¡Qué Viva México! Nine Standout Mexican Dishes Around Boston

No piped-in mariachi. No kitschy sombreros or pastel piñatas. And certainly no overstuffed burritos sheathed in aluminum foil. A new class of Boston chefs is embracing the symphony of textures, spices, and soul in indigenous Mexican food like never before.

mexican food boston

Click to view larger. / Photograph by Nina Gallant, styling by Monica Mariano

La Brasa

When describing his approach to cooking, La Brasa’s Daniel Bojorquez has always been averse to labels. But the Sonoran chef admits to a running joke among his colleagues in the kitchen: “Everybody who works for me laughs because they say that everything I touch turns Mexican.” That’s particularly true on his latest menu, inspired by a recent trip to Puebla. There he learned to make dishes such as tlacoyo—a mixture of mashed chickpeas and avocado leaf cradled in a comal-seared blue-corn masa cake—and an ancient Aztec version of mole (featuring wood-fired peppers rather than chocolate), which the chef pairs with grilled sirloin and artichokes (1).

124 Broadway, Somerville, 617-764-1412, labrasasomerville.com.

Amuleto Mexican Table

Despite a menu punctuated by carne asada, tostadas, and a raft of tacos, Amuleto Mexican Table co-owner Karen Bressler is quick to point out that “This is totally not a Tex-Mex place.” Launched last August, the new entry on Waltham’s booming Moody Street is dedicated to the big flavors of her partner Adrian Ortiz’s native Oaxaca. That means an inky, 16-spice mole poblano that envelops everything from shrimp enchiladas (2) to Cornish game hen; house-made corn tortillas served with a ridiculously addictive queso fundido (3); and tequila- and mezcal-focused cocktails, including this tamarind, mango, and strawberry margarita (4)—a riff on chamoyada, the chili-powder-flecked shaved-ice treat served up by Mexican street vendors.

484 Moody St., Waltham, 781-893-1389, amuletorestaurant.com.

Tenoch Mexican

Brothers Alvaro and Andres Sandoval can still remember plodding to taquerias in Chelsea to find a simulacrum of the food from their childhood in coastal Veracruz. Motivated by that dearth of quality Mexican fare, the duo decided to open their own restaurant in Medford in 2012, something they’ve since expanded into two food trucks and two additional brick-and-mortars. Their newest outpost, in Davis Square, continues to serve the carnitas and chorizo- filled tortas that first put Tenoch on the map. But they’ve made once-sporadic specialties—like pozole rojo with slow-roasted pork ribs (5), squash-blossom-stuffed corn quesadillas (6), and adobo pork tamales (7)—the star attraction.

382 Highland Ave., Somerville, 617-764-1906, tenochmexican.com.

Casa Verde

For their latest Jamaica Plain–based project, the team behind Tres Gatos and Centre Street Café turned to a familiar face: Sean Callahan. A fixture at fellow J.P. restaurant Ten Tables for more than six years, Callahan was already a natural to helm their next neighborhood spot. But it was the chef’s unlikely stint last year at Google’s Kendall Square cafeteria—where he created a menu centered around traditional, made-from-scratch Mexican food—that really clinched the decision. On Callahan’s taco-heavy menu, expect Mi Niña tortillas topped with charred poblanos, guajillo-roasted Yukon Golds (8), and lamb al pastor, all enhanced by the chef’s range of house-made salsas (9), including the cacahuate y chile de árbol (peanut and árbol chili).

Opening this spring, 711 Centre St., Jamaica Plain.