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Upscale Mexican

I am quite sure many of you will be able to offer some suggestions!!

We LOVE Casa Romero in Back Bay. Are there any others in the area? We want a very upscale experience - like Casa Romero. Any suggestions??

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  1. If your willing to drive to Salem, MA you could try Cilantro.

    1. Few and far between, unfortunately. Tu Y Yo in Somerville isn't exactly upscale, but it's closer than most other Mexican places in the Boston area.

      1 Reply
      1. re: hiddenboston

        I still remember it for the dive that it used to be, but perhaps the Forest Cafe could be considered a bit "upscale" these days. Certainly there is more in the neighborhood (West Side...) to sit and have a drink than Powderhouse.

      2. IMHO, the best upscale Mexican around Boston is at Ole in Inman Square. They do it right there, great food, great margaritas, good service and atmosphere.

        Tu y Yo is often mentioned, although I have never been particularly fond of their food. Maybe "too authentic";
        very simple dishes with lots of rice and lots of meat.
        Sometimes you just want that crazy bigass bowl of guacamole and tortilla chips.

        I have never been very impressed with Casa Romero. When we first moved to Boston from California, we went on the recommendation of several folks that claimed they had "real authentic Mexican food." It's anything but. Some of the dishes are OK, but they are hardly "authentic", the service sucks, and the overall food quality is rather mediocre. Then again, we were coming from CA and had not yet adjusted our expectations to Boston Mexican food standards. Have been back a couple of times and never really been amazed. However ... Ole is really quite good and that's where I head if I want some upscale Mexican food.

        Would love to hear other recommendations - been meaning to check out Cilantro and Zocalo in Arlington.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Sgt Snackers

          By very upscale do you mean not a taco stand? I don't know any "very upscale" mexican restos in Boston.

          That said...

          I think the recommendation for Ole seems reasonable. Its divorced cousin Zocalo is similar in setting, but their food is simpler. I really enjoy their rellenos. Ole has slighltly fancier ingredients.

          1. re: Sgt Snackers

            Yes! Ole Mexican Grille is excellent. Favorites that leap to mind include ceviche, posoles, huevos oaxacenos (at brunch), and a great "real" margarita (no kool-aid style sour mix).

          2. There is Sol Azteca in Brookline--I'm not sure I'd call it upscale, but it's well above Anna's or something like that. Most of the food I've tried has been ordinary, but there was a shrimp in a green sauce that was good. It has been a few years, so I don't remember what the sauce was.

            7 Replies
            1. re: cmd

              I recall Sol Azteca specializing in various mole dishes (and being rather good at that).

              I have not yet tried El Sarape in Braintree, but hear good things. Any opinions?

              1. re: Sgt Snackers

                Last year, when craving outdoor seating, margaritas, and Queso Fundido, PK and I went to Sol Azteca. We were not expecting much from this place, but we got even less than that. The margaritas tasted like a cheap mix and we had the grossest queso fundido (that did not even come with tortillas...we had to ask for them). And, they definitely did not use a Mexican melty cheese. When we asked for more chips, they brought them to us (but charged us more for them than they did for one margarita). Sol Azteca is a place that I will never go back to.

                1. re: Sgt Snackers

                  El Serape is certainly worth a visit. Just stay away from there typical mexican dishes. Taco, burito, enchilada plates, and like that. Go for the house specials, daily specials, chef reccomendations and ther appetizers. Their chicken liver and carnitas apps. are to die for. The talent in the kitchen are from central Mexico, so they do not do tex-mex very well. But for classic Mexican cuisine this restaurant is a real find.

                  1. re: Louis

                    I think we'll be checking this out. How is their mole?

                    1. re: Rubee

                      I have been busy eating from their specials menu, and have not got to their mole yet. However, their puntas de filete: a steak bacon & onion casserole,camarones javier: grilled shrimp with potato puree and chipotle,and the guisado con chili ancho:chicken or beef casserole, I can reccomend without reservation.

