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Mar 12, 2009 07:27 AM

Baja Grill -- A welcome addition to the Worcester scene

Last night we ventured to the Green Island area of Worcester to "Baja Grill Neo-Mexican" restaurant, at the suggestion of a friend. The notion of a good Mexican restaurant in Worcester (apart from the fabulous Tacos Parilla Mexicana, which is of a take-out place) is almost too much to hope for, right? Well, score one for the audacity of hope.


I'll start with the caveat: this is located in a challenging neighborhood, one in which timid suburbanites might not normally choose to saunter around after dark. And it's not that easy to find, since they don't have much of a sign yet other than a hand-written poster in the window. But once you step inside, it's welcoming and warm, with small tables covered with crisp, white butcher paper, tasteful Mexican-themed decor, and an open kitchen behind a counter.

We were greeted very nicely and given thick, homemade tortilla chips with two Mexican (not American) salsas, while the attentive waitstaff opened our bottle of red (how I love BYOB). The menu is posted on their website, and its not too long, but offers a lot of intriguing choices, from which we selected cochinita pibil and pollo en mole.

The cochinita was marinated pork in a complex sauce with just a hint ot orange, and was served with some excellent refried black beans, a fiery habanero salso, very nice guacamole, arrroz Mexicana, and warm, fresh corn tortillas. The mole was (to my gringo taste) very authentic, enveloping a half-chicken, sided by some nice beans and pico de gallo, plus the rice, guac, and tortillas. Both were satsifying, beautifully presented, and generous.

We managed to scarf down a very rich and unusual flan de cajeta, and our bill before the tip was less than $32 (have I mentioned that I love BYOB?), even though we had ordered two of the most expensive items on the menu. The service was exceptionally professional and friendly, and the atmosphere made me want to return.

I think I will. You should, too, since I think they need the business; we were the only ones there.

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  1. I also really liked the Baja Grill. I thought the food was very authentic. The pollo en mole had a mole sauce that was very comparable to mole negro I've had in Oaxaca (which is to say not very chocolatey like you might get in Pueblo). The pork was very much like I've had in Mexico. The Tortilla's are served in a nice quilted tortilla holder much like you would find in many restaurants in Mexico. The staff were very nice and the atmosphere was casual, warm and welcoming - much like most restaurants in Mexico. All in all, a very authentic experience.

    1. Agreed. Here's a review I just wrote from my experience there this evening.

      My wife and I visited this restaurant tonight, and have found a new favorite for sit-down non-texmex Mexican food in the Worcester area.

      On a Sunday night at 7pm, a large party was leaving as we walked in, but when we sat down we were the only people in the place. The restaurant isn't in the nicest part of town, but I can overlook that for food this good. The space has been nicely decorated in bright colors, but without the tackiness you see in many Mexican restaurants in the states. The music is festive without being annoying or intrusive. I'd estimate they have about 12 tables, plus a bar-type area overlooking Millbury Street. Incidentally, they're just a couple of doors down and across the street from the excellent Tacos Parilla Mexicana which is my go-to for Mexican take-out.

      The menu is unique if not extensive, with some specialty dishes you don't find much around here. Pollo en Mole, Conchinita Pibil, Tacos Al Pastor, Sopes and Mexican-style Paella.

      I ordered the Tacos Al Pastor entree ($7), which included 3 soft corn tacos, frijoles charras and green rice, plus small portions of pico de gallo, guacamole and crema fresca. The meat was very well seasoned, and tasted similar to the al pastor I've had in Mexico... only it was kind of chopped up small and grilled instead of roasted and sliced. The tortillas were fresh and soft but definitely machine-made rather than hand-made. Each taco was a little bigger than your average mexican street-taco, and heavy on the meat. The frijoles charras were really good, as was the rice.

      My wife had the Conchinita Pibil ($13), which was 3 or 4 good-sized chunks of pork in what was almost a mole style sauce. It was sweeter than expected, and reminded me of barbeque sauce (in a good way). Excellent overall but just different than I expected. The Conchinita was served with corn tortillas, refried black beans, and the same sides as the tacos, minus the crema fresca.

      They were out of the Agua Fresca de Jamaica and the Pollo en Mole when we were there but no complaints about what we had. We didn't feel like drinking, but it is BYOB. I'm pretty sure they have Mexican Coca Cola and Jarritos.

      Oh, I'm a pepper-head, and the Habanero salsa was great and very different... it reminded my of an Indian-style pickle and I wouldn't be suprised if it were made in a similar way.

      Highly recommended! I look forward to returning to try the mole and churros.

      4 Replies
      1. re: dsloth

        I returned to the Baja Grill on Saturday night. The meal was again fabulous -- I think the chef is really hitting his stride. We started with some textbook tamales -- fresh and nicely presented. My friend had a snapper-based fish dish that was perfectly cooked and just terrific. I tried the "paella Mexicana" which was quite different from a Valencian version -- light and delicious, with fresh seafood and bits of chorizo and chicken. We shared a nice flan for dessert and the bill was less than $20 per person before tip, not including the $10 we had paid for the bottle of wine we brought with us.

        At 6:45 pm we were the only patrons. Fortunately some other folks wandered in later.
        Central Massachusetts, PLEASE patronize this place! The service and atmosphere are great. The chef came out to thank us. The charming young waitress admitted that their business has been slow. It shouldn't be -- this is first-class authentic Mexican food at bargain prices.

        1. re: Rick_V

          Next time I visit Mom I will take her there..where on Millbury St.? Where is Tacos Parilla Mexicana, as well please?


          1. re: phelana

            Phelana: there are directions at their website, linked in the original post. Tacos Parilla Mexicana is right across the street. Hope you enjoy and report back!

        2. re: dsloth

          The habanero salsa sounds like xni-pek (nose of the dog) if it was pickled...onions, habanero, and lime? If so, that's what Yucatecos live and die by and is always served with cochinita.

          The only time I've ever had it in New England is when my husband makes it!

          This places sounds like it's worth the drive from Providence.

        3. Millbury Street isn't exactly the most attractive neighborhood, but area residents consider it safe. It's not Main South by any stretch of the imagination.

          Worcester is pretty safe as long as you're off the streets by 11 PM if it's a weekend. After 11, the bars start closing, and nasty things start happening.

          3 Replies
          1. re: rogersmithiii

            The Jamaican place I enjoyed is in Main South. I have no worries about Millbury St. but wanted to know which end it is on..way down past Vernon Hill or closer to Kelly Sq. I saw the directions but numbers on the street mean nothing to me. A landmark is most helpful. :)

            1. re: phelana

              Very, very close to Kelly Sq.
              My DH and I went to try this place a couple weeks ago. At about 8:00 on a Wednesday night there were zero patrons inside, so we opted not to. I was bummed.

              1. re: phelana

                Green Island, where Millbury is one way heading into Kelley Square. It's more than half of the way from Kelley Sq to Crompton Park.