El Tacuba, an Ode to Home-Cooking in Veracruz, Arrives in Medford Square

The long-planned Tenoch sibling is about to open its doors.

Interior of a Mexican restaurant featuring dining space and a bar. Two skylights have faux greenery hanging from the edges, and one wall is covered in blue and white Mexican tiling.

El Tacuba. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Five years in the making, El Tacuba is opening in Medford Square by the end of September 2023. The full-service sibling to local taco-and-torta chain Tenoch will feature: plenty of seafood; nods to Veracruz, where owners and brothers Alvaro and Andrés Sandoval grew up; a full bar (with tequila and more); and a gorgeously designed space.

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“We wanted to bring what we normally eat at home to the restaurant,” says Alvaro Sandoval, and to that end, it’s truly a family affair, even beyond the sibling ownership team. “When we were putting together the menu, we included other family members—my mom, Elia; my sister-in-law’s mother, Doña Paz; and her daughter, Paty,” says Sandoval, although the recipes go back even farther to his grandmother.

Overhead view of two cast-iron pans, one with a fish dish in a tomato and olive sauce and one with rice, calamari, and shrimp.

El Tacuba’s pescado a la veracruzana (grilled sea bass with an olive, caper, and tomato sauce) and arroz del mar (chipotle rice with sauteed shrimp and calamari). / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

“When we were growing up in Cosamaloapan, a town in the state of Veracruz, holidays were very important,” says Sandoval. “For us, it meant going with our grandmother to the port of Veracruz and enjoying the best food in the world. Her love of cooking was very special, and her life centered around preparing delicious dishes such as Veracruz-style fish, rice with seafood, and tostadas de jaiba [crab].” El Tacuba’s recipes follow hers, says Sandoval, and you’ll find versions of those three dishes (and more) at the restaurant. But the menu isn’t focused solely on food from Veracruz. “It is also influenced by dishes from [elsewhere] around Mexico,” says Sandoval. “It’s the food that we normally eat back home, at least in my house. That’s how we’re trying to do it, and hopefully people like it.”

Overhead view of two raw fish dishes—one with tuna and one with white fish—on a weathered tile and wood surface.

Two of El Tacuba’s ceviche options—atun (rare tuna with ginger soy, lime, cilantro, and scallion) and pescado (white fish, lime, cilantro, onion, and habanero). / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

The opening menu features ample seafood dishes, including some specific to Veracruz, like the aforementioned Veracruz-style fish (here, it’s grilled sea bass with a savory olive, caper, and tomato sauce) and a smoky chipotle rice with shrimp and calamari. There are quite a few ceviche options, too, as well as bacalao (salt cod) and other seafood-focused dishes. Other sections of the menu include tostadas, with toppings such as rare tuna or grilled steak; tacos, different in style and toppings than at Tenoch; and other assorted dishes. As far as non-fish dishes go, the platano macho—fried plantain stuffed with beef or cheese—feels like an early winner.

A coconut-shell bowl is full of tortilla chips topped with thick green guacamole.

El Tacuba’s tortilla chips and guacamole. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Much of the food is served in snack-y small portions, perfect for trying a lot of different items with a group and pairing with drinks from the extensive bar menu. There’s tons of tequila, as well as mezcal and sotol; cocktails that feature those spirits; and beers, both from Mexico and local craft options.

Overhead view of a rectangular plate of shrimp ceviche in a thin green broth, topped with sliced red onions.

One of El Tacuba’s ceviche options, with shrimp, lime, cilantro, chili, onions, and cucumber. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

The design of the space, which the Sandoval brothers dreamed up, feels worth the years of effort leading up to the opening: Eye-catching Talavera tiling from Puebla covers the wall that separates the kitchen from the main dining room. Two large skylights, embellished with faux greenery, let in plenty of natural light by day. A weathered wooden wall with large windows divides the dining room from the bar, sure to be a lively spot as it’s soon to be one of Medford Square’s only late-night cocktail destinations.

Eight tacos are lined up on an enamel tray in front of blue and white Talavera tiling.

Two of El Tacuba’s taco options—cochinito (pork, onions, and cilantro) in the foreground and costilla (short rib, onions, and cilantro) in the back. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

El Tacuba was first announced back in 2018, and Medford residents and Tenoch fans alike have been eagerly awaiting its opening. Sandoval declines to discuss the unusually long opening timeline—suffice it to say there were a variety of challenges, pandemic-related and otherwise. In the meantime, the brothers continued to build up the Tenoch brand, which started right around the corner in Medford Square in 2012. They’ve since expanded to Somerville, Boston’s North End, Melrose, Cambridge, and Malden, with the latter three arriving after the start of the El Tacuba project, and they’ve got food trucks available for events as well.

Two tortillas sit on an enamel tray, smothered in shrimp in a creamy pink sauce with herbs.

Several of El Tacuba’s tostadas, with camarón (shrimp) in the foreground. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

While expanding to other communities, it was always Medford Square that seemed particularly ripe for another business. Sandoval recalls being drawn to this Salem Street space every time he passed by in the food truck. Easy access to I-93 is a plus, too; Sandoval cites that as one reason the team opened Tenoch there in the first place. “We love Medford and the people who have supported Tenoch over 11 years,” he says. “We think the square has the potential to truly be a destination.”

So perhaps it’s no surprise that the team is also opening a café, Localito, in the square—stay tuned for more on that. But for now, the Sandovals are focusing on getting the doors open to El Tacuba and welcoming the eager community to get a taste of Veracruz.

A restaurant interior features a wall of tequila bottles and the restaurant name, El Tacuba, painted on a brick wall.

El Tacuba. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

El Tacuba will open by the end of September 2023, serving dinner to start, with weekend brunch coming later. 35 Salem St., Medford, 617-390-0600,