                      1. re: Rubee

                        Thanks - all of those dishes sound great! Can't wait to check it out. (don't know why I couldn't reply to your post, had to reply to myself)

                  2. re: cmd

                    I quite like Sol Azteca, and think it gets an undeservedly bad rap on this board. Granted, some of their stuff is pretty ordinary, but some is truly exceptional, most notably the spicy chicken liver appetizer, Higaditos something-or-other. The salsa is fresh and tangy, and even better when you mix in some of their homemade habaƱero sauce - it's not on the menu, you have to ask for it. It's the real thing, SERIOUSLY hot!

                    And I've always found the service to be friendly and accommodating.

                  3. I love El Sarape, although some people I know don't like it quite as much as I do. It's not upscale at all, though. The atmosphere is very nice, but it's more geared toward families and others looking for an good meal at a reasonable price.

                    1. For "upscale" Tex/Mex there is Cottonwood in Back Bay. Its not trying to be authentic mexican and its hard to recommend because of the variability of the food, but can be good when they get things right. The drinks are pretty....

                      Is Tacos El Charro still operating in JP? Its not upscale but with the Mariachi band that was both a nice family outing and date place, plus the food is pretty good. There are better food options in Chelsea or East Boston (Tijuana comes to mind which I think has a Mariachi band too), but that is about 180 degrees from "upscale."

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: itaunas

                        I thought I had heard that Tacos el Charro had closed some time back?

                        1. re: itaunas

                          Tacos El Charro seems to be on the same schedule as The Littlest. Both claim to be closing but remain open.

                          I drove past Tacos El Charro a few weeks ago and it was still open. I believe they were looking for someone to take over their lease and it appears it hasn't happened. I haven't been in but would assume its running the same as always.

                          1. re: itaunas

                            gaak! Cottonwood is awful and barely mexican... so overpriced and the service stinks too...i've gone back waaay too many times giving them a chance to prove themselves...no joy.

                            1. re: MaineRed

                              I concur. I'd even ... shudder ... go to the Border Cafe before I'd return to Cottonwood.

                                1. re: gini

                                  I just think the Cottonwood and the Border are about two of the most-over-rated yet boring tasting "Mexican" restaurants in town. The Border is slightly better.

                                  1. re: gini

                                    Short, shameful confession: Border Cafe is one of my comfort food spots. Definitely not for the quality of the food, but for cheap grub and big margaritas, it's hard to beat.

                                  2. re: Dax

                                    Just to be clear, I said "its hard to recommend..." I personally wouldn't go there for a meal, but for drinks and an app (snakebites probably) I might. There was a recent positive review of an event there. Border Cafe would be a big stretch for me, if someone suggested that we go there and Forest wasn't an option, I would do Rudy's or Jose's.

                              1. I wouldn't call it "upscale" either, but Mexico Lindo in Melrose is a little nicer/fancier than my hole in the wall faves like Taqueria Mexicana in Union Square. I've only been once but I really enjoyed the food I had (good chile relleno, which is a bell-weather dish for me) and the sangria was tasty too. Nice people, sort of a family-oriented place.

                                1. I really love Jose's in Cambridge, Fresh Pond area (131 Sherman St., josesmex.com). Like the above-mentioned places, it's not "upscale" per se (is anywhere in Cambridge really?), yet although it's casual it still totally is a "nice" night out, and I see couples on dates there every time I go. I don't know "authentic" Mexican from my elbow, but the food is good, interesting, plentiful, not too expensive, and in a very warm and friendly atmosphere.

                                  1. Jose's is definitely a good place to go. It's pretty much a mix of authentic and Americanized Mexican, but everything is decent there.

                                    Personally, I'd avoid trying to find an upscale Mexican restaurant, as you're losing out on some really great places, food-wise, by doing that. I'd much rather have the food at Taqueria La Mexicana in Somerville, Zocalo Cocina Mexicana in Arlington, El Sarape in Braintree, or Mexico Lindo in Melrose than Casa Romero or the Cottonwood in the Back Bay. If an upscale environment is top priority, I don't think you'll have much luck in the Boston area.

                                    1. I've often wondered if a place like Rick Bayless's Frontera Grill would do well in Boston. Ole in Inman seems to be the closest, but it hasn't ever blown me away like Frontera and Topolobampo do. This seems to be a hole in the restaurant options that some enterprising restauranteur would recognize and try to fill. Is Boston just not ready for gourmet Mexican?

