One of the prevailing threads in the Boston foodie-verse is that while we have loads of everything else, the city’s missing the proliferation of the “real” Mexican food that shines in hotspots like New York and LA. Is it our lack of a large Mexican population? The picky Boston palate? Or are there gems right around the corner that we’re just oblivious to?
“It depends how you define ‘good’ Mexican,” explains Andy Husbands, chef/owner of the South End’s Tremont 647. Husbands is known as one of Boston’s south of the border aficionados. “Is this [renowned Mexican-cuisine chef] Rick Bayless? Maybe not. … We also don’t have anything like the Mission District in San Francisco, which has a large Mexican population. But still, I don’t understand why there isn’t more of a Mexican presence in the food here.”
Chef Brian Poe, of Poe’s Kitchen at the Rattlesnake, started serving traditional Mexican dishes like nachos and tacos, but quickly found that such conventional cuisine needed a little tweaking to suit the tastes of Boston diners.
“I had to adjust the flavors of the food, and then it kind of morphed into its own thing,” he said. Now you can find Hudson Valley duck tacos and jalapeño clam chowder on his menu.
Poe feels that because of Boston’s culinary yen for adventure, many successful chefs carve out a niche for themselves creating their own style rather than filling the demand for a specific type of food.
“A lot of the stuff that I do just wouldn’t work in other parts of the country, because here, the desire to eat great chef’s food outweighs the need for a particular cuisine. It helps avoid the trap of chain food. I mean, Andy does some great stuff at [Tremont] 647, and he could do 100-percent great Mexican food, but he does what works for him.”
So does this mean Bostonians are doomed to a life without the joys of slobber-worthy tacos, picante moles and steamy tamales? Well, they may not be right around the corner, but there are a number of gems sprinkled throughout the city that fit the bill when it comes to Mexican.
“If you’re willing to go out and find them, there are a bunch of places,” says Poe. “La Verdad has great, authentic tacos—you can see them in the back rolling out the tortillas. El Sarape in Braintree has some amazing food, and there are a bunch of places in East Boston if you’re willing to track them down. Angela’s Café out there is run by this Mexican woman and her daughters, and it’s one of those places that everyone talks about.”
“Angela’s Café is great,” echoes Husbands. “I spent a lot of time hanging around Oaxaca, and some of the moles they do at Angela’s Café are the best you’ll find anywhere. We also have places like Tu y Yo in Somerville and Olé Mexican Grill and Olécito in Inman Square.”
So don’t fear, Boston: If you keep your eyes open and travel just off the beaten, you’ll find your way to salsa satisfaction.
647 TREMONT ST., BOSTON. 617.266.4600. TREMONT647.COM
POE’S KITCHEN AT THE RATTLESNAKE
384 BOYLSTON ST., BOSTON. 617.859.8555. RATTLESNAKEBAR.COM
ONE LANSDOWNE ST., BOSTON. 617.421.9595. LAVERDADTAQUERIA.COM
5 COMMERCIAL ST., BRAINTREE. 781.843.8005. ELSARAPE.COM
131 LEXINGTON ST., EAST BOSTON. 617.567.4972. ANGELASCAFERESTAURANT.COM
TU Y YO
858 BROADWAY, SOMERVILLE. 617.623.5411. TUYYO2.COM
OLÉ MEXICAN GRILL / OLÉCITO
11 SPRINGFIELD STREET, CAMBRIDGE. 617.492.4495. OLEGRILLE.COM, OLECITO.NET