Brookline gets all burrito-ed
There is one thing that would make me happier than learning that a new Mexican restaurant has opened in Brookline: learning that two new Mexican restaurants have opened. El Centro of the South End and Mission Cantina of Amherst now have second locations within a mile of each other. Both are worthy of your attention, and yet are different enough to avoid turf wars.
If you have been down Beacon Street recently, you’ve probably noticed that Beacon Street Tavern has transformed into Mission Cantina.
You can’t miss it: the exterior of the building is outfitted with an audacious fiery red sign featuring a skeleton in a sombrero, and the patio is perpetually packed with ‘rita sipping patrons. The interior is as brave as its skeleton sign; a frenzy of Mexican-themed pomp that penetrates all available surfaces. Depending on your design taste it’s either festive or tacky.
My party was seated by a happy hostess and then greeted by an equally amiable server. Over the course of our dinner the quality of service never wavered.
Overwhelmed by a long margarita-dominated cocktail list, our server urged us to try the restaurants popular Mezcarita (Del Maguey Creme de Mezcal, Aperol, lemon juice, lime juice, salt), which I did with no regrets.
Beer drinkers can delight in $4 Tecates cans, or choose from a variety of other Mexican brew or local craft beer on tap.
While charging for salsa at a Mexican restaurant is sinful, Mission Cantina has theirs on the menu for $5. Sinful, yes, but how could we not order it? A basket of fresh chips and a trifecta of house-made salsas arrived in a flash and as soon as I had dipped and crunched into my first chip I had forgiven the charge.
If you like spice the Jalapenos Rellenos ($6.50) are a must: corn and cheese filled peppers served with lettuce, black beans and salsa fresco dressing topped with sliced avocado and sprinkled with queso.
The most impressive dish was the cheesy braised beef quesadillas ($12) served in warm, crunchy corn tortillas. But, as far as I could tell, there isn’t an underwhelming dish on the menu.
The entrance and interior to El Centro Dos is not as elaborate as Mission Cantina’s, but it is more thoughtful.
The walls are part exposed brick and part dramatic, elegant mural. The tables and chairs are modest wooden pieces that complement the room’s dark tones and are spaced to make the place feel cozy yet intimate. This restaurant is less Americanized fiesta, more authentic Mexican design.
One of the few similarities between El Centro Dos and Mission Cantina is the quick, friendly service. At no point during my dinner at El Centro was I certain who our server was as so many employees made there way to and from our table, the first of whom delivered complimentary chips and black bean salsa.
The drink list is short, comprising only classic margaritas and mojitos (contrary to what you may read online).
Both are simple, refreshing and delightful. We were encouraged to try the spicy red sangria, which was tasty but ill-fitted for summer as the spices were reminiscent of a fall cider.
For dinner, we passed around four different tacos and the consensus was the fish taco was muy bueno. Next came the Enchilada en Salsa Verde ($16), which was suggested to us because we wanted something spicy, yet was lacking any zing. We finished the feast with the appropriately named “La Mejor Del Mundo” ($22)
a platter of charcoal grilled steak with guacamole, pico de gallo, and beans on the side, which was cooked to perfection.
EL CENTRO DOS. 236 WASHINGTON ST., BROOKLINE. ELCENTROBOSTON.COM.
MISSION CANTINA. 1032 BEACON ST., BROOKLINE. MISSIONBROOKLINE.COM.