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Taqueria el Amigo. Uno mas. (long)

  • h

to those who would claim there is no decent mexican food in the boston area, i have but one thing to ask:
why were you not eating at taqueria el amigo last evening?

set and setting yield the usual mosh pit of human experience:

- the tall white dude with the "phish" t-shirt and the smoking hot wife ordering for their two astonishingly beautiful children, the ground crew behind me quietly debating chainsaws and chippers, the guy in the permanent sunglasses and earbuds who would appear to be biding his time until the hit that he has been contracted for gets out of work.
a soccer match chatters away on the t.v. and harleys belonging to the guys drinking in the Hose Trough Tavern (now THATS a name!) next door burble along on the sidewalk outside,

its a robert rodiguez film even before you order, but then you do.

the girls seemed to have gone home for the evening my and the older gentleman takes my order as the two guys at the grill crank away at multiple orders ahead of me, it still only takes about ten minutes and the piping hot food is still almost too hot to eat after the 10 minute drive to the house.

the platos mexicano is phenomenal. the chorizo quesadilla with lettuce, tomato, and a sour cream drizzle plays the warm spicy sausage against the cool additions. the chicken enchilada uses the same toppings, adding a dark sauce and some rice to a very good chicken filling, for a wonderful, subtle difference, i cant stop eating. the included taco is beef ( i requested cabeza) is slightly spare and could have used a little more meat, but its a quibble for meat this good on fresh, doubled-up, soft tortillas. the housemade hot sauce included with the food is almost worth a trip by itself, not a red pepper sauce but an herbal mix of spices and heat and smoke. awesome.
the platos comes with rice and refried beans, usually a casual throwaway are, in this place, revelatory to me. the rice included in most takeout food has been sitting out for...well, who knows how long? this was fresh and hot and matched up perfectly with the beans with have a decent amount of spicy heat and were also searing in the temperature department and i dont leave any. washed down with a cold sixpoint bengali tiger, its the best thing i have had in weeks and my chops in the kitchen are not bad.

my usual tack is to order a burrito to eat the following morning. i order the al pastor and figure i should get a vegetable one for my girl that she can eat tomorrow when she gets up from working the night shift, the older gentleman misunderstands me and gives me TWO vegetable burritos and ONE al pastor. no worries.
now that i have finished the entire platos mexicano, really, the only thing to do is dig in to the still hot ( an hour later), vegetable burrito. a mushrooms, green pepper, tomato and grilled onion seared on the flat top and rolled up perfectly in a large flour tortilla . there is a good hit of smoke and char in this sandwich that gets missed in the usual veggie offering. i dont even miss the meat.
NOW my stomach hurts.
cold al pastor and chili burrito for breakfast and its great.
growing up in new england and even travelling fairly extensively in the united states i have to say i never really understood the fervent love for mexican food. its use of the same elements over and over can lend itself to "it all tastes the same" in uncaring hands. but wow, if you eat this food and are unmoved then you just dont care for the cuisine itself. i am a convert and have begun to discern between what can be fairly subtle differences to start with.
i have the crew at Taqueria el Amigo to thank for that.
oh, and the platos mexicano, two vegetable burritos, burrito al pastor and a fanta orange soda made with cane sugar (that tasted like it did when i was ten) while i waited cost me 25 dollars.

did i say i was in love with this place?

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  1. That's a g.d. great review.

    1. Very nice review. you really need to find your shift key. no caps makes it read like all one sentance. i get out of breath real easy.
      enjoy,
      cocodan

      1. A brilliant review of my favorite Mexican place in Boston. Thanks for that, hyde!

        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

          1. I've been a Taqueria Jalisco devotee for years. Acutely aware that I needed to get out to Waltham to hit up Amigo, but being mostly mobile on my bike, hadn't done the diligence to hijack a car and get there. But after reading that, it's moving up my to do list. EDITED for obvious reasons.

            9 Replies
            1. re: maxinboston

              BYOB is illegal in Boston, so it's not a good idea in a public forum to discuss places that allow it.

              I'm not certain whether Waltham allows BYOB or not, but I have never seen anyone with an alcoholic beverage in El Amigo.

              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                BTW, as far as I know the owners of El Amigo are evangelicals so I wouldn't suggest BYOB even if it were permitted in Waltham (I have even seen bulletins in Spanish about AA meetings there). Plus there is a bar right next door and another central american restaurant with a full bar not too far away. Its not far from the route 70 bus out of Central Square in Cambridge which may have bike racks or you could take your bike on the commuter rail.

              2. re: maxinboston

                Head to head Jalisco wins for sure. They're both good.

                1. re: Luther

                  I've been to both, and I'm not sure Jalisco wins.

