Mexican Food in Boston, Part Dos

The south-of-the-border dining trend takes an authentic turn in the city's restaurants.

mexican food in boston

The Painted Burro’s tacos, from left: steak asada, $15; pork cochinita, $11; chorizo with farm egg and potato, $12. (Photos by Dave Bradley, food styling by Rowena Day/Ennis.)

We used to complain about Boston’s lack of Mexican food (other than burritos). But over the past two years, close to a dozen restaurants have popped up everywhere from the Back Bay to the Seaport, bringing with them 100-bottle tequila lists, ornate interiors, and techy trappings like iPad menus. Though our appetite for flashy fare has yet to subside (the New York–based chain Rosa Mexicano is setting up shop in the Seaport this spring), a second wave of new restaurants is now bringing authentic cooking and tequilas galore, without the clubby extras.

For the team behind Allston’s Lone Star Taco Bar, who also operate Deep Ellum next door, the goal was simply to create a great hangout. “We wanted to do Mexican street food that’s casual, with good drinks,” says chef-owner Rian Wyllie. That means a menu featuring traditional tacos, tostadas, and micheladas. “It’s food that a lot of people in the industry — chefs and bartenders — like to eat,” he says.

At the Painted Burro in Davis Square, you’ll find tacos and guacamole, but also more-ambitious plates, such as whole red snapper done Veracruz-style (steamed in a banana leaf with tomatoes, olives, capers, epazote — a type of weed used in Mexican cuisine — and árbol chilies). “It’s very dramatic when it comes to the table and the aroma wafts out of it,” says chef-owner Joe Cassinelli. “When somebody sees it in the dining room, [we get] five more orders.”

Drama from the food, rather than the surroundings? We’ll raise a margarita to that.