We have a soft spot for Junior’s because it was one of the first taquerias in Salem when it opened at the intersection of Jefferson and Fairgrounds 14 years ago. There were a few other fairly authentic Mexican eating places then, but Junior’s was the first place to go all out and take a risk with home-style cooking from the state of Michoacan.
Victor is the proud proprietor of Junior’s and you are likely to find him working behind the counter. He has built a good business with a solid following. Victor comes from Patzcuaro, one of the prettiest towns in Mexico. A painting of the Plaza Grande in Patzcuaro hangs on the wall, and the menu features some typical dishes from Victor’s hometown.
When the sun is setting on the plazas of Patzcuaro the outdoor food vendors start setting up their gas fired comals to cook the local specialty, enchiladas de la plaza, also known as enchiladas placeras. The dish has three elements: enchiladas, a meat (chicken or beef), and papazanhorias, which is a combination of potatoes and carrots. Junior’s version comes with beef ($9.50). These are real Mexican enchiladas — hand-made tortillas dipped in red chili sauce, filled with chicken and heated lightly, not baked. If you want a lighter meal you can opt for just the enchiladas and papazanhorias, minus the beef ($6.50).
Victor tells us his biggest seller is the hand-made gorditas (not to be confused with the phony Taco Bell item — really a taco). Authentic gorditas start with a thick disk of masa harina that is cooked like a tortilla and then slit open and stuffed with meat, lettuce, Mexican cheese and sour cream ($7 for three). Junior’s version is amazingly light and delicious.
One thing that makes Junior’s different from the other taquerias in town is that he offers beef steak cooked four different ways. These are thin Mexican style steaks served with a green chili sauce, a red chili sauce, with grilled peppers and onions or with an enchilada on the side for big eaters. Served with rice and beans, and with Junior’s excellent hand-made tortillas, these plates are a bargain for $9.75 — $12.50 for the steak and enchilada.
Got kids to feed? Junior’s is the most kid-friendly taqueria in Salem with five different kid’s plates for under $3.50.
Junior’s offers four different seafood selections every day including a popular shrimp cocktail ($9.50), and three different soups including a shrimp soup ($8.75) and a beef birria ($7.75). Of course all the taqueria standards are here: tacos, sopes, and quesadillas. Everything is served with what Victor calls salsa addictivo, an addictive arbol chili sauce made in house that really lives up to its name.
The taqueria is named after Victor’s son, Victor Junior, who was four years old when the business started 14 years ago. We thank Victor and his family for being one of the first to bring us his authentic Mexican food all the way from Patzcuaro to Salem.
1705 Winter Street
Salem, Oregon 97301
Monday – Thursday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Friday – Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.