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Chacarero - What is my Problem?

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  • Carty May 6, 2009 02:30 PM
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People,

You all rave about Chacarero. Yelp has virtually unqualified praise. It's packed at lunch.

I don't get it.

Been twice several months apart.

Sandwich is bland ... bland beef which manages to be tough even sliced thin, muenster (can not think of a blander cheese), string beans (texture?), guac that has a little flavor, June tomatoes (no flavor), sauce that has exactly one note - hot, on a role that seems to be the right size with a soft texture and no discernable flavor.

It pains me to have twice been that close to Sam LaGrassa’s and not gone there instead.

What is my problem? A theory: is it (relatively) healthy? Should I feel good about that?

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  1. I've never, ever had the beef. Always chicken, always w/everything on it. I'd definitely say it has flavor . . . but hey, maybe it's just not your thing? Like any place, it'll have its haters. No shame in that.

    8 Replies
    1. re: gansu girl

      Ditto. I LOVE these sandwiches, but I always get the chicken, with everything. Wouldn't dream of trying the beef. The chicken is just way too good for me to give it up, even once. :)

      1. re: twentyoystahs

        I actually prefer the beef. It's a little inconsistent (sometimes too tough), but the chicken is often too dry for my tastes. Usually when I get the combo I end up preferring the beef portion too.

        Either way, get the BBQ version

        1. re: jgg13

          Personally, I don't love the BBQ version and find the beef to be overly chewy, but I'm a huge fan of the regular chicken (w/ everything + the "super hot" yellow sauce).

          1. re: davis_sq_pro

            The beef can be one way or the other, but I usually take the chance because the chicken is dry.

            1. re: jgg13

              I've never experienced dry chicken there. When do you usually go? When I've gone, it's always been at the height of the lunch rush where they were flying through the food. Did you perhaps go in the afternoon, when some of the meat may have been sitting on the grill for a long time?

              Or maybe our definitions of what constitutes "dry" simply differ. I grew up with a stepmother who was perhaps the worst cook on earth, and who would routinely roast chicken until it was so dry that the meat became semi-translucent and strangely crunchy, so it's possible that my tolerance for dry meat is simply much higher than the norm--although I haven't tasted her creations for many years and hope that my palate has recovered at this point.

              1. re: davis_sq_pro

                I always try to avoid the lunch rush there & at lagrassas, so usually 12:45-1:15.

          2. re: jgg13

            I prefer the beef over the chicken, and I always ask for extra green beans and to cut the sandwich in half!

            1. re: JudyHP

              Extra green beans?!? I didn't realize that was negotiable. Great tip!

      2. I always get the bbq beef, which I think is marinated...and ask for extra hot sauce.

        Of course as Gansu said, maybe it's not your thing and there's no shame in that.

        5 Replies
        1. re: 9lives

          I've never been able to get them to make it as hot as I want. I started with "extra hot sauce", someone told me to say "extra extra spicy", which I did (but felt foolish doing so) but still no.

          1. re: jgg13

            I may have been the one to suggest "extra extra spicy." Now, in addition to asking for it extra spicy, I ask for an extra portion of the extra hot sauce; they now keep little plastic containers of the stuff behind the counter and provide them upon request.

            1. re: Blumie

              It very well could be you, as I heard it here ;) I'll have to remember to try to snag one of those containers. I'm not looking for a mouth searing effect, as I agree w/ the posters who say that the beauty of the sandwich is in the balance, but for my personal tastes I don't really get any heat when I'm eating it (it does leave a nice afterburn though).

              1. re: Blumie

                Went there for lunch today, inspired by this thread. I got the extra container of sauce - it brought the heat I always wanted, but I don't think I'll do it again ... seemed to throw the balance off too much towards the flavor of that sauce.

            2. re: 9lives

              I enjoy the avocado flavor and juicy beans but wish they would use a less chewy cut of beef, e.g. kalbi

            3. I had it for the first time last Friday, and chose the beef. I thought it was very tasty, though agree that the beef was tough. I would have it again, though. Really enjoyed the soft roll, and the steamed green beans.

              Part of me was wishing I'd walked the other way on Washington Street for a Bahn Mi at Lu's, but I was happy to have tried something new.

