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Which new Mexican-ish place should I visit first?

Mija? Not excited by the Faneuil Hall location.

Papagayo? Seems passable, but the online menu doesn't thrill me.

Temazcal? No opinion on it whatsoever yet.

Jalapenos? Seems chain-y, but not sure.

Tico? I'm intrigued but have heard that it's not very spicy.

Lolita? I've actually been here, but might give it a second shot after enduring horrid service.

Zocalo? Ehhhhh....mayyyybeeee...

Which one do you Hounds recommend, please?

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Zocalo
35 Stanhope St, Boston, MA 02116

Papagayo
283 Summer St, Boston, MA 02210

Tico
222 Berkeley St, Boston, MA 02116

Temazcal
250 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210

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  1. Don't bother with Papagayo for their food. It's Tex-Mex at it's worst. I work right near by so I was hoping for better but was more than disappointed. I went there for lunch with a friend, she got the seafood tacos and I got their standard taco plate, one chicken one muchaka. They were both lazy in preparation and flavor. The food we saw at others tables did not look any better.

    They did make my friend an excellent non-alcoholic mixed fruit drink.

    The service was excellent even though our waitress was covering a fair number of tables.

    They do however have a nice selection of tequila. I've had, in the past, perhaps 1/2 of what they have on the shelf and can say they at least have that going for them. Most likely an excellent post-work drinks spot for those that want a change from Drink.

    I'll probably give it another go in a few months to see if they've improved, but only because I work nearby and for a kid that grew up in Los Angeles, it's hard to ignore the occasional Mexican food craving.

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    Papagayo
    283 Summer St, Boston, MA 02210

    5 Replies
    1. re: Nechushtan

      Would agree to skip Papagayo right now. I thought the food was really average, and besides the kinda fun schtick of table-side guacamole, I see no need to return.

      Tico similarly underwhelmed me. Best dishes were Spanish, not Mexican.

      Carnitas tacos at Taqueria El Amigo were the best Mexican thing I've eaten lately.

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      Taqueria El Amigo
      196 Willow St, Waltham, MA 02453

      Papagayo
      283 Summer St, Boston, MA 02210

      Tico
      222 Berkeley St, Boston, MA 02116

      1. re: yumyum

        yeah, completely agree with yumyum.

      2. re: Nechushtan

        Would agree that Papagayo is very good for after-work drinks. The standard margarita---in a pitcher---was very good and not ridiculously priced. We just ordered chips and guac, which was fine, and we were focused on the drinks.

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        Papagayo
        283 Summer St, Boston, MA 02210

        1. re: bella_sarda

          I found the standard margarita waaaaaay too sweet. And, I just assumed it had a high-quality orange liqueur, but, by the sugary feeling on my teeth, I'm guessing that they make it with a low-end triple sec. I ordered another shot of tequila and poured in into my drink. That helped.

          The chips and salsa were pretty good. The enchiladas, ordinary.

          1. re: Alcachofa

            "I ordered another shot of tequila and poured in into my drink. That helped."

            Ain't it so...

      3. Does it really have to be one of these? How about Angela's Cafe in East Boston or Taqueria El Amigo in Waltham?

        I do like the Zocalo in Arlington, though I haven't been to the Boston location yet.

        6 Replies
        1. re: hiddenboston

          agreed. i would try taqueria el amigo in waltham or any of the mexican restaurants and taquerias in east boston first

          1. re: hiddenboston

            We have a gajillion threads on Mexican in general. I'm interested to hear from people who've been to more than one of the new places Swank names to find out I'd there's any value to the High-End Mexican Boom of 2010/11.

            1. re: hiddenboston

              I'd also say angelas but the disclaimer I tell people is to view the meats there as a delivery platform for the sauces because most of the time they're completely shoe leather dry.

              1. re: jgg13

                i went to angela's the first time and had their signature mole with chicken. The chicken was dry and not very tasty. What should i have orderd?

                1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                  That's what I was saying. View it as a delivery platform for their sauces. With both the chicken & the pork I've found them to be waaaay overcooked far more often than not

                  1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                    Chicken is the worst. Chicken enchiladas or Pork with mole is somewhat better. I went to a hole in the wall Mex place in Reno recently and they had Chicken with Mole. Sauce was not quite as good but close, and the chicken was way better. And it was a whopping $8.

