1. Nelson’s in the Whit and Nelson’s Taqueria 394 Blair Blvd. 541-844-8404; NelsonsInTheWhit.com; Nelsons-Taqueria.Business.Site.
2. Tacovore 530 Blair Blvd. 541-735-3518. TacovorePNW.com.
3. El Buen Sabor 650 Blair Blvd. 541-653-2517. ElBuenSabor.us.
Nelson Lopez’s two restaurants wear many Best Of crowns this year: Best Latin American Food, Best Takeout, Best Server, Best Food Cart, Best New Restaurant. And can you blame readers? Whether you visit Nelson’s in the Whit (located in the historic Tiny Tavern building) or Nelson’s Taqueria (in the parking lot of Tiny Tavern), you’re not only eating affordable yet amazing food but Lopez treats every customer as if they’re the most important person in the world. And he says he’s happy that customers love him back.
Food prices, like everything else, are rising over time, but Lopez says he works hard to keep his prices affordable at Nelson’s Taqueria. All of the cart’s menu is under $15, whether you’re ordering multiple tacos or a huge burrito. Lopez says he watches his food supplier prices carefully so customers don’t have to see menu prices keep increasing.
The most popular item at Nelson’s Taqueria and Nelson’s in the Whit, Lopez says, is the birria, which he marinates overnight with a blend of 16 spices. Birria, beef brisket in the U.S., is having its moment in Eugene, where food carts and Mexican restaurants offer some sort of it. More commonly served around town as quesabirria, where birria fills a cheesy tortilla, Nelson’s quesabirria tacos are filled with tender meat and is so good it’s worth marking your calendars for Tuesdays and Fridays, the only days when he serves it. He limits its availability, he says, because it takes so long to cook and he doesn’t want to serve customers old birria. “It’s better to sell it fresh,” he adds.
Lopez opened Nelson’s in the Whit in November 2021, moving into the Tiny Tavern, a building in the Whiteaker neighborhood recognized in the U.S. National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. Lopez isn’t just celebrating the one-year anniversary of Nelson’s in the Whit, but also having Abby Young at the restaurant, who’s this year’s Best Server. And he agrees with readers because she treats customers like he does. “You have to give the heart, the smile to your customer,” Lopez says. “You have to give the flavor to your drinks. She’s in charge of making the gourmet margaritas, and people are loving it.”