Where to Find Some of the Best Puerto Rican Food in Boston Right Now
Bring on the mofongo, jibaritos, and pastelón, please.
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Bring on the mofongo, jibaritos, and pastelón. Sure, July’s annual Puerto Rican Festival won’t be happening this year in Boston, owing to the difficulties of planning during a pandemic, but it’s always the right time to dig into a parade of plates that celebrate the island’s vibrant cuisine. And besides—the Puerto Rican flag will still be raised at Boston City Hall later this month, and at least Festival Betances, New England’s long-running celebration of Latino cultures, named for Puerto Rican patriot Ramón Emeterio Betances, will return in a virtual format. So whether you’re looking for a bite out or something to eat while watching the fun from home, here’s where to go.
Izzy’s Restaurant & Sub Shop
Unsurprisingly, Izzy’s is a great place to grab, well, a sub—from a standard issue steak-and-cheese to a roast pork sub, available on Thursdays and Fridays only, that really pops with flavor (especially when you toss on some banana peppers or fiery Calypso hot sauce). But to stop there would really undersell what the Maldonado family’s low-key, homey old-timer by Kendall Square has to offer. Go for the generously sized and nicely priced combo plates, which pair mains like grilled churrasco with, say, cups of tripe soup or fried plantains. They’re clearly made with much love and always served with sweet smiles.
169 Harvard St., Cambridge, 617-661-3910, izzysrestaurantcambridge.com.
La Fabrica Central
This Central Square restaurant bursts with energy thanks to the regular lineup of live Latin jazz and dance bands, as well as DJs, plus cocktails that have a strong tendency to lubricate hips: see the spicy Mango Lust, rum with Cointreau and fruit purée. The real radiating force behind the place, though, is chef Giovanna Huyke, whose menu covers a few Caribbean cuisines. Huyke has been dubbed “the Julia Child of Puerto Rico” because of her cooking show on the Commonwealth that ran for years. Naturally, then, she often looks home—and how!—with dishes like Puerto Rican-style longaniza, chicken or pork sausages mixed with garlic and vivid-orange annatto spice; and pastelón, a lasagna-like layering of ground beef, sweet plantains, and cheese.
450 Massachusetts Ave,. Cambridge, 857-706-1125, lafabricacentral.com.
La Lechonéra Restaurant
Lechón asado, or charcoal-roasted suckling pig, is definitely a specialty here; the big-for-a-buck bacalaitos (Puerto Rican codfish fritters) are great, too. There are nods to Cuban food along the way—including, but of course, a highly satisfying Cubano sandwich. Overall, though, the menu at La Lechonéra is a direct flight to sunny San Juan, with plenty of guava, banana, mamey, and other fruit smoothies on hand to cool you off when you arrive.
342 Cummins Hwy., Roslindale, 617-323-0311, lalechonerarestaurant.com.
Mana Escondido Café
For such a tiny place (you can count the tables on one hand), Mana Escondido manages to pack a lot into a day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all ordered at the counter here, so step right up and start your morning with a plate full of salami with fried cheese, sweet plantains, and tangy mayoketchup sauce; refuel later with a jibarito sandwich of roasted pernil or pollo; and make a final mealtime of mofongo, mashed and fried plantains crowned with rich beef stew, pork rinds, or more.
68 Aguadilla St., Boston, 617-266-0900, manabostoncafe.com.
Sam Cortiella grew up eating Puerto Rican food with his father’s side of the family, and today he makes it with his own child, Vivi. What started as a father-daughter bonding activity in their Brooklyn home kitchen turned into a traveling pop-up and eventually a brick-and-mortar restaurant, just opened in January in nearby Lynn, serving super-flavorful sandwiches that stand up to the best bodega. In particular, Vivi’s tripleta is to die for—the toasted, garlic butter-brushed bread a crunchy complement to tender pernil (slow-roasted pork), beef, and chicken, plus melted cheese, snappy potato sticks, and the signature PapiVivi sauce of mayo, ketchup, garlic, and cilantro.
816 Boston St., Lynn, 339-440-5562, papivivi.com.
The team behind a few different Caribbean restaurants in Boston—including Roxbury’s much-loved Dominican mainstay, Merengue—turns its attention to Puerto Rican cuisine at Vejigantes. The place is tucked into Villa Victoria, a storied South End housing and retail community founded by Puerto Rican activists, and it’s a genuine gem. Named after a folkloric character represented at the Carnaval de Ponce and other festivals, Vejigantes is a celebration of mofongo, pastelillos, and maybe most of all, seafood specialties inspired by the bumping beach town of Boquerón: shrimp, snapper, and lobster arrive in spicy sauces and accompanied by mashed malanga and cassava fries.
57 W Dedham St., Boston, 617-247-9249, vejigantesrestaurant.com.