                                      1. Serape is best in the area, that includes their enchiladas.

                                        Mexico Lindo is second best.

                                        Forrest okay for a neighborhood joint.

                                        I have never been able to taste a spice in Ole's cooking.

                                        Border is comfort food and $7 dinner plate.

                                        Jose's is disgusting.

                                        You eat at Cottonwood only if someone forces you and then pays.

                                        Acapulco's Sudbury is disgusting.

                                        Serape is nothing like Casa Romero so not sure what you'll think.

                                        1. Hi,

                                          I have to post to "defend" Jose's. I can't imagine what would be "disgusting" about it. It might not be my absolute favorite Mexican in the area (I reserve that award for Tu Y Yo, and the late lamented Tacos El Charro), but it's very tasty and very pleasant atmosphere. I also like El Sarape and eat there often.

                                          About the only Mexican places around here that I'd label disgusting are any of the Acapulco's chain outlets (Mole sauce that tastes like it was squeezed from a Hershey's bottle), and La Paloma in Quincy (enchaladas with sweet bbq sauce on them? No thanks...).

                                          1. I am a Texan (stuck in Boston...damn.) that loves me some upscale as well as hole-in-the-wall Mexican, as long as it's good.

                                            Tacos El Charro: it no longer has the sweet mariachi...they are now either at Acapulo (can't even deal with that place) or the Back Bay T-stop. I love me some mariachi. After much exploration I found this place to kind of be my favorite. The salsa (with chips) was oh-so-fresh and chunky with the look and taste that it's homemade. Major plus.
                                            I don't know, I kinda feel like you can judge a place by their chips and salsa, and in that respect this place rocks. I enjoy their shrimp enchiladas with tomatillo sauce. They also have a great cilantro sauce. But sometimes there is a little inconsistency in the sauce.
                                            One time my dish was so salty I couldn't make it past two bites. Damn that sucked.
                                            So yea, they were closed for a good bit and we stopped in soon after we realized they were open again and I asked what was up and the really sweet lady that works there said they had been closed because of health inspections or something like that. I hate it was that comment that swayed me but, and I know it can happen at any 4-star in NY, but it just kind of wigged me. So.... Also. I feel that their sangria is was too $$ for JP.

                                            Zocalo Cocina Mexicana: I really loved it. My man had him some yummers mole and I got my chili relleno on and it was a might muy delicioso! Es verdad. I look forward to going back.

                                            Casa Romero: This place is all ambiance and lacking lots of interesting/traditional menu items. Plus it's really $$$ for what you are getting. Maybe I am just too used to getting greatness for $ in Texas. But anyway, I have taken plenty of visitors there and they seem to totally feed off the place. I dig it too, I just the menu had more options.

                                            Tu Y Yo: This used to be my favorite. That chili relleno in red pepper sauce? OMG it killed me. Like, daydreams of it. Much to my mans hesitation (no chips and salsa!!!!! a sin in his book) we went back so I could have it again. I had me that same relleno (try it, it's dee-lish) and it was fab but he had some pork tenderloin he wasn't digging (not really the picky type). It was our second time there: me digging, he not digging. We prolly won't be back.

                                            I stopped in Cottonwood once for a margarita and felt I need a tetanus afterwards.

                                            I am very much looking forward to checking out Ole.
                                            If this place doesn't rock me I am giving up on Boston for this kind of food.

                                            Look. For great cheap Mexican food, try Boca Grande.
                                            I have no idea why Anna's always gets a shout out.
                                            Personally, I think it sucks.
                                            At least Boca Grande has interesting dishes like Pasole Stew and 3 little corn tortilla tacos filled with pork.

                                            So, yea.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Jambon_It

                                              Yes! Another Texan in Boston who agrees with me about Boca Grande vs. Anna's! I lived in Boston for three years and had countless quick and delicious meals at Boca Grande -- vastly superior to Anna's, in my opinion. The tacos al pastor are awesome.

