May's Can't-Miss Dish

Tacos from Chilacates

Looking for a no-fail, mouthwatering, gonna-tell-your-friends-about-it plate? Each month, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Bhang highlights the dish you need to try right now—and something to sip alongside it.

On the plate: Tacos

Where to find it: Socrates Abreu is a big believer in going with the flow. “You have to adapt,” says the owner of Chilacates, a group of thriving eateries specializing in Mexican street food. “If you don’t change with the times, how do you adapt to benefit your family and the people you love?”

When the coronavirus pandemic forced the restaurateur to shift to takeout and delivery only, and then temporarily shutter the Chestnut Hill branch due to a drop-off in business, Abreu asked staff members to be flexible. “We sat everyone down and said, ‘We’re in survival mode. Let’s help each other out,’” he recalls. If they were willing to rotate shifts among the other locations—in Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill, and South End—everyone could still work most of their hours. They agreed, and their adaptability paid off. The happy update is that recently, Abreu decided the time was right to re-open in Chestnut Hill; so just in time for Cinco de Mayo, Chilacates’ loyal customers can frequent all five locations. 

Notes on the nosh: Abreu’s sister-in-law, Kaurys Ramirez, is the driving force behind the menu. The graduate of the now-shuttered Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Cambridge developed all of the recipes, including those to make tacos. Her kitchen crew turns out fragrant, from-scratch corn tortillas daily. Thicker and more substantial than any commercial variety, these masa wrappers cradle saucy fillings like chipotle-simmered Chicken Tinga and Pork en Chile Verde. Be sure not to miss the Al Pastor; pork shoulder is marinated in a vermillion-hued bath of annatto and pineapple, then roasted low and slow. The succulent meat (and some of that roasted fruit) is thinly sliced, chopped, and tucked into a warm tortilla. Every handheld snack arrives with a shower of minced cilantro and radish shreds, confetti-like toppings that make every bite feel festive.

Sip alongside: Jarritos, one of Mexico’s well-loved brands of soda, provides a fizzy accompaniment to your meal. Tamarind, an amber-hued variety offering earthy, raisin-like flavors, is always welcome, while Fruit Punch might very well transport you back to schoolyard recess. Abreu’s favorite is Mandarin, tangy and full of tangerine juiciness. Any of these will help you to lean in and get the job done.

Other Locations

  • 224 Amory Street, Jamaica Plain, Boston, USA
  • 658 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, Boston, USA
  • 1482a Tremont Street, Boston, USA
  • 275 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, USA
  • 33 Boylston Street #3330 Chestnut Hill

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