Preview of Nico’s Cantina in Northeast Portland, OR

They say you should eat your dinner before you move on to dessert. But Nico Vergara is shaking things up by breaking into the restaurant scene on the heels of his ice cream shop’s one-year anniversary.

Nico opened his brick-and-mortar ice cream business (Nico’s Ice Cream) in May of 2021 on Northeast Fremont Street. The shop may be small with just five indoor seats, but the popularity of its New Zealand-style ice cream made with real fruit is anything but.

Now, Nico has set his sights on a new venture: Nico’s Cantina. For the past couple of months, the Portland native has been working hard to get the restaurant on Northeast Cully Boulevard ready for launch in just a handful of weeks. The space, located just five blocks from Nico’s Ice Cream in the former Beeswing Restaurant building, is a big step up in terms of size — with indoor and outdoor dining accommodating a total of 100+ guests.

🇲🇽 The vibes

Providing a place where the community can come together in a traditional Mexican cantina setting is Nico’s goal. Specifically, Nico wants to pay homage to his family in Guadalajara, offering a laid-back atmosphere, a simple menu, and affordable prices.

Three tacos filled with meat, onion, and cilantro at Nico's Cantina in Portland, Oregon.

Nico aims to sell each taco at his cantina for $3. | Photo via Nico Vergara

🌮 On the menu

Miss Delta owner Marcus Oliver is helping curate the cuisine, which includes a lineup of seven tacos, each priced at $3: shrimp, tripa, lengua, chicken, asada, and two vegetarian options. Nico will source many ingredients locally, like tortillas from Three Sisters Nixtamal, peanuts from La Oaxaqueña, and beer from Xicha Brewing.

As for drinks, Nico said the list will focus on beer, tequila + mezcal. Veteran bartender Adriana Alvarez of República is helping put together the cast of cocktails. Even the bourbon will be sourced from Mexico. “Really, not cutting corners in as many senses as we can and just bringing something different to Portland,” said Nico.

🗓️ Looking ahead

Nico is aiming to open his cantina at 4318 NE Cully Blvd. in the last weekend of August. He also recently announced plans for a second ice cream location; keep an eye on Instagram for updates. There may even be a coffee shop in Nico’s future.

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