                2. re: maxinboston

                  dude, you will ride to EAST BOSTON and you wont ride on the bike paths to waltham? yikes.

                  el amigo is maybe 1/4 of a mile from the charles river greenway bike path. get off where it crosses north street (100 meters from fiorella's in newton) and climb on river st for 200 meters , a right at the lights is willow st and el amigo is right there.

                  by bike it is no more than 30 min from harvard square. all bike path.

                  1. re: hyde

                    That's awesome, I'll do it this weekend. Where I live in Somerville it's a pretty short ride through Chelsea to East Boston. But thanks for the route, I'll head over to Waltham soon.

                    1. re: maxinboston

                      they have menudo on the weekends. the maintenance guys at work from central america were swooning over this recently. its not my thing, i have tried it a couple of times but the flavors are just too foreign to my metrowest boston raised palate. the dog, on the other hand, could not have been more thrilled.

                      1. re: maxinboston

                        on weekends el Amigo makes a menudo that the central american maintenance guys at work nearly cry over. the flavors are just too foreign for my metrowest boston raised palate, but the dog appreciated immensely the several times i tried.

                        weekends also hold a shrimp cocktail that is quite good but not world beating, and a mojarras ( fish w/ rice, lettuce and tomatoes) that i have only had once and seemed quite good (not a big fish fan) but i do not like to recommend something i have only had once.

                        i would also stump for the nachos de avocado over the standard. fresh nachos and housemade guacamole with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, jalapeƱo slices and crema. made the vegetarian in the group very happy.\

                        riding to east boston from newton is a nightmare, i once thought i would ride to santarpio's, which is actually 13 miles from my front door. it took me the better part of a day. it would be quicker to ride to worcester

                  2. I love hole in the wall places that can churn out great food at good prices, but Taqueria el Amigo is not one of them.

                    I only visited once for a takeout recently, and was very disappointed. It was after lunch on a weekday, and the place was half empty. I went for the taco plate which many had recommended here.

                    When I got home 15 minutes later, grease had soaked through the brown paper bag. Other than the four tacos, there were no chips and no sides. The tacos' meat was bone dry, and the avocado slices were razor thin. (OK, I exaggerated here, but you get the picture.)

                    I won't return, and will stick with the other Waltham favorite: Taqueria Mexico. There I get consistent good food, and great seating outside.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: eatntell

                      well ent, i completely agree w/you. Every time i read posts from CH fans of this place, i feel like a Mexican Martian. will never understand. Greasy, dry, blah griddled fillings.For me, when i compare their beef tacos to the wood grilled skirt steak Carne Asada tacos at La Verdad, it's like comparing a big mac to the burger at Strip Ts.

                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                        I'm no tacos expert, and would definitely check out La Verdad.

                        My takeout from el Amigo was not in a styrofoam container, but in a plain brown paper bag. I asked for and paid for a taco plate, but there were only four tacos in the bag. Perhaps they just don't do takeouts well.

                        Regarding hyde's "tone of the piece", I think he meant "tone of the place". Yes, I have fond memories of many hole in the wall places from other countries that were like movie sets with interesting characters. But ultimately they are memorable for their excellent FOOD!

                        1. re: eatntell

                          Allstonian and I were in the neighborhood this afternoon (El Amigo is mere blocks from both Russo's and BJs, so its a regular lunch stop when we're making that run), and because the place was full up, we uncharacteristically took our food to go and ate in that little tucked-away riverwalk park just the other side of Russo's. Our food was properly packaged in styrofoam clamshells complete with the requisite rice and beans (great rice, but Taqueria Mexico has much better beans) and serving utensils and napkins, so your experience might have been an outlier, annoying though it surely was.

                          And, as always, the food was uniformly delicious. Also as always, my only quibble was that I don't like that they put lettuce on the burrito al pastor, but I never remember that they put lettuce on the burrito al pastor, so I never remember to ask them to leave it off.

                    2. Putting the address (the restaurant's, not you and your smoking hot wive's) in the review would have been appreciated. Not that I didn't eventually figure out it was in Waltham.

                      5 Replies
                        1. re: jira

                          its a board favorite, i figured if one really wanted to find it mine would not be the only review one would read. also, im thinking you missed the tone of the piece ( and, indeed, some of the descriptions!).

                          1. re: hyde

                            So you're saying you're not the dude in the Phish shirt? Must be the hitman.

                            My one experience ordering a burrito at Amigo did not turn out well, the tacos were much better. Interesting to hear the burritos can be good too.

                            1. re: nickls

                              i do not wear shirts with writing on them. i consider it advertising and they do not pay me so f*** 'em. my hitman days are over, i was the whiteguy grey-bearded observer in the piece. i just go for the food.

                              1. re: hyde

                                Ha, was just making this t-shirt to someone yesterday and they thought I was crazy. I appreciate this post.

                        2. I enjoyed reading your writeup. Really fun read. Clearly a place worth checking out.