              2. I would recommend Zocalo in back bay. Personally, I think its by far the best mexican food in the area.

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                Zocalo
                35 Stanhope St, Boston, MA 02116

                1 Reply
                1. re: mlyncha1

                  Their service is consistantly HORRIBLE, though. I hate that.

                2. Tico is more "pan-latin american" than Mexican, and most latin food is not spicy.

                    1. I have been to Lolita's. The food wasn't bad, but it seems they are more into the bar scene. The manager and wait staff were more interested in who was at the bar than what was going on in the dining room. With so many other options in Boston, no need to go back.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Pomegranate Martini

                        Not exactly in Boston, but Taqueria Mexico is the best Mexican I've had. Granted, I'm no expert being a native New Englander. But I found this out of the way spot by chance and glad I did.
                        http://www.hiddenboston.com/TaqueriaM...

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                        Taqueria Mexico
                        24 Charles St, Waltham, MA 02453

                        1. re: gittith

                          Taqueria Mexico is pretty decent, but Taqueria El Amigo (a mile or so away) has consistently better food in my experience. It lacks the outdoor patio, and no beer or wine, but strictly from the food perspective, you'd be better off at Taqueria El Amigo.

                          -----
                          Taqueria El Amigo
                          196 Willow St, Waltham, MA 02453

                          Taqueria Mexico
                          24 Charles St, Waltham, MA 02453

                          1. re: cods

                            Will have to give El Amigo a try. Taqueria Mexico used to have their Brookline location a block from where I live and I'd eat there a few times a week. Now I go to their Waltham location when I'm craving good Mexican, but didn't know of El Amigo (or its proximity to Taqueria Mexico).

                            -----
                            Taqueria Mexico
                            24 Charles St, Waltham, MA 02453

                            1. re: Nechushtan

                              made it to Taqueria El Amigo a few weeks ago with a buddy. I definitely want to go back, but after one visit I can't say it's definitely "better" than Taqueria Mexico, but I can say it's at least as good.

                              -----
                              Taqueria El Amigo
                              196 Willow St, Waltham, MA 02453

                              Taqueria Mexico
                              24 Charles St, Waltham, MA 02453

                      2. El Huipil in Maynard gets my unequivocal vote, here. Many threads have mentioned the "typical neighborhood eatery, good enough for convenience" but not worth a special trip. This is completely the opposite. The decor is not fancy (that is an understatement), the location is way off the beaten path unless you happen to be in the municipal parking lot, but this place is well worth a special trip. Why? See my post from 12/21/10. And don't forget to bring your cervezas!!

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                        El Huipil
                        51 Main St, Maynard, MA 01754

                        1. having eaten at zocalo, temazcal, jalapenos and tico, I'd suggest trying zocalo first. They do a nice guacamole, (the table side thing is a bit gimmicky, but you can have them adjust it to taste) I also enjoyed the tacos, the tuna and the vegetarian chili relenos.

                          There are several jalapeno's locations, we went to the route 1 location. its very suburban feeling, much less city glam than the other places you mention. more tex-mex, no flash. food was fine, not terrible, not great, not particularly memorable.

                          Tico was a mixed bag, and very very crowded. tacos were enjoyable, fish tacos were the hightlight, carnitas decent. anything off the small plate menu was a miss. the bartender raved about the meatballs, which were the best of a mediocre selection. The steak small plate was chewy and flavorless. corn salad was underwhelming, but then it was march, so our bad for ordering it.

                          Temazcal was the most recent stop, so impressions are the most fresh. great space, overlooking the water. They take the gimmick cake with the new ipad menus We had the tamale which had too much filling and wasn't steamed long enough, so it was too dense and too dry. The carnitas taco was unusual with a very thick untraditional tortilla. It had been charred on the grill and the char overwhelmed almost everything except the really spicy serrano chilis. The texture of the meat was very strange (may have been cooked sous-vide) and somewhat unpleasant. Excellent tequila lists at both Tico and Temazcal.

                          -----
                          Tico
                          222 Berkeley St, Boston, MA 02116

                          Temazcal
                          250 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Wannabfoode

                            One thing to watch about Tico: there's a slice of the dining room where the tables are in view of the open kitchen, which means instead of getting nice, fairly dim lighting like the rest of the dining room (or rooms, there are a couple of distinct seating areas), you're in this hideous overlit flourescent-light glare, to say nothing of adding kitchen noise to an already punishingly loud room.