              1. I have been keeping quiet about this too. But no more!
                It's just a sandwich. A bready sandwich with, I agree, the dominant taste being hot sauce.
                It's fine, but I don't get the hype either, and having tried it once I wouldn't bother standing on the line again.

                1. "Dominant taste being hot sauce" - really? I hardly tasted any hot sauce. Mine had a more predominant garlick flavor and was only slightly spicy.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Eatin in Woostah

                    All I get is garlic, and it lingers with me the rest of the day. I am so over the Chacarero sandwich.

                  2. I've been getting the chicken for years and only recently started to get the beef on occasion. Either way, I just love the sandwich and think it's one of the most "chowish" offering in Boston. But of course no food item, no matter how loved, with engender 100% consensus.

                    1. My first Chacarero sandwich a few years back was amazing! I thought it was incredibly flavorable. I do visit on occasion but the other sandwiches have never tasted as good as that first one. The meat (tried both chic and beef) didn't seem as well seasoned. Maybe I need to request the BBQ beef instead. Wish they were open on Saturdays but happy that their staff can enjoy a full weekend.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: BroadwayBound

                        I'll gladly join the chorus saying I don't understand the the hype and the price.

                      2. I’ve eaten there twice a week for as long as I can remember, at least ten years, and I have had a few prospective converts say similar things. I honestly think there is something addictive in them, to some people’s biochemistry. I almost always get a regular chicken sandwich with everything on it, and it isn’t a flavor-bomb, but something about the way all the ingredients go together makes it a rare food that I can eat repeatedly without getting sick of. I think the key (and possibly the crack) is in the avocado spread, and the hot sauce. There’s something perfectly balanced about them, and some background spices that I can’t quite make out (I think there may be a little nutmeg in the avocado).

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: nsenada

                          To me, what makes it work is the balance of flavors: it's a remarkably well balanced sandwich. That said, as mc slim infers, if one is particularly sensitive to spice, perhaps they should order it without the hot sauce so the spice doesn't overwhelm the sandwich. And if you find it boring or dull or otherwise don't like it, so be it; no reason you should feel obligated to like it, or to convince the rest of us not to like it, just because it's so popular. I will continue to rank Chacarero up there with Angela's, the Super 88 Food Court, Sichuan Gourmet and the lamb and beef gyro at the Farm Grill as among the most Chow worthy places in Boston.

                          1. re: Blumie

                            I'm with the skeptics. Went recently for the first time in years, inspired by this board, and got the BBQ chicken. What struck me was that the sandwich was somehow *less* than the sum of its parts--an amalgamation of intriguing components that ended up leaving me a bit disappointed.

                        2. I always get the chicken and I love it; but as so many others have said, essentially "Different strokes for different folks." And that's okay. There are a few things that get a lot of love that I will never understand. For instance, I can't stand Clio - maybe it's your favorite restaurant. And there's no shame in that for either of us : )

                          1. I always ask for it extra hot...but most importantly on the beef is I ask fro extra salt...that really makes a difference.

                            1. Mark me down in the "love it" camp, both the chicken and the beef (but not together). I suspect the ability to discern more than chili heat is a function of your chili tolerance. If you eat a lot of chilies on a regular basis, you become inured, and the garlic flavor comes through more. My only complaint is that I need a nap afterward, and that's eating a small one. The big ones are two meals.

                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                I have tried several times ordering as recommended here (though maybe it just needs salt....) and also just don't get it at all - a big, bland, boring dry chicken sandwich with some blah hot sauce and a very long (but fast moving) line - I prefer (but don't love) the version at Viga on whole wheat flatbread. I'll take a chicken kabob sandwich from Sultan's Kitchen or Boston Kebab House instead as well.

                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  I'm giving this place a shot for the first time today...going to a screening over at the theatre, so it's pretty close.

                                  How big are you talking for the large? I think a small would probably be fine, yeah? Especially considering I won't want to be carrying around any leftovers.

                                  I think BBQ chicken with extra hot sauce is gonna do it.

                                  1. re: rknrll

                                    Okay this was really good.
                                    I got the regular chicken for my first one...and extra of the green sauce on the side. SO GOOD. Also I can't imagine getting a large, the small was very filling.
                                    The meat wasn't dry at all and was cooked to order (as I got there at 5pm).

