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Mexican update: Is Angela's Cafe still the best?

Blumie Aug 8, 2011 06:17 PM

Visited Angela's tonight for the first time in a long time, and enjoyed it as much as ever. Is this still the Hounds' favorite area Mexican?

(BTW, when my daughter and I arrived just before 6:00, we were the first diners. Rino's, on the other hand, had a line out the door already! On a Monday night before 6:00!)

  1. opinionatedchef Aug 19, 2011 11:57 PM

    I know most of you do not travel to Salem for food, but for those who do or would, the new Howling Wolf Mexican restnt has a few very good tacos and sauces and soups. Chef from Guadalajara. We've now eaten there twice and their chile colorado sauce, chicken chile verde soup, and red Christmas sauce are better than any i've had in Boston; rich not-bitter multilayered flavors. i reviewed it in these threads:



    1. FastTalkingHighTrousers Aug 9, 2011 06:44 AM

      Hard to beat Angela's! Went last week with my wife after a 6 month or so break and it was as delicious as ever.
      My favorites are still the camarones diablo, mole and the pozole. I can't say I've ever had a disappointing dish there and I'm glad the kitchen hasn't lost its touch in the time we haven't been.
      We had a very disappointing meal at La Verdad a couple of weeks back. We went when the Sox were out of town to avoid chaos. The pescado tacos we ate where pretty mushy and flavorless. The torta my wife had was ok but I much prefer the one at (the restaurant formerly known as) Tacos Lupita in Somerville. Grilled corn is the same as the one at Toro except not executed nearly as well. The corn we shared was straight-up burned. Meh. Third time we've been there and been super unimpressed. Not going to waste the time to go back.

      1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

      La Verdad
      1 Lansdowne St, Boston, MA 02215

      25 Replies
      1. re: FastTalkingHighTrousers
        opinionatedchef Aug 9, 2011 02:18 PM

        In 3 years of regular visits, i have only had one bland fish taco, but what a drag for you. the pozole at angela's- is it a thin somewhat clear broth or a mahogany colored broth? and your preferred torta at Aquacate Verde, what filling? i'd like to pursue.thnx.

        1. re: opinionatedchef
          MC Slim JB Aug 9, 2011 02:26 PM

          Angela's pozole features a thin, clear broth. I've compared it to pho.


          1. re: MC Slim JB
            lipoff Aug 10, 2011 11:42 AM

            I love their pozole, although my DC thought the very same bowl I was enjoying was too thin and watery. I was similarly impressed by their mole again on a recent visit. I have to say that while I do like Angela's alot overall, I am consistently blown away by Taqueria Jalisco. While the staff at Jalisco are always very kind, however, it's still not exactly a restaurant for a date, while Angela's is very cute and homey.

            1. re: MC Slim JB
              opinionatedchef Aug 10, 2011 03:49 PM

              bummer. somewhere in the past, my mind remembered what Mex. region produces the rich rust colored pozole broth, like that at Cielito Lindo in Beverly, but that rolodex card has gone missing.

              Cielito Lindo
              150 Cabot St, Beverly, MA 01915

              1. re: opinionatedchef
                MC Slim JB Aug 10, 2011 08:14 PM

                Taqueria Jalisco does a pozole rojo, weekends only, I think. If I'm not mistaken, that red, chile-tinted regional variant originates in Jalisco, which would make sense.

                There are also green pozoles, as well as the pozole blanco of Angela's, which (again, I'm not perfectly certain of my Mexican culinary geography here) I believe is typical of the chef's native Puebla.


                1. re: MC Slim JB
                  itaunas Aug 11, 2011 04:12 AM

                  Its correct that pozole rojo is commonly associated with Jalisco, as well as being common neighboring states, but I believe pozole blanco is also popular in Guadalajara (in Jalisco). BTW, its not just the ingredients used in making the pozole which contributes to the regional differences, but also the typical accompaniments served on the side. Radish and lettuce are the basic,but there can be certain chiles, pumpkin seeds, salsa, even chicharron.

                  opinionatedchef you do know that pozole is commonly made with pork heads and feet (more common in the US due to availability and are nice even if using a head because they provide a lot of gelatin) important in the broth because they contribute to the taste and mouthfeel. I mention that because you weren't keen on trying either Birria because some versions use goat or tongue tacos, so never thought you would have a preference for pozole.

