Sol Azteca - Newton Centre
Chips tasted like they were from a bag, or had been sitting. For the price of the entrees at this place, I really would have loved some nice big hot freshly-fried totopo-y corn chips. We ordered guacamole which was very bland and too cold to taste the subtleties of the avocado (refrigerated; I was hankering for some freshly made room-temp stuff). It was presented in two neat scoops on a leaf of lettuce. $8.50 for that?! Sheeeiiit - I have been spoiled by tableside guac prep, it seems.
My DC ordered the carnitas, which were not identifiable because they were under a mound of shredded lettuce and cheeeeze. The meat was tender enough, but was CLOYINGLY sweet - solely of orange juice. None of the subtle spicy sweet balanced goodness of a good, slow-cooked thoughtfully-spiced carnitas. I actually just had a bite of her leftovers for breakfast, and it reconfirmed the absurd level of oversweetness.
My chilaquiles ended up being a cheeeeze-glazed hockey puck of corn tortilla, beans, some shredded white meat chicken, and a big poofy dollop of sour cream on one side. I guess I was expecting a more homey, looser casserole, than a big cheesy tex-mex-clump. Would have loved it to have eggs in it - yes, yes, I know it is a brunch dish, but still.
The accompanying purple cabbage was tasty, as others have mentioned previously.
I'm not sure I'd be back: Maybe I didn't order the right things. I'd heard good things about the higados (chicken livers) but wasn't in the mood, so we didn't get 'em. Unfortunately, I found the price to be a bit much for what it was. The decor was cute, though.
I actually have a soft spot in my heart for this place. I haven't noticed a significant difference between the locations.
I always like their chips, they usually taste warm and fresh. Their salsa is the best thing there, I would say. Such bright flavors and terrific textures. The guacamole is just okay, however. Their salad with cactus is quite good.
Most entrees are not particularly authentic, but they are comforting, and the pickled purple cabbage is just fantastic. The fish with cilantro sauce is, as was mentioned below, one of the best entrees there. They make a fine mole sauce, good on chicken and great on enchiladas. The enchiladas poblanas are quite good. A perennial "special" there is the enchiladas suzias, with a plesant green sauce.
The margaritas are good too.
All in all, I would say it's not Angela's, but there are some items on the menu that are just quite good. Those items have seemed remarkably consistent (even over the last 20+ years). It is a less authentic restaurant that's slightly out of its time today, but if you choose wisely from the menu, I think you'll enjoy the meal.
Word. I don't necessarily think that a particular menu item at a random New England-y place is going to be as traditional as it would be at Durgin Park (who takes great care in preserving the original recipes that they initially recorded) but it just might be as good or better, given the context of the meal... that being said, I really don't care for most clam chowders sold around here. All in all, it's the overall experience that grabs you.
1 Faneuil Hall Sq, Boston, MA 02109
How disappointing. The Sangria at the Beacon St. location alone is worth the trip. Unlike most of the local Spanish places whose Sangria people rave about (and considering that it's a Spanish drink, you'd think they'd be killing it), Sol Azteca actually lets the fruit (and a cinnamon stick) macerate in the wine for a significant amount of time, which gives it much more depth and smoothness than any of the others.
The food might not be ridiculously authentic, but the braised shredded beef and potatoes (forget what it goes with) is comfort food at its best, the pickled cabbage is a nice foil for the often heavier-than-it-should-be fare.
Although sweet, the carnitas that I've always had there was well balanced with a nose running amount of spice and saltiness. I'm not sure if it's authentic to anywhere in Mexico, but it seems like this is a saucy braised version of carnitas rather than the confit style version that's much more common. The two Portuguese dishes called torresmos come to mind as an analog. Although they're both called torresmos, one is bits of pork butt (or a similar cut) braised in wine and spices. The other is pork belly that's slow cooked in fat (basically confited) in a similar way to the carnitas we're used to (they often have a big tray of this variety, freshly cooked sitting out at Fernandes Fish Market on Cambridge St. and it's totally worth picking some up as a cheap/heavy snack.) I wouldn't doubt that there was a similar breadth of interpretations for carnitas in Mexico, though I could be completely full of $h!t on this one.
If I can give the Beacon St. location anything, it's been extremely consistent over the dozen or so visits that I've made in 25 years (first time when I was about 6)... But I can certainly see why someone who was into the bright, fresh, and vibrant flavors of many Mexican dishes would be disappointed. It sounds like the experience you had was definitely significantly worse than any of my experiences on Beacon though.
914A Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02215
Fernandes Fish Market
1097 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139