                                    Will definitely be back to try out either the steak or the BBQ chicken.

                                     
                                  2. re: MC Slim JB

                                    slim et al, thinking of trying this place today. do you prefer the bbq or plain version of the bf? and chicken? what are their empanadas like? is there a difference in the arch and prov. st products? thanks much.

                                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                                      I like the plain chicken (small is plenty big enough) with everything on it, and sometimes "extra hot sauce," which is orange, and I believe made from habaneros. The empanadas are OK, but not awesome. The sweet potato fries are really good though, especially dunked in that garlic sauce they serve it with.

                                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                                        Forgot to mention, I usually go to Province Street because it's closer. They also have more seating.

                                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                                          Plain chicken. I don't particularly love the flavor of the BBQ version, and the beef can be tougher than I'd like. Everything on it and the super hot sauce, which varies between "quite hot" and "just-this-side-of-mindblowingly-hot", day by day, I assume depending on the peppers they used.

                                          1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                            As a dissenting opinion, I prefer the bbq beef. While the beef can be chewy, I find that the chicken can often be overly dry and I'd rather chewy beef than dry chicken. I used to get the combo but what would happen is that I'd always be disappointed in one or the other.

                                      2. Count me in the camp that really likes the sandwich but I also 'only' get the chicken.

                                        For me, it's the unique combination of ingredients. Simple as that. I won't go across town to get one but if I'm downtown during lunchtime I'll head over there and get one if the line isn't too long.

                                        There are lots of sub shops in the Boston area, and many of these are interchangeable with respect to their menus. Chacarero is at least unique whether one likes the taste or not.

                                        1. I get the beef pretty regularly and love the sandwich. For the first time this week i decided to try a BBQ chicken and was severely disappointed. The all-white-meat chicken was overcooked to the point of total bland mush. Will stick with the beef going forward.

                                          1. i'm with you...i don't understand it either. i've eaten there many a time, but only because my colleagues wanted to go there. it's not a place i go to on my own, because i can get as good a samich elsewhere with less wait time. i get the chicken too, never the beef. you aren't alone!

                                            1. Count another one in the meh category. I tried the chicken. Didn't change my mind, and Carty hits on the issue for me -- bland, bland, bland (and having lived in Hunan Province for a year, I think I can taste through chili heat).

                                              1. After hearing about how great this place was (over and over and over) from by SO, I went with him and got the beef (and he the chicken). Fine for what it is.

                                                I asked him what he thought. He paused, tasted it again, and said that when he first had it many years ago, it was great but now that he's had so many other, more interesting flavors it was sort of eh - he just hadn't reevaluated his opinion in all the years he's eaten there.

                                                I suspect that this is true for many in line.

                                                12 Replies
                                                1. re: alwayscooking

                                                  Interesting perspective but I don't know what you base it on.

                                                  I reevauluate my opinion whenever I eat something for the second or more time.

                                                  Maybe the simple explanation is that some people like the sandwich and some don't without making it too complicated or saying that those who do like it haven't experienced other interesting flavors or are stuck in some kind of boring rut.

                                                  1. re: 9lives

                                                    I base my comment on my experience with my SO (who can be loyal to a place or a dish for years - my preference to the word 'rut' since we've been together awhile as well). And while I with you on always adjusting my opinion on a place or a meal, I can also imagine that there are others like my SO.

                                                    And I'll even take a further guess - I bet there are people in the line who eat there solely because others have told them that it was the place to go.

                                                    1. re: alwayscooking

                                                      So you're basing your conclusion on a population of 1, your SO.

                                                      No doubt, some of the customers who stand in line are there because others have told them it's the place to go, but surely some of the repeat customers (some of whom are experienced diners and have posted here)must actually like the sandwich. No?

                                                      You and anyone else is free to not like it; but why do you feel the need to denigrate the taste of people who do like it..or suggest that they haven't experienced enough different flavors to know any better?

                                                      1. re: 9lives

                                                        Looking for a fight 9lives?

                                                        What I said:
                                                        - the sandwich was eh to me
                                                        - the sandwich was eh to my SO
                                                        - my SO previously liked the sandwich
                                                        so either my SO or the sandwich changed and he says he has

                                                        I then suggested that others may be eating there out of habit. I really don't see where I'm denigrating anyone - there are more interesting flavors to be had.