                  1. re: itaunas
                    opinionatedchef Aug 11, 2011 12:43 PM

                    dunegirl, very considerate of you; thanks much. Just to clarify, i have no moral problems w/ offal and i do enjoy sweetbreads and french thinly sliced tongue in vinaigrette; it's the flavor of lengua and goat(and tripe and brains) that I don't like. As to pozole, it is not my fav mex soup but i enjoy the richness of the broth when it is of the mahogany persuasion.

                  2. re: MC Slim JB
                    cambridgedoctpr Aug 11, 2011 01:22 PM

                    having lived in the Bay Area and Chicago, I have not been impressed with Mexican food in NYC or Boston (perhaps the halycon days of youth problem?)

                    Since i have read that most of the people who cook in restaurants are Mexican; is this merely prejudice on my part or is this real? And is there an explanation?

                    1. re: cambridgedoctpr
                      StriperGuy Aug 11, 2011 02:09 PM

                      Mexican food is WAY better in Chicago and SF just because there is so much more of it.

                      1. re: StriperGuy
                        cambridgedoctpr Aug 11, 2011 02:14 PM

                        but stripes, i have read that almost everyone cooking in the kitchens of higher end restaurants are mexican; why does this not translate to great mexican food? But at least, you have provided a plausible explanation.

                        1. re: cambridgedoctpr
                          itaunas Aug 11, 2011 02:35 PM

                          There are large numbers of Central Americans, as well as Brazilians and other South Americans (Peruvian, Columbian) working in Boston kitchens. In smaller higher end restaurants some work the line (and some have worked up to sous chef and other positions), at other (more desireable) restaurants culinary students work the line and central americans do prep work. Chain restaurants rely very heavily on such help and Hotels (some have more stringent hiring requirements) tend to have fairly diverse staffs, where there is room for promotion for loyal kitchen personnel. Central Americans outnumber the Brazilians in town kitchens, but that can change in the burbs.

                          1) Salvadoran and Guatemalan immigrants came to Boston in larger numbers than Mexicans in the past and Mexicans do not outnumber them in kitchens.
                          2) The people that work lower end line or prep positions are often not chefs in their native countries, nor do they make enough in that line of work to readily open a restaurant. Those that are promoted may have learned their skills here (dish->prep->salad->line->saucier-> ...) or may have culinary training already and become a sous chef more quickly with those skills (probably a small population).
                          3) A lot of the ethnic restaurants which open as a result of migration are meant to provide "fuel" for such workers, rather than a high end dining experience and many are not regional at all, pan-mexican, mexican+guatemalan+salvadoran, etc. Some are quite good, but they can change hands, change cooks (often not the owners), and otherwise vary ; that's why we all participate so heavily in this board to find out what is chowish in Boston vs what is better in Chicago than Boston (which is fun to debate the first time or two but these things get rehashed here a lot).
                          4) There could be more Central Americans working in high end restaurants in the US than in Central America, but you will often have a better high-end ethnic dining experience overseas because high-end cooks in those countries work at 4-star hotels rather than migrate to prep vegetables at a Boston restaurant. (This is even more the case today with the improvements to the Mexican and Brazilian economies.)

                          Without going far off topic, your premise of "Mexican universality" isn't correct for Boston, nor do all positions in high end restaurants mean a skilled cook in their native regional cusine, but we do have lots of ethnic food mostly centered around population centers for those ethnicities.

                          1. re: cambridgedoctpr
                            StriperGuy Aug 11, 2011 05:35 PM

                            Itaunas really said it all. But the short version, just cause you work in a resto, does not mean you are a chef or for that matter know how to cook the cuisine of your own country (mom or grandma likely did the cooking at home if you are a mail busboy, line cook, etc.).

                            1. re: StriperGuy
                              opinionatedchef Aug 11, 2011 06:17 PM

                              amen. unfortunately.

                              1. re: StriperGuy
                                StriperGuy Aug 12, 2011 06:32 AM

                                Meant "male" not "mail."

