and string lights that feels like a garden.
If it appears that the owners are a little relaxed around the restaurant, don't think that they are slacking on the job -- the kitchen behind Portumex is well run, and they have perfected their craft to turn out dish after dish in quick succession. The dinner specials are the ultimate option, offering a delicious entree with sides of beans and rice and a garnish of lettuce to create a well-rounded (and belly filling) meal.
The Chile Relleno dinner special comes as a platter of fried, cheesy peppers, enchilada sauce, and then even more cheese. The dinner comes with an option of corn or flour tortillas, too, so diners can eat the peppers as they're presented on the plate, or they can make tacos out of the ingredients. This second option allows the most flavors to come through, and lets diners experiment with the two homemade salsas that come with each meal. There is a green salsa that, if not prepared, will leave diners' eyes watering if they eat too much. Its companion is a milder, red salsa which offers a good level of heat. Be warned, however, that these salsa bottles don't come with lids, so it's easy to splash them liberally if not careful.
Beyond their hearty dinner specials, Portumex offers a wide menu of appetizers, too. Most notable is the soupy, tomatoey shrimp cocktail and their exceptional guacamole. Three crispy, golden corn tortilla chips garnish an order of guacamole at Portumex, and these fresh, crunchy chips are the perfect companion to this creamy avocado dish. Ordering an appetizer before the main course is a strong start towards getting the full scope of what Portumex has to offer. Stop in for dinner sometime -- you'll be glad you did.
721 23rd St., Richmond
Tues - Fri: 10 am. to 8 pm.
Sat: 8 am. - 9 pm.
Sun: 8 am. - 6 pm.
Visit their Yelp page here.
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