                                            2. The best sit-down Mexican food in Boston I have ever had was at the now defunct place on Beacon Street Somerville near the Cambridge line that was called Qutzalcoatl or Montezuma or something like this. It was run by an artist whose excellent (if somewhat over the top) paintings decorated the place. He also made an excellent mole, fresh chips and salsa, and solid enchiladas (which is about the best one can expect around here for some reason). Other than that, in my experience the Boston area is a dead zone for decent sit-down Mexican.

                                              The rest in order of quality:

                                              The best remaining place is Forest Cafe. I have had excellent meals there, but I have also had terrible dishes, and there seems to be no predictable logic to determine one from the other from a glance at the menu. They usually have fresh seafood, but have been known to overcook it. Their mole ranges from near perfection to chocolatey salt dip. The food is more often good (or at least passable) than bad, and I would probably recomment the Forest for a more 'upscale' dining experience. Despite the fact that the food is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, the Forest Cafe also contains an attractive local dive bar, which to me is the real attraction (easily the best bar on the stretch of Mass Ave between Harvard and Porter). If you end up with a bad $12 enchilada place, at least you can drown your sorrows afterwards at the bar.

                                              I have only been to Tu y Yo near Tufts once, but the food was quite good and I would go back.

                                              Tacos el Charro only passes for sit-down Mexican because the prices are jacked up for the Boston market, but they do make pretty good food.

                                              Jose's is strictly for greasy Tex-Mex, which they do reasonably well.

                                              Ole is mediocre at best - it only deserves mention this high owing to the weak competition. As someone noted above, they seem to have a curious spice-deficiency.

                                              Border Cafe is about as Mexican as TGI Friday's. Cottonwood also fits into this category.

                                              My feeling is that the best (and certainly the most economical) Mexican food in Boston is to be found in tacquerias, and I have started another thread on the topic (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...).

                                              1. Jose's serves canned corn on their entree plates. So did El Phoenix Room, which was in the same class. Note past tense.

                                                1. It is really interesting how many divergent opinions there are on this topic! For my money, I'm into places like Ole with nicer ambiance, fairly interesting menu, and decent service. I think Casa Romero is going for the same thing but I have never found the food, service, or ambiance there very appealing.

                                                  Places like Forest Cafe and Joses are (in my mind) simple neighborhood joints, less interesting menus, but good for what they try to be. Nobody would say that either Forest or Jose's is trying to be high end; just friendly, laid back, quasi Mexican food.

                                                  (That said, the service at Forest is appalling. I once went there and they forgot our orders -- 45 minutes later the waitress dropped by and said "um ... sorry we forgot to make your food", though they did offer us free drinks to make up for it.)

                                                  I guess this means, you just have to try them all, and see what works for you.

                                                  1. No one has mentioned Ixtapa in Lexington near Arlington -- it's new, we've been about five times recently, and it's consistently solid to outstanding. There are posts about it for more details. The margaritas are good, the chips are good, the salsa needs work, the food is basic, the portions are large, and the flavor is fresh. We love their (grilled) fish tacos and three of them in an order is plenty for two of of us to share. The final bonus is it's spacious, with easy parking, and the staff is very warm.

                                                    PS -- we are big fans of Ole, don't like Zocalo (but admit the rellenos there are tops), enjoy both Anna's (healthier?) and Boca Grande (better) burritos and are known to stop into Rudy's or the Border for drinks and apps, if that helps gauge our preferences.

                                                    1. Not in Boston, but we hit Mexico on Atwells Avenue in Providence Saturday night. It is definitely not upscale (looks more like the taco joints I've been to in San Diego), but it is a colorful, friendly place with a decent number of tables and about the most authentic Mexican food I've had in the area. The potato quesadillas (NOTHING like the nasty quesadillas you get in the chains) were fantastic--almost more like tacos than quesadillas, and the enchilada mole was even better, with perhaps the best mole sauce I've had anywhere in New England.

                                                      I'd still put Mexico Lindo in Melrose slightly ahead of it, but Mexico in Providence is worth checking out.

                                                      1. I believe a Zocalo (?) has opened up on Comm ave past the Harvard Ave intersection a little ways. I passed it the other day and saw guacomole in a mortar being presented tableside. Has anyone eaten there? Is it worth it if only for the convenience to home (around the corner)?