                          2. re: cambridgedoctpr
                            LStaff Aug 12, 2011 07:29 AM

                            That's an intersting question. Also why is most Chinese/other Asian countries cuisine in the area lacking? Why is it whenever I go to visit an Italian family in the US for dinner, they can't make Italian food as good as I can (and I'm english)? ;-)

                            Some theories I have thought of are:

                            - The details get watered down when passed to generations that are (at least partly) raised in the age of fast food, have enough wealth to eat out often, and they aren't paying particular attention to their mothers/grandmothers cooking?
                            - Don't have access the same quality/fresh ingredients that makes a national cuisine shine, so have to use substitutes and/or inferior ingredients?
                            - Family preferences for flavor based on their experience aren't what we expect for a particular cusine?
                            - Dumbing down of spices, using more salt and sugar, etc to match their perception of the average american/new englander's palate?

                            1. re: LStaff
                              lipoff Aug 18, 2011 01:48 PM

                              I think that most Chinese and other Asian restaurants in the Boston area aren't that great, but there are some truly outstanding ones that rival the very best (in similar price ranges) anywhere. I don't really think this is that different from other regions. I mean, most "American" restaurants (think hamburgers?) in America aren't that great, and yet in most regions there are certainly a few that are terrific.

                              As it happens, I think Boston has fewer excellent Mexican restaurants than some other US cities with comparable populations/GDP and more excellent Chinese restaurants than other US cities with comparable (or greater) populations/GDP. I suspect that some of this has to do with the numbers, wealth and taste of those particular ethnic populations, and some of it is random. Consider Burlington, VT which just happens to have a very authentic Chinese restaurant, A Single Pebble, because of the single individual who started it.

                              In the meantime, we still have Angela's, Taqueria Jalisco, Taqueria Mexico, Dorado, Tacos Lupita, Tu y Yo, and more. Not so bad!

                              Taqueria Mexico
                              24 Charles St, Waltham, MA 02453

                              1. re: lipoff
                                tatsu Aug 18, 2011 02:41 PM

                                Hmm, I always figured there are so many Chinese in the world, (Roughly 20% of the world's population.) there's bound to be a decent Chinese restaurant within 50 miles of you anywhere in the US. An exaggeration, but maybe not by much.

                                1. re: lipoff
                                  rknrll Aug 18, 2011 05:04 PM

                                  The Lupita in Somerville is gone.

                                  1. re: rknrll
                                    MC Slim JB Aug 18, 2011 08:58 PM

                                    As I understand it, Tacos Lupita is not so much gone as rebranded -- as Aguacate Verde -- under new owners, with much of the same staff in both the kitchen and up front.


                                    1. re: MC Slim JB
                                      lipoff Aug 18, 2011 09:50 PM

                                      That was my understanding too --- everything tasted quite good the last time I was there, but the people working up front were different, and they were using plastic plates. Presumably there's still a Tacos Lupita in Lynn? I haven't been up there in a while, but I've been once --- maybe five years ago? --- and it was also delicious.

                                      1. re: MC Slim JB
                                        dashford Aug 19, 2011 04:21 PM

                                        I spoke with one of the new owners (she's from Peru) and she indicated that much of the Tacos Lupita menu is being retained, largely due to feedback from regular customers in the first few days after the restaurant started operating under the new name.

                        2. re: opinionatedchef
                          FastTalkingHighTrousers Aug 9, 2011 02:33 PM

                          Yeah they've been a total bummer each time I've gone. The first time I can admit the fish tacos weren't flavorless. The fish was clearly passed it's prime so it had a good amount of "flavor", albeit a flavor I don't care for. The next 2 times I've tried them the fish tasted perfectly fresh they just lacked in seasoning and texture. C'est la vie.
                          Angela's pozole is clear broth with hominy and pork. It's the best pozole I've had in Boston. And my favorite torta at Lupita's is lengua.

                        3. re: FastTalkingHighTrousers
                          cambridgedoctpr Aug 9, 2011 02:57 PM

                          when i went, the sauces were good - not great - but the meat was dry. I wonder how you escaped the dry meat?

                          1. re: cambridgedoctpr
                            FastTalkingHighTrousers Aug 9, 2011 03:00 PM

                            The meat at Angela's? They probably are not terribly consistent but if that's the case, it's always worked out in my favor. I've been to Angela's 12 or so times and I can't say I've ever had that problem. I have heard others claim that they've been served dry meat too so it's not outside the realm of possibility. Hopefully my lucky streak continues!

                            1. re: FastTalkingHighTrousers
                              DoubleMan Aug 9, 2011 03:06 PM

                              You are lucky. I've never had anything but seriously overcooked meat.

