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May 13, 2010 06:47 AM

Cafe Latino Gov't Center is the Real Deal - Serious Roast Pork

I am NEVER downtown on a weekday for lunch, so this place has been on my list for eons.

To make a long story short. I got a little bit of everything for $11. I basically got 4 meals out of it.

Awesome roast pork (they asked me if I wanted skin, is that really a question???) and the crunchy skin was out of this world.

Sweet and green plantains, perfectly done.

Rice, and some of the best beans I've had in Boston.

The guy behind the counter is Puerto Rican and the man can cook.

If you are trying to find the place keep in mind it is in the curved building on Cambridge Street, up the central staircase once you are at the top it is to the left across the plaza and shares space with the Deli.

Totally worth the trip. Now I just need more excuses to go downtown at lunchtime...

Cafe Latino
2 Center Plz, Boston, MA 02108

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  1. Did you specifically get a beans and rice dish, and would you describe that dish as extremely good? Or was it a side of beans that were really good? I've spent years downtown and I've never even heard of this place. My interest is definitely piqued.

    1. Yeah, before my diet, this was in my regular rotation. Even then, I had to split the pernil plate with at least one other person (and I generally don't split anything). You lucked out on the plantains, those are the only spotty thing about the place, sometimes great, sometimes too starchy and undercooked (the maduros). That damned good. I wish they made an "all skin" plate.

      1. Glad you enjoyed that place - they used to be in the spot now occupied by Zo, the real pork gyro place. (There has to be a joke about all this pork being close by City Hall....)

        The curved building is technically named Center Plaza.

        I enjoy the food at Cafe Latino immensely, although it is highly nap-inducing, so I don't go there nearly enough. And the skin when I've tried it was just too porky for me. Glad you liked it.

        Cafe Latino
        2 Center Plz, Boston, MA 02108

        5 Replies
        1. re: Bob Dobalina

          I know what you mean about the skin, every once in a while you get a really "off" or "piggy" tasting batch, and there's no way to tell by looking which it will be. The last few times I went there, it was pure crispy and buttery deliciousness, with no nasty flavor.

          1. re: nsenada

            I know what you mean by the overly porky bit. I can tell you what causes it . There is a gland in the pork shoulder that can smell pretty rank. Depends on if you use a butt or a shoulder, and the particular pig. Perhaps someone more knowledgable can chime in. Here is a discussion on the topic on another board.


            1. re: StriperGuy

              Sorry, just profusely vomited on my desk. I wonder if that affects the meat flavor all the way out to the skin? I've heard varying things over the years from the gender of the animal (the females taste better) to the anxiety level of the hog being slaughtered being contributing factors to hyper-porky flavor. There's also this intriguing article: Patterson, RLS: Identification of 3-hydroxy-5-androst-16-ene as the musk odour component of boar submaxillary salivary gland and its relationship to the sex odour taint in pork meat. J. Sci. Food Agric 1968b 19: 434–438, | ChemPort |

              I'm definitely going to surgically probe my pork butts for "the gland" from now on. Thanks!

              1. re: nsenada

                Nice pubmeding.

                Sex odor taint is a drag except under very particular circumstances.

                Here's another one on the topic:


        2. For starters, to give due credit, I found out about this from previous posts here on chowhound over the years.

          I had Pernil (roast pork) side of rice, side of beans, side of plantains split 50/50 between maduros and tostones.

          Everything was excellent, the side of beans, with garlic, juicy sauce, Cilantro (or heaven forbid culantro) was just spot on perfect. In fact best Caribbean style beans I have had in Boston. Flavorful, rich, delish.

          The pernil was killer too, (though I probably give my own pernil the edge).

          Heaven forbid you wanted to attempt to stay healthy when hitting this place just getting rice and beans would be an awesome lunch and they'd probably charge you $3 for it. (Maybe with just a little crackly pork skin on top...)

          Cause they are serving from a hot table and not frying fresh I could see the plantains being the one tricky part. Also, with maduros, having piles and piles of perfectly black-ripe plantains on hand every day can also be tricky. Guess I just got lucky.

          As an aside, for folks who like maduros I have always found that East Coast Grill usually has excellent ones. Old friend of mine used to get a (HUGE) side to go when she was in the neighborhood.

          East Coast Grill and Raw Bar
          1271 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

          1. good to know. i always mean to check it out and then every single time find myself at Zo instead.