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Zocala Mexicana Arlington - Terrible

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I just got back from Zocala on Broadway-- it was by far the worst excuse for Mexican I've EVER experienced. Carnitas is a pretty basic dish (shredded seasoned pork in some sauce) and this meager amount of shredded pork was a dry paucity of meat put over a few tablespoons of white rice and a couple of tablespoons of black beans .....with a tiny folder tortilla in the corner of the plate and a tablespoon of salsa (or was it chopped tomato and onion) -- a pathetic excuse for a meal !!! When I told the waitress the meat was dry, she brought me 2 tablespoons of tomatilla sauce -- big deal !! This place is a major rip-off and I implore the people of Arlington to drop into Boca Grande on Mass. Ave. in North Cambridge (you can't get beer or wine, but at least the people feed you !), Jose's on Sherman St. in No. Cambridge, or the family place on Mass. Ave. in Lexington -- Ixtapa !!! Great places with people who care how you're fed -- unlike the aloof waitress with attitude at Zocala in Arlington !!!!! It's really a shame that the former Mexican restaurant in that location, Ole, isn't there anymore. You can always go to Ole in Inman Square, Cambridge !!! But stay away from Zocala in Arlington !!!

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  1. We haven't been in a couple of months, but we had several quite good meals there. My favorite were the various chiles rellenos. I wouldn't say it was great Mexican, but not too bad. I hope it hasn't gone so far downhill in so little time.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DavisSquare

      Agree that the rellenos are good, but everything else there (Arlington) is bad based on a couple of recent visits -- lame service, watery sangria, and teeny portions head the list of complaints -- experience at Ixtapa has been the exact opposite -- warm quick service, decent margaritas, and HUGE portions (not rellenos, though -- grilled fish tacos -- never had the CA version, but these are a favorite for us). I also agree that Boca Grande is far superior, as is Anna's--and Tu y Yo at the other end of the price spectrum.

    2. I had a nice brunch at the Brighton location last summer...tasty mole.

      I do agree that Boca is delicious.

      1. I had exactly the same impression of the food at Ixtapa the one time I ate there. I've had mixed experiences at Zocala.

        1. I've had several excellent meals here. Zocalo is owned and run by the same person who ran it when it was Ole. I don't remember the particulars, but I believe Ole in Inman and Zocalo in Arlington are owned by brothers. When they split, the Arlington place was renamed Zocalo.


          1 Reply
          1. re: tallullah

            I remember there was a family fued that resulted in the split -- nevertheless, I was very dissapointed. Perhaps the expansion to Brighton & Boston is haveing a negative effect.
            One other note is that we walked in at 7:00 on a Friday night with no wait and other tables available, that's a change.

          2. Sorry you had a bad experience, I've never been there myself. As an FYI though, carnitas usually doesn't have much of a sauce, as it's supposed to be roasted or fried until it is crisped up on the outside. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnitas) Pork al pastor will be shredded pork in sauce. That being said, there's still no excuse for a small amount that was also dry!

            There's a great version of carnitas at Ken Oringer's new place La Verdad- moist but crispy shredded meat. No sauce there!

            2 Replies
            1. re: chezchristine

              I second the carnitas at La Verdad. And I agree, I've never seen carnitas in a sauce, the crispy bits are the best part!

              1. re: chezchristine

                The al pastor pork at Lupita (and others places I have tried) is not shredded and sauced. In my experience, it's prepared on a spit much like lamb for gyros (obviously the spices, including the pineapple are different) then sliced off and grilled until a little crispy.

                I also agree that carnitas is not usually served with sauce, or at least in my experience.

              2. I haven't been in a while, but I always really enjoyed it. I would be very sad if it was going downhill.

                But I have to question your taste in Mexican if you are recommending Jose's or Ixtapa. Those places are good if you enjoy eating enormous portions of gloppy cheese - but they're not good for much else.

                3 Replies
                1. re: mr pinchy

                  I guess you have to be careful what you order --but taste is definitely a personal thing --

                  While I don't really consider it "Mexican" (closer to Tex Mex IMHO), I assure you that there is NO gloppy cheese in the fish tacos (a standard order for us, though disappointing not to have any fresh cilantro with it this time -- they ran out...) or camarones appetizer at Ixtapa -- both are enormous enough that the combo, along with fresh chips and recently much-improved salsa, fed two very hungry cyclists well last night, along with above average margaritas.

                  We'll keep going back and hope others head to Zocala to keep the waiting time down (it's always very busy, but moves quickly).

                  1. re: rlh

                    on the menu "fish taco" has a description involving "cheese"..."flour tortillas"..."white sauce"


                    I just don't get it.

                    I never thought I would say I miss CA, but damn it, when it comes to fish tacos, I MISS CA!!!!

                  2. re: mr pinchy

                    I'm going to come to the defense of Jose's here ... I don't think anyone would call it a great restaurant, by any stretch, but there are simply times you need that good old "Americanized" Mexican food, rice, refried beans, enchiladas, oversized portions, free chips and salsa, and darn good margaritas. I think of it as comfort food: not much to write home about but not half bad either. I'll keep going there at least...

                  3. I'm with you on that. Zocalo is the most disappointing mexican I've had in Boston. I like boca grande, also Rudy's in Somerville which has really good guacamole and nice combo plates. for me, zocalo was just too expensive for the crappy food. I mean, i'd expect that from some lunch cart but not sit down service...

                    1. Really? Ixtapa?? God, I like the people and the service and the vibe, but the food there... not sucha mucha. Last time I was there they had to try 3 times to get my meal right, and when they did, well, it so wasn't worth the wait and trouble. Rule #1: fish tacos or burritos should definitely *not* taste "fishy." Coulda been my bad for ordering wrong, but my better half was equally underwhelmed by the variety of enchiladas he had. We'll probably go back, the people were very nice, but.... I'd rather go to Jose's, which, though not stellar, certainly has much better food than Ixtapa. Too bad the service there leaves a lot to be desired (never go to Jose's starving!). Too bad, too, that there really is a dearth of truly outstanding mexican food here.

                      I'd recommend the Taqueria in union square over any of the other places round these parts. They have awesome tamales. (And of course Lupita is also quite good.)

                      1. Gotta agree with you on Zocala - we went there once and the food was extremely mediocre. I can't even remember what I ate, but it might as well have been from a Chi-Chi's (do they even have those around here?). It's in my neighborhood, but I don't think we'll ever go back. Life's too short to wait for a table in a cramped little restaurant for crappy food.