by Jacqueline Cain | May 3, 2017 3:42 pm
Snobs from Los Angeles or Austin may disagree, but Boston has a fiery Mexican food scene. It’s not just the Anna’s Taqueria on every corner, nor adventurous spots like Sonoran chef Daniel Bojorquez’s not-Mexican La Brasa, with adventurous bites like a grilled ox tongue quesadilla, and achiote-roasted salmon.
The region is brimming with authentic-leaning holes in the wall—you just know where to look, from Waltham, to East Boston, and beyond. Here are our favorites—perfect for Cinco de Mayo, or any night of the week.
Despite being around for 45-plus years, this Back Bay spot is a hidden gem. You’re here for hearty entrees, like smoky chipotle and orange-marinated pork tenderloin, and broiled stuffed shrimp with funky huitlacoche sauce—and a margarita, of course.
30 Gloucester St., Back Bay, Boston, 617-536-4341, casaromero.com.
Four locations in the works just three years after this street food spot debuted is but one testament to how good it is. Try the soft and savory beef lengua tacos, or picante chicken tinga; enchiladas drenched in fresh salsa verde; and a refreshing, house-made agua fresca.
224 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, 617-522-6000 / 617-522-6001, 658 Centre St., Jamaica Plain Ma 617-522-4500 / 617-522-4501; coming in 2018 to the Street, 33 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill, thestreetchestnuthill.com, and 1480 Tremont St., Mission Hill, chilacates.mx.
The Sonoran chef behind this South End favorite knows real carne asada. The tender beef is served a varieties of ways, always with fresh accompaniments, like roasted tomato salsa. Chef-owner Allen Rodriguez has since expanded his homestyle fare in Brookline and Belmont, and also has a Dedham Square location coming soon.
472 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-262-5708, 236 Washington St., Brookline Village, 617-232 4200, 66 Leonard St., Belmont, 617-484-1515, elcentroinboston.com.
The crowds lining up at this small Fenway neighborhood shop are not wrong: Loaded Caramelos tacos (tender skirt steak with an ample dollop of guacamole) are a must-order, though Momofuku chef David Chang is partial to a burrito.
92 Peterborough St., Boston, 617-262-9090, 2197 Comm Ave., Brighton, 617-779-9090, elpelon.com.
Jose’s Mexican Restaurant
The Central Mexican cuisine at this vibrantly old-school spot satisfies, especially the balanced and spicy enmoladas (chicken mole). But we keep coming back for the huge and tasty margaritas.
131 Sherman St., Cambridge, 617-354-0335, josesmex.com.
Lone Star Taco Bar
Deep Ellum owners Max Toste and Aaron Sanders created the Southern California-Texas-Mexican street food spot they wished to see in Boston. With Dallas spicy beef, smoky brisket barbacoa, jalapeño corn cakes, and house-made Mexican-style sausages, Allston and Cambridge are better for it.
479 Cambridge St., Allston, 617-782-TACO, 635 Cambridge St., East Cambridge, 857-285-6179, lonestar-boston.com.
The Painted Burro
Chef Joe Cassinelli’s (the Rosebud, Posto) take on Mexican food is a little out of the ordinary—garlic mojo- and avocado-doused street corn, guacamole studded with mango, or pork belly; charred octopus tacos with toasted almond mole. In Brookline and the South End, the sibling Burro Bar has laid-back bocadillas (small bites), more queso fundido options, and new ceviches.
Chef-owner Lorenzo Reyes toiled in kitchens across the city for more than 20 years before opening his own restaurant in 2014. The family-run spot is cheap, friendly, fresh, and authentic. Try the pozole, the house molcajete, a mix of roasted beef, chicken, and shrimp with Oaxacan cactus; or just stick with a hefty taco trio in delicious house-made tortillas.
99 Broadway, , 617-776-1200, rinconmexicanosomerville.com.
Taqueria El Amigo
This tiny spot is way off the beaten path, even for Waltham. But fruity al pastor pork tacos with arbol chili salsa—four come per order!—are worth the trek. There’s a surprisingly deeply-flavored cheese quesadilla, less-seen proteins like rich beef cheek, and chunky, fresh guacamole, too. Road trip incentive: This hidden gem now accepts plastic payment.
196 Willow St., Waltham, 781-642-7410.
Marinated carnitas tacos are a must, but don’t overlook traditional comforts, like the pozole rojo, a porky stew with hominy and vibrant red chilis.
293 Bennington St., East Boston, 617-567-6367, Facebook.
Taco Loco Mexican Grill
An authentic go-to for more than two decades with cheap delights like over-stuffed burritos, cheesy and fried flautas, perfectly chewy papusas, and ever-juicy chicken, no matter how it’s served.
44 Broadway, East Somerville, 617-625-3830, Facebook.
There are mouth-watering tacos, tostadas, tamales, and other antojitos on the menu at this growing food truck and takeout empire, but the specialty is loaded tortas. Choriqueso, with Mexican sausage and gooey Oaxacan cheese; pescado; and pollo empanizado (fried chicken) are all unique delights. The sandwiches come on fresh telera bread with beans, avocado, and a slick of chipotle mayo. Looking for a more formal dining experience? Tenoch owners Alvaro and Andres Sandoval are opening a sit-down restaurant and tequila bar in Medford later this year, called El Tacuba.
24 Riverside Ave., Medford, 781-395-2221, 382 Highland Ave., Davis Square, Somerville 617-764-1906, 3 Lewis St., North End, Boston, 617-248-9537, tenochmexican.com.
Tu y Yo
This longstanding, no-frills Somerville spot is not your average taco joint—though they do offer an authentic grasshopper version. Try the camaron con pulpo (shrimp with octopus) with a smoky, garlicky mojillo sauce.
858 Broadway, Somerville, 617-623-5411, Facebook.
Giant burritos are the reason the line is always so long at this Financial District lunch spot. We’re partial to the fresh shrimp. Guacamole comes standard, but pro tip: Ask for a drizzle of jalapeño ranch, too. The food truck company recently opened a second brick-and-mortar at Assembly Row, which also offers beer and wine.
2 Oliver St., Boston, 475 Revolution Dr., Somerville, sabrosotaqueria.com.
Mexico City-style grilled burritos, unique black salsa, and house-made sweets (including free cookies on Fridays!) are great. But proprietor Julie King, aka Momma King, who first opened her homestyle takeout spot nearly 20 years ago in Woburn and once operated it out of a Beacon Hill gas station, is a friendly professional who makes dining here a true joy.
121 Water St., Boston, 617-957-0725, villamexicocafe.us.
This post has been updated in May 2018.
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