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Where have you had beef cheek recently?

gltsoi Apr 24, 2013 03:42 AM

I'm looking to introduce my friend to the wonders of beef cheek, but the only place that I know has it on its regular menu as opposed to a daily special is Taqueria El amigo, which is delicious but I was looking for a place with a bit more ambience.

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  1. MC Slim JB RE: gltsoi Apr 24, 2013 04:34 AM

    Wouldn't say I've had them recently at either, but both Taqueria Jalisco in Eastie and Romano's Pizzeria and Taqueria in Rozzie feature tacos de cabeza. The latter is an old-school Italian-American pizzeria that now has Mexican owners; the Mexican in general is very good, most of the Italian not so, but it does good Sicilian slices.

    Now that I think about it, those two and Amigo are the only Mexican-owned taquerias I know of in Greater Boston. (Amigo and Jalisco happen to be my two favorite taquerias, too.) Wonder if cabeza is a marker there. Anyone know of a Salvadoran or Guatemalan owned place that serves it?


    9 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB
      gourmaniac RE: MC Slim JB Apr 24, 2013 07:03 AM

      I think Romano's stopped serving some of their more offbeat items including cabeza (not enough demand). Estragon in South End serves pringas, a tapas that has beef cheek, which is delicious.

      1. re: MC Slim JB
        itaunas RE: MC Slim JB Apr 24, 2013 01:13 PM

        MC Slim JB I wouldn't expect beef cheek or really any braised meats outside tongue in Salvadoran or Guatemalan taquerias locally. In fact, I think sopas with long-cooking cuts are more common than guisados overall. But sopa de res would be more likely to use ribs, chuck, or shin meat than cheek (beef neck meat in home cooking). There are restaurants and taquerias in Chelsea which serve Salvadoran + Mexican + other Central American dishes on one menu(even one with Caribbean + Peruvian)... and I am sure some that are now Mexican owned, but I haven't seen anything recently in a small sample that offers cheek meat.

        BTW, although "cabeza" almost exclusively means cheek meat in the US, I wouldn't say that is traditionally the case. Even today from a traditional butcher you would tend to buy a whole head (perhaps sawn in half or quarters) or other offal (viscera) would be bought as a group. So I think individual taqueria specialties as far as meats developed over time and now in Mexico where you have suppliers who cater to taquerias who offer much more cuts now* its probably more standardized, but at some point (and still in regional dishes) it included more of the head. And of course you see tongue and sessos as specific specialties too. I think papada would be a better term overall, but as far as I know that is used just for pork cheek meat.

        * One thing we forget is that preparing offal used to be much more labor intensive, as far as cleaning, blanching, cutting, even cooking some cuts took longer w/o pressure cookers. So the taqueria which offers 15 types of meat fresh daily, all neatly separated, seems like a more modern construct to me.

        1. re: itaunas
          MC Slim JB RE: itaunas Apr 24, 2013 01:23 PM

          Informative as always, itaunas: thanks! I've always assumed that "cheek" was a euphemistic translation designed to spare the delicate sensibilities of Anglos.


          1. re: MC Slim JB
            itaunas RE: MC Slim JB Apr 24, 2013 01:45 PM

            In the US its much easier to buy a box of cheek meat, than a whole head, thanks to National Beef and Cargill who happily label it 'cabeza' so they can sell it to Mexicans at Walmart. So little chance of lips or eyeballs ending up in most cabeza tacos. (Offline a hound reminded me that cachete is the right term for beef cheeks.) I have seen a taqueria with a whole bowl of random viscera (internal)from a local farmer out west which they were cleaning, but offal is generally sold packaged, boxed, often frozen, and cleaned. Klunko had some interesting questions on another thread about whether a good taqueria had to offer offal which would be interesting to debate sometime. I don't think a taqueria here could make it go on one single well-done meat specialty, even with special sauces. And offal is popular in ethnic restaurants because it may remind people of home, but there also still is that stigma of it taking all day to clean and prepare the meats so its worth paying someone to do it for you. In a sense there is a similar value equation for Anglos too -- a whole beef tongue is a lot to cook, but at one taqueria you can try several variety meats.

            BTW, Tacos Mexico served cabeza tacos in Framingham as well as discada, but I think it went Salvadoran and dropped those.

