Chilacates

By Molly McDonough   Suburbs (+) · Mexican · Tacos · $

Thanks to our many taco-hunting escapades, we’ve got it down to a science: The smaller the shop—the more tightly you must squeeze your plate onto a tiny table, the more your arms jab your neighbors while taking bites—the tastier the tacos. (Other aspects directly proportionate to taste include availability of paper napkins, brightness of lighting, and the steepness of the angle you position your face in order to take a bite—an indication of meat quantity and juiciness.)

We’d argue, then, that based on science, Chilacates is poised for greatness. Upon entering the original location on Armory Street in Jamaica Plain, you’re immediately at the cash register, wondering where the seats are hiding. Survey the scene, and you’ll find 10 of them; get extra lucky, and one will be free. If not, don’t fret—service is quick and so is turnover. Kitchen sizzling sounds replace mood music, while counter seating in lieu of tables discourages lingering face-to-face convos.

Instead, it’s all about the food. Uno, dos, tres; choose your canvas (enchiladas, tortas, tacos, and the like), your meat, and your extras from the chalkboard. An easier system than poring through menu pages, although choosing the “dos” is not simple. Here all carne is moist, fork-shreadable, and never weighed down by sauce or salt. A good intro is the chicken tinga, a take on the Pueblan pollo spiced with tomato and chipotle sauce. This rendition is barely saucy but well-seasoned, chunky upon arrival but ready to collapse into shreds with each bite. You’ll never consider chicken a boring burrito-filling choice again.

In both of Chilacate’s JP locations, Dominican-American and longtime neighborhood resident Socrates Abreu has sought to create the kind of no-nonsense, quality food that would nourish hungry locals of all walks of life, day in and day out. The evidence is in the details: two homemade hot sauces, each with different personality; fresh chunks of pineapple scattered over the al pastor; fresh tortillas sturdy and moist enough to carry a full weight of meat without breaking. It’s your new go-to neighborhood spot—even if you live across town.

No Margaritas or cervezas here, but the Sam Adams brewery is just around the corner from the Armory Street locale.

Mission Hill residents, rejoice: The next outpost of Chilacates’ expanding business is coming your way soon.

Bring your chicos and chicas. Chilacates has a kid’s menu featuring tiny quesadillas, burritos, and rice and beans.

Must Haves

  • The perfect combo of abundant shaved radishes, onion, and cilantro adds color and zing to generous heaps of meat. (Our top picks: the chicken tinga, al pastor, and carnitas).

  • Stuff this hefty meal-in-a-tortilla with carne asada. Ask for guacamole and sour cream (obviously).

  • Get it with chicken tinga and smother every crispy bite with the fresh accompaniments.

Fun Fact

Owner Socrates Abreu first fell for Mexican street food while attending his brother’s wedding in Sonora.

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