Since opening its first location in Jamaica Plain, Mexican street-foods purveyor Chilacates has founded a mini empire with locations in Chestnut Hill, Mission Hill, the South End, and Roslindale (as well as a second location in JP). What’s behind their success? Certainly the Taco Plates, topping homemade corn tortillas with the likes of smoky chicken tinga and pork simmered in chile verde, with a heaping portion of rice and beans on the side. They also roll some of the best Burritos around, and offer their tangy, house-made hot sauces as an accent to any dish. The spice-averse shouldn’t fear the mild green sauce—it works on everything.
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If you know any naysayers who argue “you can’t find good Mexican food in Boston,” pass along this list. We know Boston is not, in fact, Austin or San Diego, but the region claims a number of stellar taquerias, burrito joints, and tequila bars spread out from Waltham to East Boston. With its mix of distinct flavors, diverse regional specialties, and fresh ingredients, Mexican cuisine is one of the most popular in the country, and these local standouts remind us why. Here’s where to go for the best Mexican food in Boston.
While its proximity to Logan Airport makes Taqueria Jalisco a convenient pre or post-flight taco joint, the authentic Mexican eats at this East Boston spot are worth a journey on their own. The tiny, website-free enclave has earned righteous fame for its tacos—try the cabeza, carnitas, lengua and adobada—enhanced with a trio of house-made salsas. Taking the taco route will never let you down, but Jalisco is a lock for other Mexican specialties including enchiladas, fall-apart-on-the-fork-tender Carne Asada, and a spicy Pozole.
Taqueria Al Amigo
Taqueria El Amigo may be the last place you want to visit if you’re looking for ambience or a romantic setting, but should be the first stop if your itinerary is based solely around tacos. This legendary, Waltham hole-in-the-wall is well out of the way of the city’s restaurant row of Moody Street, but it’s worth seeking out for traditional Mexican tacos and enchiladas featuring corn tortillas packed with the likes of carnitas, al pastor, or decadent cabeza (beef cheek) with a thick slice of avocado on top. A touch of the homemade hot sauce is the metaphorical cherry on top. This place is always busy, and it only has a few tables, so we usually take out.
Whether you find yourself at the Allston original or the East Cambridge sequel, a seat at Lone Star Taco Bar is a ticket to top-rate tacos, Tex-Mexican street food, and well-mixed Margaritas. Lone Star offers eight varieties of tacos including Beef Barbacoa, Baja Fried Fish, and the house-specialty Dallas Spicy Beef, which is made by piling ground beef with mushrooms, peppers, and longhorn cheese atop a fried corn tortilla. Other authentic street food includes simply delicious Grilled Street Corn with cotija cheese, cilantro, and garlic-lime aioli. The tequila bar’s Lone Star Margarita represents the classic cocktail at its refreshing best—though we like to spice things up with the mezcal-based El Diablo helped along by a habanero agave syrup.
Villa Mexico Cafe began its unlikely journey to burrito stardom 20 years ago in Woburn, and then by serving inside a Beacon Hill gas station. Now the counter-service restaurant has its own dedicated space in downtown Boston’s Financial District, serving oversized grilled Burritos with plenty of sear. These flour tortillas are stuffed with rice, black beans, a smoky house-made salsa (which ships nationwide), plus your choice of six proteins, including chorizo or shredded carnitas. Villa Mexico and its gregarious founder, Julie “Momma King,” have also earned acclaim for the Mole Poblano Burrito, which smothers a tortilla, chicken, rice and beans in a sweet-and-savory mole sauce. Note that Villa Mexico is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays only.
Two East Boston locations of Angela’s Café continue its late namesake’s legacy of serving authentic Mexican fare originating from the country’s Puebla region. Appropriately, some of the family-owned restaurant’s best-known dishes are authentic Pueblan specialties, such as chicken Enchiladas de Mole swimming in spicy mole sauce. Equally recommended is the shredded beef Tinga Burrito kicked up by a smoky chipotle sauce; and the freshly prepared Guacamole. Alternatively, free up your weekend to experience brunch and a plate of Chilaquiles (available anytime, but particularly satisfying as a hangover cure) that tops crunchy tortilla chips with a house-made salsa and eggs, chicken, queso, and sour cream.
Barra is the rare Mexican cocktail bar that looks beyond tacos and ‘margs. Instead, the Union Square watering hole seeks to recreate the contemporary bar scene of Mexico City with authentic snacks including Tetela, which are triangular corn pockets stuffed with Oaxaca cheese, grasshoppers, cactus salad and salsa; and visually stunning Aguachile featuring citrusy chunks of raw fish and a sauce of serrano chilis, lime, and passion fruit. Yes, there are tacos—on homemade blue corn tortillas, nonetheless—but Barra is more likely to fill them with ground beef-stuffed jalapeños or al pastor-style fried fish than carnitas or carne asada. There are Margaritas, too, but the cocktail menu looks beyond to feature lesser-known Mexican spirits like sotol and xtabentún.