            1. re: itaunas
              trufflehound RE: itaunas Apr 26, 2013 06:24 AM

              Last time I was in they no longer ha it.

            2. re: MC Slim JB
              Jenny Ondioline RE: MC Slim JB Apr 24, 2013 08:37 PM

              I will never forget the time as a youngster growing up in Lubbock when I turned a corner in an unfamiliar supermarket and came upon, for the first time in my life, a coffin freezer filled with plastic-wrapped hog heads, ice crystals forming delicately in their nostrils, all of them carefully pointed in exactly the same direction as if they were waiting patiently for their leader to begin speaking.

              1. re: Jenny Ondioline
                itaunas RE: Jenny Ondioline Apr 25, 2013 03:55 AM

                Mmmm pozole.... mmmm pozole....mmmm pozole.

                1. re: itaunas
                  Jenny Ondioline RE: itaunas Apr 25, 2013 08:45 AM

                  Actually, in that part of Texas, the hog heads were mostly for tamales. At least back then, you really only ever saw posole around Christmas.

          2. re: MC Slim JB
            Allstonian RE: MC Slim JB Apr 25, 2013 09:29 AM

            "Now that I think about it, those two [Taqueria Jalisco in Eastie and Romano's Pizzeria and Taqueria in Rozzie] and Amigo are the only Mexican-owned taquerias I know of in Greater Boston."

            Don't forget Taqueria Mexico, also in Waltham. They don't seem to offer cabeza on the regular menu - don't know about specials - but they are definitely Mexican-owned.

          3. lipoff RE: gltsoi Apr 24, 2013 07:22 AM

            I think Eastern Standard has a beef cheek appetizer always on their menu.

            1 Reply
            1. re: lipoff
              Matt H RE: lipoff Apr 24, 2013 07:36 AM

              I had it about a month ago and it was still very good.

            2. Nab RE: gltsoi Apr 24, 2013 08:56 AM

              Boston Chops has a stupendously delicious beef cheek appetizer, a sort of cabeza/machaca inspired rendition, spicy (not hot) slick and served with totopos, a coupla mini flour tortillas and some chunky pickled veggies to assemble the perfect bite. $9.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Nab
                gltsoi RE: Nab Apr 24, 2013 12:46 PM

                That's perfect! Thanks so much. I knew chowhound would have the answer!

                1. re: Nab
                  yumyum RE: Nab Apr 24, 2013 08:30 PM

                  I had it tonight. It's a great addition to our cheek repertoire but after that and the complementary popover they give you I was stuffed!

                2. j
                  jsaraeats RE: gltsoi Apr 24, 2013 11:56 AM

                  recently had a beef cheek noodle dish at East by North East in Cambridge. Noodles were short rice noodles and were fried and crispy. Dish also had yams, and poached egg. Very rich and delicious.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jsaraeats
                    jsaraeats RE: jsaraeats Apr 24, 2013 12:03 PM

                    just checked, was actually beef shank. sorry for confusion. delicious nonetheless.

                  2. m
                    marais RE: gltsoi Apr 25, 2013 03:52 PM

                    Can't say I've had beef cheeks recently, but the braised beef cheeks I had a year ago at Erbaluce were transcendent, rich and utterly satisfying. Check there for specials.

                    1. yumyum RE: gltsoi Apr 25, 2013 07:48 PM

                      Had beef cheeks last night at boston chops in the south end. Very VERY rich braised cheeks in a little staub pot served with two minuscule tortillas and some chips. A nice bit of pickled red onions and carrot on the side. Very nice seasoning on the melty cheeks. I'm guessing allspice or something. I wish they served 5 of those silver dollar sized torts and griddled em just a bit. Otherwise a delish coma inducing dish.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: yumyum
                        MC Slim JB RE: yumyum Apr 26, 2013 07:13 AM

                        Inspired by Nab, I tried this myself, and concur with yumyum on all counts. It's really, really good, but it needs about six or seven of those miniature flour tortillas with a little griddling on them. I made do with spreading it on bits of popover: not optimum, but it worked, one of the better dishes I've tried at Boston Chops.


                      2. t
                        tartandfit RE: gltsoi Apr 26, 2013 07:15 AM

                        The Abbey has beef cheek and scallion dumplings.

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