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Jun 5, 2007 07:33 PM

Good Tex-Mex in Boston?

I just moved here from Texas and was wondering if there are any good Tex-Mex restaurants in the area? I want warm chips, spicy fresh salsa, tasty guacamole.

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  1. If you search the boards, you'll find hundreds of discussions on Mexican food but in a nutshell, you won't find anything like in Texas. Maybe try El Pelon in the Fenway.

    1. I grew up in the Southwest, and although I disagree with those who complain that Boston-area Mexican food is universally terrible, I do find that when it comes specifically to Tex-Mex (which is arguably just regional American food), our city is pretty lacking.

      I hate to recommend chains, but if you're specifically looking for excellent chips, salsa, and guacamole, the best I've found in the city are at the On the Border up in Woburn. Yes, the overwhelming majority of the menu is mediocre or worse, but their chips, salsa, guacamole, and small flour tortillas are all made fresh on-site. Their fajitas and frozen margaritas are also better than most of the other places around town. Beyond that, steer clear; it shocks me just how bad the rest of the menu is, particularly considering how much I enjoy this small subset of items.

      There are some really terrific "real" Mexican places around town for which you may get a taste over time. Do a search of the board to get some more info on:

      El Pelon - Baja-style Mexican, their fish tacos are legitimately better than many I've had in the Southwest
      Tacos Lupita - Mexican and Salvadoran, very good tacos, huaraches, mulitas
      Tu y Yo - Veracruz-style, cochinita pibil, seafood dishes, complex sauces

      1. I'm sure I get pummeled for this, but when I want "Tex-Mex" --not authentic Mexican fare, but truly Tex-Mex, I really enjoy the Border Cafe. It's loud, doesn't take reservations, and filled with college students..but everything is fresh and made to order, and the truth is, it's a fun time, with good basic food that won't empty your wallet. Disclaimer: I haven't been in a while, so I don't profess to know how it is now. And I can't remember how their guac is...I do, however, remember the great chips & salsa and the frosty margaritas :)

        20 Replies
        1. re: twentyoystahs

          Aw, twentyoystahs, you don't deserve to get're a reliable 'hound and we all have our guilty pleasures!
          For instance, given other people's reactions, I know I'm cruising for the proverbial bruising to say I really enjoy La Verdad's thick, hot, cotija-sprinkled chips and chile-less, citrusy guac.

          1. re: tatamagouche

            Aw shucks, thanks.
            I STILL haven't been to La Verdad, and really want to get there. Though I have to say I don't have great expectations for the guac....based on other hounds posts...but..we'll see.

            1. re: twentyoystahs

              Maybe I should just start saying I really like LV's avocado dip...

              1. re: twentyoystahs

                The guac there has a good taste and texture, but as tatmagouche said, it's utterly heat-free.

            2. re: twentyoystahs

              I'm sure that BarmyFotheringayPhipps (who hails from TX/CO/NM originally) will chime in on this thread soon, but I have to add that when he gets the craving for a Tex-Mex combo platter Border Cafe is his local favorite as well. In fact, we have plans for dinner there next week, before seeing Billy Connolly.

              1. re: twentyoystahs

                I've never had a terrible meal at the Border Cafe (and the margaritas are very good), so I'm with you on this--definitely a good place to hang with friends.

                I'd definitely go elsewhere for authentic Mexican, though (Taqueria La Mexicana, El Sarape, Tacos Lupita, etc.).

                1. re: hiddenboston

                  Well, yes, but the question is about *Tex-Mex*, not authentic Mexican. Two distinct things.

                2. re: twentyoystahs

                  Blushing... I'm with twentyoystahs. I also still head to the Border when I have a "Tex Mex" hankering. It's a little greasy for sure - cheap cheese. Chips, salsa, margaritas are all enjoyable though. With the right set of expectations you can still have some fun here. Guac is NOT good there, not super fresh. limey, or lumpy the way I like.

                  1. re: kittychow

                    Border Cafe wouldn't last a minute in Texas -- and the whole faux-Cajun side of the menu should be ignored entirely, if not actively insulted -- but sadly, it's the best of a very bad lot when it comes to Tex-Mex in town. You'll find it deeply disappointing, but it's the best you're gonna manage. Although Finlero is right that if you're in the northern burbs, On the Border will also do in a pinch.

                    I despair of ever finding a New Mexican-style restaurant here at all, even an ersatz one along the lines of Border Cafe.

                    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                      Hahaha...I'm afraid that we Texans support a dizzying number of mediocre tex-mex restaurants with bland, greasy food catering entirely to gringo tastes. Not sure why, when there's so much good stuff to be had!

                      Well, maybe it's cause most people are more interested in the patio, the margaritas, and the predictability of not being freaked out by cabeza or something like that on the menu.

                      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                        Your romanticised notions of Texans' eating habits are charming, but the fact is there are worse places than the Border in Texas! I know, I've been to a few. And they were not dumps on the verge of closing down--they were very popular places.