                                                        Meet you in the alley at the back of restaurant . . .

                                                        1. re: alwayscooking

                                                          sheeple eating there because they've been told to and it's the place to go??..and not because they like the sandwich

                                                          ienjoyed by inexperienced diners who haven't experienced enough variety of flavors to know any better..

                                                          hardly complimentary comments towards those who enjoy

                                                          Arch St at high noon..bbq beef at 30 yards.extra hot sauce.:)

                                                          1. re: 9lives

                                                            There are some that eat there

                                                            a) out of habit
                                                            b) because they've been told it's good
                                                            c) it tastes good to them
                                                            d) none of the above

                                                            My answer is (d) without the insinuation of inexperienced palates - just my own
                                                            you can choose your own answer

                                                            1. re: alwayscooking

                                                              I think you could say that about why people eat in most restaurants.

                                                              Sorry you coudn't make lunch. I was going to buy you a sandwich.

                                                              1. re: 9lives

                                                                Where - hopefully someplace with great food.

                                                              2. re: alwayscooking

                                                                Not to jump in on this gentlemanly little disagreement btwn you two, but I can't imagine that anyone would eat there "because they've been told it's good.." That's just crazy. They might go there once for that reason, but if they didn't like it, I can't imagine they'd go back...spend money to eat something they didn't like all that much. Seems a little ridiculous to me.

                                                                Btw, I absolutely LOVE a chacacero chicken sandwich. After a month or two without one, I'll seriously find myself craving one and I'll have to get myself over there somehow. And no, i don't work or live remotely close by. But it's so worth it, to me anyway. And not because anyone else tells me it is ;)

                                                            2. re: alwayscooking

                                                              Oh no, you di-int.

                                                      2. re: alwayscooking

                                                        I eat chacareros, I would guess, four of five times a year. On most occasions, as I'm eating my sandwich, I remark to myself how amazed I am how wonderful of a sandwich it is.

                                                        I suspect this is true for many in line. : )

                                                        1. re: Blumie

                                                          I agree. I can see both sides of the fence -- I raved to my SO about Chacarero, and then when we finally went together, he thought it was fine, nothing special. And to be honest, that day I found it a bit dry as well (I think we had a combo.)

                                                          My conclusion -- it's not 100% consistent, but more times than not, I really enjoy the interplay of ingredients and flavors, and love the hot sauce. The fact that it's hard for me to get to (I'm rarely in downtown at weekday lunchtimes) also probably adds to the appeal.

                                                          (On an OT note, Mike and Patty's in Bay Village is my new weekday-lunch-in-the-city stop...)

                                                      3. I liked mine quite a bit. Got the vegetarian (just to be contrarian) and there was no line at 12:00 pm. This was about 2 months ago so maybe it was because of the winter cold.

                                                        1. The order is small BBQ chicken. Sometimes the flavors are thrown off in the large. Normally the beef is tough and the regular chicken is too bland. Also the bbq orders come with red peppers which play a big role in the overall flavor of the sandwich.
                                                          It's also important to visit during lunch hour. Don't be intimidated by the long line; it moves quick. I have been later in the afternoon and it it just isn't as good.

                                                          1. wow what a long post. I felt I had to add since chac is my favorite sandwich, nay, favorite meal, out there, possibly in the whole world. I am a "regular chicken, everything, extra extra extra green hot sauce." I used to be light hot sauce, but I think eating here so much has dulled my hot taste-buds so I am something of a green hot-sauce junkie. The other, orangey, hot-sauce is too much imo, all heat and none of that delicious tangy flavor the green one has. I get excited when I see a new guacamole-spreader since newbies tend to slather more on the bread, until the owner scolds them to use less. I used to only go to the Filenes window location, but now I'll say that Arch St and Province are equally good. I think the beef is good, moist and beefy (maybe a little too greasy), and why would I ever order a vegetarian? I will admit I kinda hate the bbq, I think it is too tomatoey/acidic tasting. Also, I have lately been adding extra salt to my sandwich which makes it MUCH better - it brings out all the flavors. I respect that it's not for everyone (but judging by the long lines everyday it's definitely for most) so if it's not your bag maybe you'll let me cut you in line next time!