My itemized tacqueria "best-of" list, national chains included
Reading several of the recent tacqueria threads, I was reminded that no one Boston tacqueria seems to be universally great. Depending on what I'm in the mood for, I'll go to different places based on their respective strengths. This is my itemized personal "best-of" list. In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I haven't spent much time chowing in Eastie or Waltham, and I have no qualms about visiting a chain if the quality is better. Lastly, I'm limiting this to counter service tacquerias, so Tu y Yo, Sol Azteca, Masa, Ole, etc. are not under consideration. Curious to hear other people's thoughts...
EDIT: since this thread has already generated a bit of controversy (particularly with respect to chains being my favorites in so many categories), I want to add this to the original post: I should emphasize that this list wasn't meant to be authoritative or comprehensive. It was simply intended as a forum to share opinions and experiences.
I hope this thread gets different items discovered from various local tacquerias, primarily for selfish reasons. I'd like nothing more than for someone to tell me that some shack in Chelsea makes terrific green chile salsa -- if it's true, I'll be there all the time!
Best grilled chicken - Qdoba. Excellent mix of spices, fire-grilled, impressively consistent.
Best steak - no clear winner. At its best, Qdoba is near perfect, but their steak is also sometimes chewy and tough.
Best pork - Tacos Lupita. Just the tiniest bit sweet, I'd still crave their pork if I were living back in the Southwest.
Best fish - El Pelon. Add their spicy mayo sauce and nobody else can come close.
Best grilled veggies - Anna's, neither overcooked nor undercooked, with a great selection of veggies. Felipe's is a close runner up.
Best chile verde - Anna's, possibly by default, but spicy and delicious regardless.
Best rice - Qdoba, love the tang and bite of the cilantro lime.
Best pinto beans - Tacos Lupita, great flavor and texture.
Best black beans - Chipotle by a considerable margin. Not sure why black beans seem to be harder to get right than pinto, but Chipotle's always have a great flavor and texture.
Best refried beans - Rosticeria Cancun. A recent discovery for me, I came to try the chicken, but the pleasant surprise was the beans.
Best pico de gallo - no clear winner or loser. Fairly hard to mess up.
Best mild salsa - Chipotle. Made with fresh, good-quality tomatoes. I should note that were we to add table-service restaurants into the mix, On the Border in Woburn makes the best salsa in town, with a hint of spice from fresh jalapeno.
Best hot salsa - Qdoba. My favorite is actually their extra-hot, made with habaneros.
Best green salsa - Chipotle, by a large margin. Unlike many tomatillo salsas, theirs actually uses green chiles as well.
Best black salsa - Baja Fresh. The fire-roasted chiles they add provide a fantastic smokiness to this salsa, possibly unique in the Boston area.
Best guacamole - Qdoba. Freshly made, properly thick and just a little tangy.
Best corn tortillas - no clear winner, although again, I have only limited Blue Line experience.
Best flour tortillas - NOBODY. The whole town is a gummy, flavorless disgrace. Again, if we consider table-service places, the homemade tortillas at On the Border in Woburn are excellent.
One place that is often overlooked is Viva Burrito on Staniford Street in Boston (just off of Cambridge Street, around the corner from the new Whole Foods). They've been there for many years now and for good reason. Great grilled meat burritos. Parking's really tough so it's probably not worth a special trip, but if you're in the area it's a great option.
Among the fihs tacos, I've liked Cafe D's verison the most overall (flavour, crispness, sauce and all), although La Verdad's version had a very light batter and great deep frying. Picco's version is not bad.
I think Tacqueria Mexico in Brookline has my favourite lengua/tongue, but I need to go back and try Lupita's version.
I feel you and others here--I'm a transplanted San Franciscan...what makes it worse is I don't eat meat. So for me its all about the little things of quality. So yeah, best black beans, pico de gallo, guac,corn tortilla--etc. make the best taco,nachos,burrito...
Tried my first Chipotle--black beans and hot/mild(add both) sauce were noteworthy--tortilla was horrid.
Boca Grande does the best by me(tacos). Good tamales too.
How bout the salsa's at Picante or Baja Betty's? My memory is that they are superior to the decent Baja Fresh versions.
I don't think its lack of 'vastness of the survey" but lack of this kind of quality.
Still must try La Verdad and Qdoba...
One place that I enjoy a lot is called Tres Amigos on Rte 28 in Stoneham. It is in a little strip mall close to the Redstone Plaza where there is a Baja Fresh outlet. Tres Amigos is a small family run place that IMHO produces some very Mexican food. They have very good house made fresh corn tortillas that I like with their carne asada tacos. I also enjoy their chille verde which has a nice tart flavor from the tomatillos. I alot of customers seem to enjoy their selection of burritos too. You can eat-in or get take out from tres Amigos and their prices are very reasonable for the quality of the food.
I've always found Chipotle's steak to be considerably better than Qdoba's. That said, I agree with Eat Nopal - if you can't find better food than the chains in a big city, there's a problem. Of course, Rockford's "best-of" Mexican is perenially Taco Bell, but that's (a) Rockford and (b) not exactly a clean survey.
I appreciate what the OP is trying to do ... make a list based on his/her impressions and start a dialog. And I like that there are disclaimers for the kind of joint being investigated ... for example, I would say the fish taco at Cafe D is a serious contender, but that's a restaurant, not counter service.
I'm curious that Tacqueria Mexicana in Union didn't make the cut -- although I must admit I've not had their tacos for a long time, I can't get past the nachos. What I do remember was their tortillas were very good -- doubled up small corn jobbies that held just a bit of filling, some pico and a splash of salsa verde. If said filling is their really good carnitas I'm not sure you can go wrong. But, perhaps OP can fill us in?
Very valid question. My local sample includes: Baja Betty's, Baja Fresh, Boca Grande, Chipotle, El Pelon, Felipe's, Maria Bonita, Rosticeria Cancun, Tacos Lupita, all the places in Union Square (none very memorable), all the places around downtown (ditto).
I should emphasize that this list wasn't meant to be authoritative or comprehensive. It was simply intended as a forum to share opinions and experiences; after all, that's what this site is for!