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Jun 3, 2008 07:01 PM

Back to Villa Mexico

I happened to be around Beacon Hill this evening, so I stopped at Villa Mexico. Once again, the owner was as nice as could be, and of course, being a lifelong Bostonian, I immediately had my back up, wondering why she was being so nice to me. Anyways, I ordered a beef tamale and a couple of tacos (chicken with mole in one, beef in the other), grabbed a water, and found a spot to have dinner outside. The tamale was wrapped in a corn husk and was very good, though perhaps just a bit on the dry side. The tacos were better, with soft corn tortillas wrapped around tasty, fresh ingredients; the mole in the chicken taco was a tad mild but flavorful, and the beef, like the beef in the tamale, had a slight kick to it. The highlight was probably the salsa, though. So many different tastes in that little plastic cup, including chile peppers, tomatoes, black pepper, vinegar, and what seemed like a number of other spices within it.

Other than perhaps the salsa, I wouldn't say that any of the food I've had at Villa Mexico has stood head and shoulders above similar items at my favorite Mexican restaurants in the Boston area, but for a little Mexican joint in the back of a gas station, this place is pretty darn good.

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  1. I had noticed a bit of a decline for a while but it seems to have gotten better recently. Of course, the owner has been around more (at least when I go in) and the guy that was responsible for the botch jobs I haven't seen working the counter since, well, since it started getting better.

    Those tamales have always been a bit on the dry side for m.e

    Your last paragraph is pretty accurate, but there's definitely something about atmosphere that can add to the quality of food - look at Speed's as an example. Besides, its kinda fun because this place is the true definition of a hidden gem. I'd worked over there for a few years and always said "yeah right" when I saw that Villa Mexico sign before I finally had the cojones to go in.

    1. I got to try a burrito recently... it tasted honest, like the sort of thing someone would whip up for dinner out of some left over meat and rice and a big flour tortilla. The tortilla is grilled, adding a nice crispness, but the whole thing is sloppy and has no particular flavor other than salty and savory. Not bad food... but when that Anna's opens up down the block in a few weeks, I can't say I'd have an easy decision between the two of them for a burrito the next time I'm in the area.

      23 Replies
      1. re: Luther

        I dunno, I prefer Villa to Annas (and Viva around the corner), but I've never been an Annas fanboy. But I certainly won't mind that Annas being open, its closer to me by about a block and I doubt I'd have to wait 15 mins for my burrito to be done.

        1. re: jgg13

          Yeah, I prefer Villa, too. I'm just not a big fan of the food at Anna's.

          1. re: hiddenboston

            Agreed. Anna's has always been somewhat overrated in my opinion. I like the layers of flavors at Villa much better.

            Plus, at the rate they're going, Anna's won't be open until the year 2525 ("if we're still alive...")

            1. re: Bostonbob3

              Oops, whoa, what was that? Huh. Something just went over my head! ;-b

              The salsa at Villa Mexico was so good that when I realized I still had a little left after finishing the tacos, I drove over to some generic Kwik-E-Mart store on the way home to pick up some tortilla chips, dipping and eating in the car all the way home. Lord, that salsa is good stuff. I wish I knew the exact recipe for it, but I'm thinking it's a family secret there, no?

              1. re: hiddenboston

                Yeah, that salsa is superb.

                BTW, here's what went over your head:


                1. re: Bostonbob3

                  Thanks for planting that godawful song in my head, Bob. It's up there with "The Girl from Ipanema," that's for sure!

                  Has anyone tried the tostadas or the flautas at Villa Mexico? I was tempted to get those, too, but I figured I'd try them some other time.

                  1. re: hiddenboston

                    I've honestly never made it past the burritos/tamales. I promised myself (partially due to your post, but its been brewing for a while) that the next time I go it'll be tacos. Maybe I'll make it a tostada just to round out the CH knowledge base :)

                    1. re: hiddenboston

                      I had the flautas today. Its was okay ... they were fried in that they put oil down on the griddle before heating (i'm not knocking that, just providing info).

                      - the rice was bland
                      - the beans were a little less bland
                      - my earlier bites into the flautas were amazing. The flavors were bright & fresh, the salsa was in full effect and the chicken had a great flavor (I've not yet had the 'marinated chicken' burrito, i suspect that's the chicken they use).
                      - the taste quickly became overwhelmed by a sharp sour taste, which was originally just one instrument in the orchestra but decided to take over. By the time I finished I was getting to the point where I just didn't like it at all anymore.

                      1. re: jgg13

                        // the taste quickly became overwhelmed by a sharp sour taste, which was originally just one instrument in the orchestra but decided to take over.//

                        Probably tomatillos, which she likes to use.

                        I happen to really like the food there a lot. I mean, come on; it's a gas station. The food is very tasty, fresh and convenient. We're not talking haute cuisine. It's 'hound cuisine.

