I must say I am appalled at Picante and Boca Grande.
Picante: This place was OK when it opened. The salsa bar is a cute touch. The chipotle salsa is excellent. But the prices are way, way too high.
Boca Grande: The location near me in Kendall Square (near Lotus and the Cambridgeside Galleria mall) is always packed at lunch. It's really sucky. Burritos are overpriced, and they're sneaky about pricing. They automatically offer you "guacamole? Sour cream?", then when you say "yes" you're total goes up by $1.50
These folks need to go to California and get schooled on Taqueria etiquette. Burritos should be big, fresh, and full of stuff for $3.
Anna's is just okay, and the only thing worth getting is the pork, which is hit or miss given the day. Tacos Lupita is very good for tacos, pupusas and soups on the weekends (menudo and mondongo). The proprietors there are a Salvadoran family from East LA. Otherwise, you'll need to go to East Somerville, along Broadway for places like Taqueria Tapatio, which is very good and authentic (again Salvadoran owned), and another place along that stretch going towards Sullivan Square. I think the owners of Tapatio also opened a place in Union Square. There's also Taqueria Mexicano in Union Square that is pretty good, not great. The longest lived Mexican (/Salvadoran) place is Taqueria Cancun in Maverick Square (on the blue line) in East Boston. They've been there for several years, but have been sorely overlooked by the Boston gringos, it seems since I've heard no mention of it. Besides the pupusas and tacos, the thing to get here is the sopa de mariscos (seafood soup). Besides these places, I understand that the Mexican/Salvadoran influx has supplied a few new places in Chelsea, though I haven't gotten around to explore. The Salvadoran place in JP sounds promising as well.
I have never been convinced with Boca Grande, Picante, Forest Cafe, El Pelon, or that taqueria/restaurant in JP (can't remember the name).
For a real "Berkeley, CA style" burrito there is only on place around Boston...Anna's Taqueria. Actually, there are 4 Anna's now, I believe. Beacon Street in Brookline, Davis Square and I can't think of the others.
The food is quite affordable and very tasty. They have a tortilla steamer and Jarritos! If you don't have those....you don't have a burritto!
...and you should be able to get a one bedroom apartment for under a thousand dollars! High prices are a fact of life but I agree that these so-called Mexican food places don't know the first thing about quality and authenticity. I also agree that Anna'a beats them all hands down.
What is with this collective delusion of all Bostonians that Anna's is somehow good? Is it something in the water? I have lived here for five years (orig. from California) and I continue to be amazed by this phenomenon.
Anna's has pasty, steamed tortillas. The refried beans are crusted over and disgusting. The cheese is low quality. They don't give you enough guacamole. They have no decent salsas. There is no seafood. The food is not spicy. The chicken is mediocre. They don't have basic condiments like chopped onion and cilantro, pickled jalapenos, or even lime wedges. They don't give you any chips with take-out. The menu never, ever, ever changes, not even a special here and there. And for this, there are lines out the door in Brookline.
When I think of a burrito place, I imagine something far removed Anna's, which is basically just a mildly improved version of Boca Grande.
Yah, I kept reading about Anna's and, from the description, you'd think it was a hole in the wall with fresh yummy cheap burritos. I was surprised to find that Anna's was another crappy boston chain (picante, Boca). Blech!
I must admit I had a tasty burrito at El Pelon, but that place is pretty far from "authentic," and it's no steal.
In defense of my New England brethren, latin american food is fairly new on the radar here. There aren't many Mexicans, and the Salvadorans and colombians haven't been here for that long. People in New England think that "Chi Chi's" is what mexican food is all about, but that's just because of lack of exposure/resources. It's all about what's around you. (or not around you)
You've run into the big Boston food gap. Mexican food worth eating is really, really hard to come by. I was a Boca Grande fan for a while, but I've left them behind for Anna's Tacqueria (Brookline-Beacon St., Allston-Harvard Ave., Cambridge-Porter Sq.). Still more expensive than what you might find in California, but oh-so-good.
Another good find is the Forrest Cafe on Mass Ave. in Cambridge. Kind of a dive--but good, authentic food. It's the only place you could find a good fish taco around here.
re: Gabe Handel
uggh. i can't believe how many people think that anna's and places like forest cafe are great mexican food. i'm from southern california, and like my food to come from greasy, dark places with a big ol tub of carrots by the register. besides being overpriced, most places in boston just don't cut it flavor or ingredient wise. tacos lupita is my winner right now, though all these other posts will have me out and about for a couple weeks on a mission.