                            I got seated in this section on a busy night and they didn't have room to reseat me elsewhere, so I just went back to my bar seats, which miraculously hadn't yet been squatted on. That non-trivial chunk of the dining room seating is just awful.

                            In general, I like the food, though it bears very little resemblance to traditional Mexican, Central American and South American cuisines. As I've mentioned before, avoid the bottom quarter or so of the spirits and the wine lists; they're egregiously overpriced.

                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                            -----
                            Tico
                            222 Berkeley St, Boston, MA 02116

                          2. Another handy note: Temazcal offers lechón asado on their menu, but it's not a whole roast suckling pig: for $32, you just get an eight-ounce slice, carved tableside. This seems rather to defeat the purpose of this dish, no?

                            Also, no reservations, which I really despise.

                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                            -----
                            Temazcal
                            250 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              Agreed on despising places that don't take reservations. That is usually a deal breaker for me since I tend to eat out most often at prime times i.e. Friday or Saturday.

                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                They will pretty much fill a plate for you... just kind of gross when they're wheeling the same pig around all night. Also, what if someone else takes all the good parts? One of our DCs ordered this and it seemed to have quite a bit of runny-viscous fat left over.

                              2. How about LaSiesta in Winthrop. They are very pleasant & accommodating and the Camarones al mojo de ajo (shrimp, w/ garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms sauce) was very nice, not too heavy yet full of flavor. We also liked the Sea scallops in chipotle cream sauce. Had a warm back kick. Plus they have nightly specials. When I asked about sauces, they brought us some of each to try. Street parking is pretty easy and Winthrop center looks like a town lost in time, maybe from the 1950's. We enjoyed an after-dinner-time-travel stroll.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: bosloft

                                  I am in no way shape or form a connoisseur of mexican food, so take this with a grain of salt: I really enjoy the fried shrimp tacos at Zocalo. Very crispy, not at all greasy with a nice fresh slaw and limey crema. The margaritas are strong and the guac is pretty good too. I cannot vouch for anything else, as I have only ordered the shrimp tacos the few times I have gone. The service and atmosphere is meh, but overall, I find Zocalo to be a good option for a decently priced meal in the Back Bay.

                                  -----
                                  Zocalo
                                  35 Stanhope St, Boston, MA 02116

                                2. Although it's been around for months, we finally hit Jalapeno's last night on our way back from a stroll through Coolidge Corner. I have long been vocal about the relative paucity of a good mediocre Tex-Mex place in Boston (Border Cafe in Harvard Square is closer to a bad mediocre Tex-Mex place, a small but important distinction) and this may finally be it.

                                  Our mains were the chicken mole enchiladas and the chorizo con papas tacos, chosen in tandem so that we could approximate the GMT-M standard, the combo plate. (One major knock against this place is that they don't offer combos.) Obviously the mole was nowhere near Angela's, but it was also better than Dona Maria straight out of a jar, which is more what I was expecting. The chicken, mostly large chunks of grilled breast, was serviceable if a touch dry. The tacos -- which forestall the number-of-tortillas debate by coming out unconstructed with a basket of lightly grilled corn tortillas, so you can build them to preference -- were excellent: salty and fatty without being greasy, and quite delicious. The queso dip (they also have queso fundido) seemed a bit bland at first, but a touch of stirring revealed some fresh, fruity chile hidden in the bottom. (The menu makes a point of declaring that contrary to some people's belief, not all Mexican food is spicy, but that they can add heat to any requested dish.)

                                  There were some misses: the pico de gallo that comes with the complimentary chips is aggressively bland: even beyond the lack of heat -- pico de gallo does not necessarily have chiles in it, and this one is straight tomatoes, onions and cilantro -- it benefited mightily from a hefty dose of salt stirred into it after the first couple bites. Also the beans flat out suck: first off, they're black beans instead of pinto -- which, no -- and secondly, they have the consistency of pate a choux. Ironically, using the leftover pico de gallo to loosen up the beans improved both of them to at least edible. We'll need to try more dishes next time, most pressingly the tamales and perhaps the burritos.