                        1. re: Bostonbob3

                          "Probably tomatillos, which she likes to use."

                          I bet your right now that you mention it. I think it was just soaking into the food more and more. It was a good taste but when it became far and away the #1 note in the party it was overwhelming.

                          "I mean, come on; it's a gas station. "

                          Hey, I love the place. I got there usually at least once a week if not 2-3x.

                          1. re: jgg13

                            I consider it the best damn gas station food in all of the Boston area ("On the Run" pre-packaged veal subs notwithstanding).


                            1. re: hiddenboston

                              I always had an affinity for those heat up crappy "bbq rib" sandwiches you see sometimes :)

                              I think its one of the (if not the) best option in the immediate MGH area for lunch. I like the Hill but that crosses a price point that I just don't want to pay very often.

                              1. re: jgg13

                                Yeah, those can be good, though there's a reason why those places are called "On the Run." :-D

                                I've been to the Hill once and wasn't overly impressed, but I've heard others say good things about it. Perhaps I'll head back there. But in the meantime, I'll definitely be going back to Villa Mexico when I can.

                                1. re: hiddenboston

                                  The Hill's not the greatest by any means, but the pickin's are pretty slim over here. I do like their burgers, and for important day Sox games I'll go over there and have a nice beer lunch or something - but i'd never go out of my way to go there, if that makes sense.

                                  Villa Mexico is the only spot I can think of in the Charles/MGH up to Gov't Center stretch of Cambridge St that I'd actually encourage someone to go out of their way to try, its pretty barren.

                            2. re: jgg13

                              Tomatilla is 1 of the main ingredients in a salsa verde (green salsa). They need to be roasted a little to take out the "sharpness"...otherwise they can have an unpleasant taste.

                    2. re: hiddenboston

                      Yeah, I'm going to guess the cost for that recipe is going to be enough for her to retire. On the upside, she'll call you 'my friend' when taking your check :)

                      1. re: hiddenboston

                        When I asked the owner what was in the salsa she replied, "love, lots and lots of love."

                        I agree that it is pretty amazing - smoky, rich flavor that is very unlike the typical tomato-based salsa.

                      2. re: Bostonbob3

                        To be fair, that Annas has actually been progressing at a faster rate these days. I've actually seen workers in there recently ;)

                        Annas has its fans and detractors. I'm not a detractor but I never got what the big deal was. To each their own.

                        1. re: jgg13

                          When and where is the Anna's opening? I've driven up Cambridge St. looking for it and can never seem to find it.

                          1. re: hojoro

                            When is a great question but where is in the block of Cambridge street across from that gas station (Shell?) by the Holiday Inn.

                            Ive seen workers in there recently- AND a menu posted on one of the windows- I feel it HAS to be soon right?

                            1. re: fmcoxe6188

                              That menu's been there for a while.

                              Its right next to the video store, as fmcox says, its right across the street from the holiday inn.

                              1. re: jgg13

                                Sad! I thought it was new- I got all excited thinking that there was improvement. Ive actually never eated at Anna's so Im intrigued as a newbie

                  2. re: Luther

                    I regretfully have to cast a semi-negative vote like Luther's. All I've tried are a chicken taco and a carnitas taco (plus a superb cucumber liquado). The carnitas tasted like nothing, just poached unseasoned pork. The chicken was even weirder - dull, desicated little white meat pellets. The tortillas weren't given enough time on the griddle so they didn't soften up enough and basically broke in half. Good salsa though. Definitley going back to try tamales and other things. And that cucumber drink will be awesome in the hot weather.

                  3. I've been there only once. It was ok...nothing special that I couldn't make at home. The woman who runs it is very nice though, so that was a plus. I probably wouldn't seek it out as a place to venture to, but if I happened to be passing by and wanted something, then maybe I'd stop in.

                    1. Ok so today is the day- Im FINALLY checking out Villa Mexico. What do I HAVE to try?

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: fmcoxe6188

                        My favorite item there (so far) is the incredible salsa, so make sure you get a side of that. But for a full meal, I'd go with the burrito.

                        Have fun!

                        1. re: hiddenboston

                          So far my favorite thing has been the mole burrito, but I haven't had everything on the menu.

                        2. re: fmcoxe6188

                          OK, this is late, but for future reference, I alternate between the carnitas & mole burritos, spicy. I'd give the edge to the carnitas.

                          1. re: ritcey

                            The one thing I don't really like a lot (but still don't dislike) in terms of her fillings are the chorizo. There's something odd about the flavor in the chorizo.

                            1. re: jgg13

                              Ah, true - I also don't care for the chorizo. Grease aside (it _is_ sausage), I'm not crazy about the taste.

                        3. Chicken burrito. Salsa is out of this world, as is the guacamole.