                        4. hiddenboston Aug 9, 2011 06:33 AM

                          Haven't been to Angela's in about a year so I can't really speak for them right now, but Taqueria El Amigo in Waltham is about as good as it gets these days.

                          Taqueria El Amigo
                          196 Willow St, Waltham, MA 02453

                          1. MC Slim JB Aug 9, 2011 06:27 AM

                            Angela's, Jalisco, El Amigo remain my favorites. La Verdad seems much improved under a new chef, though the huarache I had the other night was just okay.

                            Of the new upscale Mexican swarm, El Centro is my favorite: most of 'em have very faux-Mex food.


                            El Centro
                            472 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: MC Slim JB
                              tatsu Aug 18, 2011 02:45 PM

                              I'm curious why you never mentioned Tu y Yo, MC. Have you had a chance to go over there? I haven't been in some time, but I was quite the fan some years ago.

                              1. re: tatsu
                                MC Slim JB Aug 18, 2011 03:05 PM

                                Been a while for me, though I liked it, and often cite it when the subject of entomophagy comes up.


                                1. re: MC Slim JB
                                  FastTalkingHighTrousers Aug 18, 2011 08:45 PM

                                  What do they serve by way of creepy-crawlies?

                                  1. re: FastTalkingHighTrousers
                                    MC Slim JB Aug 18, 2011 08:54 PM

                                    Tacos de chapulines, i.e., toasted grasshoppers. Nicely seasoned with lime, garlic, and salt, like many Latino snack foods. One of those things that I found the idea of a bit daunting, but the flavor and texture actually pretty nice. Definitely preferable to sea cucumber or jellyfish, in my book.


                                    1. re: MC Slim JB
                                      FastTalkingHighTrousers Aug 18, 2011 08:59 PM

                                      Man I wish I had a chance to go there when I lived in Davis Sq! Might have to make a special trip out there for this.

                                      1. re: MC Slim JB
                                        tatsu Aug 19, 2011 03:33 PM

                                        Pretty crunchy, it's actually hard to sense you are chomping down on bugs really. I love their corn smut app, frog legs when I'm in the mood, and especially the "National Dish" they sometimes have, a stuffed roasted green bell pepper, white nut cream sauce, festooned with pomegranate seeds. All three colors of the Mexican flag, with ingredients sourced from all regions of Mexico. But every time I call them to ask when is the next time it will be on special, the staff has no idea what I'm talking about. Anyway, one of the more memorable Mexican dishes I've tried.

                                        1. re: tatsu
                                          yumyum Aug 19, 2011 03:38 PM

                                          Chiles en nogada .. I love that dish!

                                          1. re: yumyum
                                            tatsu Aug 19, 2011 04:07 PM

                                            Thank you so much for pointing out the name! I forgot and that's the main disconnect I have when I call them!

                                            1. re: yumyum
                                              tatsu Aug 19, 2011 04:10 PM

                                              Ah a poblano, not a bell pepper. Man, I'm so excited I might try and make this at home!

                                              1. re: tatsu
                                                yumyum Aug 19, 2011 04:47 PM

                                                Bueno! I think this is a multi-step cooking process but not a difficult dish to make.

                                        2. re: FastTalkingHighTrousers
                                          fredid Aug 19, 2011 05:21 PM

                                          Of course, Angela makes a wonderful Chiles en Nogada! I believe it's around in November and thereabouts...Remember our beloved Rubee? She loves this dish!

                                          1. re: fredid
                                            yumyum Aug 19, 2011 05:59 PM

                                            I was thinking about Rubee when I posted this!

                                  2. CocoDan Aug 9, 2011 05:44 AM

                                    I still love it. Was there within the last month, and can't wait to go back. Currently still my favorite.

                                    1. jgg13 Aug 9, 2011 05:35 AM

                                      View it as a delivery platform for their awesome sauces and you'll be alright. The chicken & pork have a tendency to be very dry and not so good.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: jgg13
                                        DoubleMan Aug 9, 2011 06:49 AM

                                        Agreed. Always disappointed by the very dry meat. So sad.

                                      2. opinionatedchef Aug 8, 2011 11:47 PM

                                        not my mex fav; never was. but the shrimp w/chipotle crema is very good. personally i would steer you to La Verdad, and the new El Centro.

                                        La Verdad
                                        1 Lansdowne St, Boston, MA 02215

                                        El Centro
                                        472 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

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