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Aug 28, 2008 08:06 AM

Jose's Cambridge recent experience

I remember when Jose's used to serve iceburg lettuce in their salsa (it was a bit weird and certainly unconventional, but actually gave it an interesting crunch -- they also served hots to the side so you could spice it up). The couple of things they did interesting for the time was instead of ground beef, they offered stewed beef (no ground option) for their burritos and guacamole was included as no extra charge, plus used real actual cilantro which was partly a novelty at the time. This got pretty tired quickly with Forest Cafe doing more interesting things, even Picante had something different, Central american wars brought us real taquerias... and in came Boca Grande then Anna's (from the Cambridge/Somerville perspective it was this order) with big burritos for little money. When it changed ownership, they tried to go more authentic (there is no more lettuce) and upgrade the food to more traditional homestyle cooking (good to have Pozole for instance), which brought them a fair amount of press. They also added some top-shelf margaritas for drinks and shots, but prices were still pretty inexpensive. I tried it a couple of times at the restaurant and a few more times at their MIT truck, but in particular the truck was really bad. In the past year, the burritos at the truck have improved quite a bit (although service is serial so very slow) along with selection so it was on list to try but not very high.

Recently I needed takeout, Maria Bonita was closed and Qingdao was doing renovations (I didn't feel like heading over to Lupita) so I decided to give it a shot. They have expanded the menu even more than before, with a few interesting items on the menu and more emphasis on tacos, but what I especially noticed was the prices were at or even above Forest Cafe and Tu y Yo. They have updated the dining room decoration, the servers are more professional, the bar has a top shelf line, but what first bit me about the prices was the restroom was a disaster (as dirty as always with a running sink, the doorknob came off in my hand, etc). The next thing was the food. The good old reliable super burrito with stewed beef was still good, with guacamole and even an improvement on the beans. It won't convert an Anna's lover, but certainly good enough for after work drinks paying a bit of a premium on the food for the full bar. The Adobo had a decent mild bite, but was a muddy mess of flavors (pork also not available)... the chorizo y papas tacos were messily prepared, greasy, and small for $15 (I think La Verdad might be less expensive). No sign of freshly prepared sauces, this was similar to taqueria food, but not as good as some $1.50/taco taquerias. Three plates came to $60 with tip, no drinks. The menu has more interesting items, but they weren't made with care and the best of our selection was the original type dishes.

Its entirely possible that we choose wrong and I am glad they are trying to be more authentic, plus expand their horizons. The rent or real estate, plus full liquor license demand higher prices. It could provide a better "roadhouse" experience to Border Cafe or On the Border for a similar price, but are not doing it with care on the newer plates we tried (Forest Cafe is a better full bar and fancier/sauced mexican option), and after 20 years its time to fix the bathroom.

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  1. Is this Jose's on something like Sherman St. in W. Cambridge? I rode my bike past it the other day and had never seen it before, but was intrigued by the outdoor patio and twinkly lights.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dulce de leche

      Yeah, that's the one. Right by the railroad tracks.

    2. I lived close to Jose's for over five years and used to really enjoy their food. But in the last year or so I've seen it decline. The last time that I ate there, we ordered con queso dip (with the appropriate low expectations) and were shocked to receive a bowl of lukewarm velveeta with a spoonful of salsa on the top. It's a bummer, because that was my go-to Mexican place for a long time. I hope they get back on track.

      2 Replies
      1. re: cambridgejen

        Yes, I was there this summer after a long abscence and it wasn't what I remember. Can't remember exactly what I had, but it wasn't good. I remember it being very dry and not too flavorful. It was a more traditional-type dish rather than TexMex, so I thought it might be a good choice. Maybe it was an off night, but it was bad enough that I hesitate giving it another try. Kids (teens) had TexMex type meals and they were Ok, but nothing special.

        1. re: pemma

          I don't even remember what I had the last time I was there (a few months back), but what really struck me was the relatively high price for a pretty weak margarita. I know the food is nothing to get excited about, but I'd rather go to Rudy's in Teele Square and get one of theirs--even one made with Rudy's house tequila is better.

      2. I agree with you completely. I used to love Jose's and their super burritos. The restaurant would give you a card you could carry in your wallet and save a few bucks off of your meal. The food was always fresh and cheap, nothing complicated. Now the prices are outrageous when you see the tiny amount of food you get. The service was just awful when I went the last time; lots of people at other tables were complaining and the servers kept bringing food to the wrong tables.

        2 Replies
        1. re: heatherfields

          We went for the first time last night. Service was pretty abysmal, and the food, while not bad was pretty skimpy on some plates. My wife's burrito was tasty and fairly large, but I ordered the $12.95 cheese chile rellenos, and got exactly one stuffed pepper (and not the largest poblano I've ever seen), a small scoop of white rice, and a very small cup of pinto beans. My wife even asked me if that was all I got. I usually judge Mexican places by their chili rellenos, and have never been served less than 2 peppers in an order (quite often three).

          1. re: kimfair1

            That's definitely sub-par. I used to like the chiles rellenos at Jose's, and IIRC, the serving size was 2 peppers.

        2. We usually love Jose's but yesterday at brunch we had a downright horrible experience. We asked for water 3x, it finally came 15 minutes later. Our margaritas came 20+ minutes in, when they were serving our food. Our waiter had our orders completely wrong, and I was forced to wait 10 minutes while they haphazardly threw together my order (still not right but by then my friends were finished eating so I just ate it anyway. They thankfully comped my margarita and our guacamole, but this was the second time in the last two months that we experienced weak service, improper timing, and food that was thrown together (the other time my 1st margarita came when I was mid way through my meal, even though we ordered before we ordered our food)

          I'm having a hard time singing their praises these days...

          1 Reply
          1. re: crazycrazypete

            My first time there was for brunch yesterday. I ordered chilaquiles with eggs and cheese, and they came with no eggs or cheese. Upon my request I eventually received a plate of scrambled eggs on the side, though I wish I was still more hungry at that point. The other dishes at my table were all okay, nothing special though. Based on my experience and everyone's opinions here, I'll stick with Tu y Yo when I need a Mexican fix in the Cambridge/Somerville area (and otherwise will head to Eastie).