                                  Would I ever bother to go here if it weren't a 10-minute walk from my house? No, probably not, but this definitely fills a niche I've been missing.

                                  13 Replies
                                  1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                    The recently opened El Centro got a nice little write up in today's Globe. Haven't seen any Chow comments since it opened.

                                    http://www.boston.com/ae/food/restaur...

                                    1. re: justbeingpolite

                                      El Centro is quite good. I like it better than Angela's. They still have some new-restaurant-service-issues but it will likely quickly become known as one of the better choices for Mexican in the area.

                                      1. re: SaltedCaramel

                                        hmmm, SC, from what i've seen on this board , a claim like "I like it better than Angela's."

                                        might draw you some significant fire.Not from me, mind you, but a number of others :-}

                                        I'm looking forw. to trying El Centro. Would you plse give a few pointers for those who want to go there soon?th much.

                                        here's their menu:

                                        http://boston.menupages.com/restauran...

                                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                                          I had the guacamole, which was terrific and a wonderful shredded pork dish that I don't see on this menu. They were still in the midst of a "soft - opening" menu refinement.

                                      2. re: justbeingpolite

                                        We gringos aren't familiar with nopales and huitlacoche? I had no idea it had become 1991 again. Good to see a Sonoran place in town, though.

                                        1. re: justbeingpolite

                                          Tried El Centro last night -- was looking forward to it since the chef is actually Mexican and the menu looked promising. Overall, some hits, many misses.

                                          The room is fantastic -- tiny South end little joint, with a tin ceiling and a cozy little couch / hang out area. If they had mezcal, and they don't, it would be a nice place to grab a nightcap or start your evening there. Everyone is super nice and chill.

                                          We ordered spicy sangria, guacamole, sopes and huitlacoche quesadilla to start. The guac was bizarre... very smooth, like an avocado puree, with no discernible flavor at all. The sweet server brought us some limes to jazz it up, but it was just kinda green paste in the background. There was some hot sauce sprinkled on top which was neither hot nor noticeable. We left some at the end of the night, and that says a lot. I never leave guacamole.

                                          Sopes shells were lovely -- crispy and crunchy and corn flavored. Perfect vehicle for the fillings, of which we had chorizo, pibil, and something else. The fillings were unremarkable but the shells were just great. I loved the huitlacoche quesadillas, made with house-made flour tortillas. I suppose you would call them unremarkable as well, if presented with them on a TV cooking show to be judged by Ramsay, et al. But I liked the hominess of the torts, and I'd eat huitlacoche off a shoe. That's just me.

                                          Next up a trio of tacos, also of the flour persuasion. Everything was dragged thru the garden and while I didn't mind this, it seemed a distraction from the actual main event. I hope my DCs will chime in here. Tamales were just terrible... let me leave it at that. The Sonoran steak was cooked perfectly med-rare, but it needed salt and again, we didn't eat it all, which is a sure sign of disappointment with this bunch of gluttons.

                                          Churros to finish were sweet and well-fried. Whatever.

                                          There's no way this place is "better" than Angela's. It's certainly more convenient. It's much much prettier. But Angela's food has soul and this place was kinda zombie. I wanted to love it, and I DO love the room, but one cannot eat the tin ceiling, no matter how appealing it is. For my pesos, I'd keep on walking.

                                          -----
                                          El Centro
                                          472 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

                                           
                                           
                                           
                                           
                                           
                                           
                                           
                                           
                                           
                                          1. re: yumyum

                                            That's a disappointing review for sure, but I'll give them one thing: it's rare to see a Mexican restaurant in the states that's committed enough to Sonoran-style food to serve its tacos on flour tortillas. Many places that otherwise would strive for authenticity would serve the tacos on corn tortillas just because that's what's expected. So that's a point in their favor...as is the fact that I'm dying for some decent churros!

                                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                              I love flour torts, mostly cuz that's what I grew up with. And these were very good indeed. They were nicely charred in spots and definitely cooked through so no raw flour taste at all. I'd definitely order these again.

                                              I like the churros at Toro better, but I'm a poor judge as I don't really care about sweets. OTOH, I think I was the one egging on my companions to get them so who the hell knows. I believe dulce de leche was involved.

