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Jul 16, 2006 01:57 PM

To Tango (Arlington) with a Toddler: Just right

In typical fashion, last night found us without a plan but hungry, picky, and restless after 8pm. Rejecting the usual suspects here in Cambridge, we drove out west on Mass Ave either shooting down options as "too formal," " too familiar," or "too fast"- as in: we shot by too fast in dah cah to consider them seriously.

Maybe like Goldilocks, we had to keep searching to find the porridge that was just right. I'm glad we did.

My beloved was interested in Za, but we didn't see parking. I was worried that soon we would be seeing signs for California, or Ohio at least, but then we spotted Tango. Easy parking across the street (and around the corner) lead us to the door. At 8:30 on Saturday night, it looked like every table was full; there were people waiting on the benches outside. Instead of a wait, though, we were offered the sole table right by the door, a highchair brought for tucking into one corner, and a plate of mashed squash and sweet potatoes whisked out for the chow puppette, who was already an hour past her bedtime.

Okay, so she didn't groove on the orange mash, but one of our party ate it all up-stopping just short of licking the plate.

We ordered an appetizer of grilled provolone to share (c. $8), and two empanadas (ground chicken and ham and cheese. c. 2 for $5) for the puppette. Plain but crusty rolls were brought, cheese glooped, Toddler declared her bite "Peeekza!" and commandeered the Provoleta a la Parilla. Mommy ate an empanada. The jamon y queso was okay: good crust, but an oilier taste than I would have prefered. I am unaccustomed to fried foods, though, and might be oversensitive.

For entrees, we had the filet with Roquefort ($25) and the sirloin steak ($19). Both were served medium rare, as ordered, and were very well seasoned. Sides repeated the mashed blend for someone who shall remain nameless, as well as mixed vegetables (cauliflower, green beans, and I couldn't get a good look), seasoned rice with peas, and fried potato slices. Puppette cracked into her chicken empanada, which we tasted in the name of quality assurance and found to be much more to our taste than its sibling. No oily taste, moist filling, nice balance of seasoning. My husband said though that he prefers to eat that kind of meat cold. Weirdo.

Our last foray at this price point (and the same amount of preplanning) took us to Full Moon. One piece of our conversation there I remember; it had to do with "exactly how bad would food actually have to be for us to be unhappy..." We were content that night with choices which mirrored pretty well our choices at Tango, the difference is that there was no talk last night of "bad" food. We had a great evening because they made us feel welcome with our toddler without crayons and toys (not that we are anti-crayon), but with a respect for her real needs, great food and terrific service.

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  1. Good story. I'm happy at your experience. Tango's a fun place to go. Solid food. Good atmosphere. They are trying hard in there.

    If you're inclined for Indian and want to head out towards Cali again, try Punjab across the street. It's a winner too.

    1. Thanks for the reminder, we haven't been in a while. The last time we went, we also started off with the empanadas and grilled provolone, and polished off the Milanesa and, for me, the steak with the fried egg on top (forget what it's called), all accompanied by a nice Malbec. It's time for a trip back, nice post!

      1. I made a recent return trip to Tango, in part to try it out on a dining companion. Its probably been about 2 years since my last visit.

        I went ahead and ordered the parrillado para dos with a side of the squash, as I know my DC wouldn't want to eat everything on it. When I saw the para uno delivered to another table, I thought about confirming how the meat would be cooked, but we said "hey its mostly spare ribs, so that must have been the skirt steak that was rare." While we were waiting, I checked out the kitchen a bit and confirmed that they were using a charbroiler for the grilling.

        Our server was a bit distracted and did a lot to avoid eye contact, but was friendly. The bottled wine list was excellent, but by the glass it was limited to the trapiche varietals and one blend. I tried the bonarda/malbec blend as I like malbec, but am not a huge fan of trapiche. The wine had been open for a while and was quite drinkable, but I would have liked some options. The only juice option was cranberry. Rolls were hard petit pan style and the chimichurri was good.

        I was pleased that the ribs were cut flanken style, but they were served quite rare -- not even pulling away from the bone and really did not have the time to become tender. The kidney was also tough and were served cold, so we left them. The sweet breads were excellent and it came with a small piece of skirt steak, which was the best of all the cuts. I enjoyed the morcilla, with nice clove overtones and the sausage was your basic italian fennel seed (I suspect the morcilla was sourced from portugese suppliers and the italian was just from a packing company). Pork and chicken were also nicely seasoned, but not the highlight. The potatoes were nicely seasoned with raw garlic (a few were a bit too strong), but so many had clumped together that it took away from the overall performance (either pan fry them or rinse them first). The squash side was mixed with sweet potato, but neither of us took to it as it was served lukewarm and didn't have much richness or seasoning. We went to chilly cow for ice cream, but they do have some good desserts.

        I thought they did an excellent job with the seasonings, but probably would go back to the single-plate options. Things I have enjoyed are churrascho a caballo, skirt steak (this visit), and the milanesa. For those considering the Parrillado, I would suggest getting the uno and some appetizers (and even for 3-4, get the uno and another meat dish). The use of the charbroiler was a bit disappointing* and the ribs were a miss, but I would certainly go back for more conventional plates. With a few changes and improved service, it would put it over the top.

        * Brazilians as a contrast generally insist that a churrascaria use charcoal and generally its should be on display, but there are brazilian restaurants here that use gas or even electric (you can often tell if the espetos giratórios are on the top) and the results are often much less consistent.

        1. Glad you liked it- I had an ok experience there a year ago, but not great. I had made a reservation ahead of time for 4 of us, and when we got there we still had to wait an hour, which was annoying. The host/owner (?) staff weren't terribly apologetic about it, which was frustrating. The food was good, but I felt that it was kind of expensive for the quality, and that combined with the wait didn't leave me with the best impression. But I'm willing to give it another shot.