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May 9, 2011 07:05 AM

Surprising delights of North of the Border

Don’t make the mistake I did of repeatedly driving by North of the Border Mexican Grill, supposing it to be just another taco joint selling microwaved enchiladas smothered in cheese and salsa. This family-run West Roxbury eatery sells good food at reasonable prices, most of it made to order on the premises, and much of it not found elsewhere in this section of the city. Its surprisingly broad menu includes not only Mexican standards but food from Colombia, Guatemala, and El Salvador, making it a welcome supplement to the Venezuelan fare available a few blocks away at Viva Mi Arepa. And the Guatemalan owner and his employees are friendly and enthusiastic, willing to modify dishes to accommodate allergies and different palates.

I visited twice last weekend and never made it past the Appetizers page. My favorites were the tamales, consisting of light corn masa topped with a sauce of subtle complexity and little heat, containing a few pork chunks in one version and potatoes, carrots and peppers in another. Pupusas are topped with a mild cabbage salad, less vinegary than the usual curtido, and the well-stuffed burritos are accompanied with an equally mild tomatoey sauce. Chicken tacos are simple and tasty: two tortillas covered with finely diced chicken and deconstructed salsa ingredients topped with shredded lettuce, cheese and cilantro. And rellenitos are a revelation: mashed plantains stuffed with sweetened cinnamon-spiked refried beans and deep-fried to a dark brown, served hot with a container of crema.

The only mild disappointment were the tacos flauta, with too little filling in the deep-fried flutes to justify the calories. I’d rather spend those on another killer rellenito.

Pix are at

Still to be sampled are the chicharrones, platanos, fried yucca, empanadas (call ahead to order), and breakfast specials. Eventually, I suppose I might even make it to the Entrees section. If you get there first, let me know what you think.

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  1. dam i live extremely close to this place, but never bothered to check it out. I will be rectifying that situation today!

    1. Thanks NoNatto. Where is this place? Anything interesting (out of the ordinary) on the entrees?

      2 Replies
      1. re: gourmaniac

        It's at 5272 Washington St. in West Roxbury, at the corner of Birchwood, two blocks (toward Dedham) past Viva Mi Arepa (at Grove Street).

        As is often the case, the entrees seem less interesting to me than the appetizers, but I’d be up for trying the carne adobada (marinated pork), camarones rojos (shrimp in a “red spicy sauce”), or camarones al ajillo (garlic shrimp). All but one entree are under $10, btw, and most breakfast specials weigh in under $6. (The “desayuno hispano” looks like a winner—eggs, chicharrones, refried beans, fried plantains, sour cream, cheese and home fries for $5.50.)

        Not destination dining necessarily, but good honest ethnic fare in a corner of the city that can surely benefit from more culinary diversity.

        1. re: NoNatto

          Highly recommend the carne asada and pork Tamales! Wonderful people wonderful food. Quite a varied menu for its size.