                                              -----
                                              Toro
                                              1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

                                              1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                It has been brought to my attention that the tortillas served with the tacos were in fact white corn. The tortillas with the huitlacoche and the ones to accompany the steak were flour. The ones served with the steak were more greasy / almost buttery as they had been freshly made and warmed on the comal to let the inherent lardiness shine.

                                                Sorry for any cornfusion. Heh.

                                                1. re: yumyum

                                                  (That's actually good news: I prefer corn tortillas on my tacos myself!)

                                              2. re: yumyum

                                                Gotta agree with yumyum on all scores about this meal! I think in the end, the only things that I liked were the shells of the sopes—which, to be fair, is really just some fried dough—and the quesadilla. So, basically, the dough.
                                                The tacos and tamales were a particular disappointment-- the tacos did indeed have (rather uninspired) corn tortillas, and the toppings were somewhere between unremarkable and bad: crunchy but extremely overcooked/dry fish, oddly bland chorizo, and very pineappley al pastor. The service was all quite earnest, but none of the flavors had the brightness or spice that would make me rush back...

                                                (And yes, dulce de leche was involved in the churros-- we had balked because it sounded over the top sweet, but actually in some perverse way, the dulce de leche actually somehow *cut* the sweetness of the blizzard of white sugar that coated them! I suppose by giving it some dimension other than pure sweet...)

                                                1. re: another_adam

                                                  The sopes are interesting to me because that is exactly the same thing I have found with Tacos Acapulco in Shrewsbury (amazing service, great sope shells, but overall bland fillings/food) and similarly with the garnachas from Zocalo. But for Brazilian snack places, its easier to find one that does the filling right (and many do not) than one that has a truely suburb dough. I have had tamales where the masa was amazing, but the filling forgettable, but a fried dough is less forgiving. And with gorditas the places with truely excellent (and not grease logged shells) have the best fillings. So it surprises me that several places make pretty good sopes/garnachas to order and then ladel slop on top.

                                                  -----
                                                  Zocalo
                                                  35 Stanhope St, Boston, MA 02116

                                                2. re: yumyum

                                                  Because i had such an opposite (and positive) response to El Centro, I started another thread

                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/791321

                                                  Thank you for the excellent photos; they help alot, for both of us!

                                                  -----
                                                  El Centro
                                                  472 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

                                            2. Not on your list but tried Acitron on Mass Ave in Arlington two weeks ago.
                                              What a great surprise we had. Beautiful but simple dining room, cozy bar, friendly servers, great drinks (albiet expensive @ 12.00 per) and very tasty Chow. My husband had a pork dish that came out like a big timbale of shredded meat. Very deep flavors and perfectly cooked.
                                              I had a few tacos and some guacamole served with these very unsusual house made chips. Only downer is they ran out when I requested more of them. We will be back and are excited to see this addition to the already good Arlington dining scene.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: holldoll

                                                We went to Acitron this week and had an excellent meal. My chicken with mole verde stuffed with huitlacoche was delicious. The corn on the cob with cojita was awesome, and we didn't have to wait in line at Toro to get it. Excellent addition to Arlington!

                                                -----
                                                Toro
                                                1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

                                                1. re: holldoll

                                                  Our first time at Acitron tonight for a small snack. Dining room was still hopping at 8:45 pm (GASP...even in Arlington!). Guacamole was good and chunky - we ordered it hot but we could have used more spice. Nice bartender offered to get more minced up jalepenos but we deferred to next time. I loved the chips - reminded me of my beloved places in my old Pilsen 'hood in Chicago. My spicy shrimp with veggies soup of the day was comforting on this cold night. Came with some chili flakes, all of which I promptly dumped into the soup. Yum. I got the ceviche which was a fun contrast to the hot soup - slivers of red pepper and mango, puckery (but not too much so). I would get this again, even though it was tilapia (menu said tilapia, but it didn't look or taste like tilapia...anyway, it was sliced beautifully into sashimi-style slices). B got the crepas de rajas poblanas - also quite good. Sauce was creamy and comforting - perfect cold weather food for B. We both could have used a bit more heat, though. I didn't get much taste of the filling - we brought half of it home so I'll give it another try. Glass of tempranillo for B (I had had the very same one at Foundry a couple of weeks ago...it has a funny "burnt nut" after taste, as my astute fellow CH observed) and one of malbec for me. We quite liked our snack and look forward to sampling more.