                        And, from the "Cajun" side, I believe the French Quarter chicken is good, esp if you remember to squeeze a little lemon on top. It may be pre-fabbed, part-microwaved food engineering, but it works... especially for ~$9!!

                        1. re: Alcachofa

                          What I'm saying is that there are better mediocre Tex-Mex places in (my native state of) Texas than there are in Boston. For example, I'd love someplace like the Casa Ole chain here: that would beat the pants off of Border Cafe.

                          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                            I'm so confused BFP -- I always thought you were from NM with all your Albequerque green chile rellenos chatter. You're from TX?

                            And to keep this chow-related, where do you go for the best approximation of Tex Mex around here? I know pickings are slim but I bet you've sussed out the best of the bunch.

                            1. re: yumyum

                              I moved to Boston from Albuquerque after 11 years in New Mexico, but I was born and (mostly) raised in Texas.

                              There really is no acceptable approximation of Tex-Mex that I've seen around here so far. There are plenty of good-to-great Mexican places (believe the hype about Cafe Angela, and I'm very fond of both the Brookline and Waltham outposts of Tacqueria Mexico), but Tex-Mex is a different beast, and I haven't found it here.

                              1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                Phew! Thought I'd been hallucinating thinking you a NMexican all this time (you know how you come to "know" certain posters?) So you'd consider yourself Texan and NMexican equally? (If such a distinction exists.)

                                Totally agree about Cafe Angela -- went there again for lunch last week and really enjoyed the fresh and simple guacamole (again) and the chicken in nopales pibil, taken in guilty little bites from my DC's plate. I ordered the tacos arabes and a steak tostada smeared with great refritos just like I grew up on. They were doing great business at lunchtime in a downpour so I have hope they'll do well. I'll certainly do my part to keep them in business.

                                1. re: yumyum

                                  Yes, if the OP is still checking in on this thread, the guacamole, chips and salsas there are all outstanding. It's a straight Mexican place, so they're not gonna get an old-fashioned combo plate there or anything, but it's the best Mexican I have yet had in Boston.

                                  (15 of my 38 years were spent living within 20 miles of the TX/NM line, on one side or the other, so yes, I claim dual citizenship.)

                                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                    I'm going to just shut up soon but I have to say if you like the old combo plate (ex: two tacos, an enchillada, a relleno with rice and beans), then Taqueria La Mexicana in Union Square will fit the bill. You might have read they are expanding soon ... I'm cautiously optimistic.

                                    Used to be my hands-down favorite for hole-in-the wall Mexican food before I tried Angelas. Now, I'm not so sure ... although I still prefer TlaM's chips, especially when laden with carnitas in their nachos. Plus, it's a 10 minute drive for me whereas Angela's is 20. Hmmmm.....

                                    1. re: yumyum

                                      Okay, I'm checking out Cafe Angela and Taqueria La Mexicana!

                                      1. re: ksf2c

                                        I'm fan of Taqueria la Mexicana too, though have yet to have the nachos with carnitas. One of these days..... And I love Angela's Cafe (though it's Mexican, not Tex-Mex).

                                        Here's the address:

                                        Angela's Cafe
                                        131 Lexington St, Boston, MA 02128

                    2. re: twentyoystahs

                      I'm originally from Texas and can say with some authority that Border Cafe is about as close as you are going to get around here. I personally LIKE Border Cafe because it's exactly what you want in a Tex-Mex place: busy, loud, free chips, very large margaritas, huge portions, cheap, tacky decor. The food quality is not going to impress a recently-transplanted Texan but it's most likely what the OP was looking for.

                      Welcome to Boston, pardner.

                    3. The Border Cafe is ok if you have a particular thing on the menu you like. The fajitas for instance, are probably my favorite thing because they're always brought out hot on a sizzling platter and you can roll your own, avoiding the potential pitfalls of gloppy melted cheese, etc, but I've gotten burned when trying to branch out. The Jim Bowie "filet mignon" I tried there was just chewy and gross. Also, the margaritas can be a little weak sometimes, so I stick to beer. In any case, they do have the warm chips and the food is way better than what you'd get at the Cactus Club.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: wontonton

                        Since you are all talking about the Border Cafe--has anyone tried the new one in Burlington, on Middlesex Turnpike (formerly the very last Victoria's Station)? There's more parking there than in Harvard Sq.

                        1. re: cgj

                          I've tried it. Not sure it's all that new since it seems like quite a while ago when I went. I'd say it's on par with the Cambridge location. Not outstanding but probably the only thing around there... Although if I were in Burlington I'd probably drive 20 minutes to Nashua and hit up La Caretta.

                      2. Has anyone tried the Edgewater Cafe in Salem, MA?
                        I have not been but was told it had decent sort of Tex-Mex.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Infomaniac

                          i used to live in salem and tried edgewater twice. horrible.