Villa Mexico Cafe

Burritos are a common sight in business districts and office parks. Mostly served by the same handful of national chains, they’re just as cookie-cutter as the fleece vest-wearing Chads who carry them back to their desks.

But Villa Mexico Cafe—which sits squarely within Boston’s Financial District—stands as a proud bulwark against the corporate blandification of traditional Mexican cooking.

Owner Julie King, who emigrated from Mexico to the U.S., makes everything in-house, from the chorizo to the smoky black salsa based on a family recipe. While the counter-service restaurant’s menu appears straightforward enough, each dish defies expectations and leaves you wondering if you’ve really had Mexican food before.

For instance: The Burrito is grilled. That doesn’t sound like a revelation, but it makes all the difference. In place of a tepid, starchy tortilla stuffed with disparate fillings, Villa’s crispy-brown iteration feels lighter and snappier, and the contents within—meat, rice, black beans, salsa, gooey cheese, and if you opt for the “works,” guacamole and sour cream—are blended evenly, their many flavors married together with the sear.

By comparison, the Tacos are a lesson in restraint. The double-cupped soft corn tortillas hold no toppings other than chopped onion, shredded cheese, and cilantro, allowing fillings like deliciously spiced chorizo to shine.

And then there are the dishes you definitely won’t find at your nearby burrito chain. Take the Cactus Salad, which mixes pieces of juicy-on-the-inside, crunchy-on-the-outside cactus with tomatoes, cilantro, and salty queso fresco. Or Mole Poblano, a plate of tortilla, rice, beans, and shredded chicken with a Puebla-style mole sauce that resembles melted chocolate and holds a richly sweet, spiced flavor.

These savory delights demand refreshment, and Villa Mexico’s homemade goodness extends to potable offerings, too. Rather than reaching for a bottle of Jarritos, you can opt for freshly made Agua Fresca in flavors like strawberry or hibiscus.

Already addicted to the house-made salsa? Good news: You can buy it straight from the source in four-ounce, 12-ounce, or 32-ounce jars to bring home.

Check their website for weekday specials: Taco Tuesdays net you a free taco after ordering two with the “works;” Burrito Thursdays promise a free fruit water if you order a burrito with the “works;” and Cookie Fridays simply provide free cookies.

Villa’s menu grows to include fish tacos in the summer months, plus soups and stews in the winter.

Must Haves

  • There’s a reason why this regional dish looks like it’s swimming in melted chocolate: It’s a key ingredient in the sweet-and-savory sauce. But the mole also includes a host of holiday and baking spice flavors that provide a spicy, gingery finish. Mix in some of the house salsa to introduce smoke and deepen the flavor further.

  • House-made, finely ground chorizo is the way to go here. As with most everything at Villa Mexico, you’ll want to top these tacos with King’s deeply savory black salsa.

  • We always spring for the shredded carnitas, with a smoky flavor that pairs beautifully with rich guacamole and sour cream.

Fun Fact

Before finding its Downtown digs, Villa Mexico Cafe was formerly housed inside a now-demolished gas station at the foot of Beacon Hill.

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