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Latin American Dream Come True: La QChara in Melrose is now open!

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They just opened yesterday and I've already eaten three meals at La QChara, the Nuevo Latino Cafe, opened by Coffee, Tea and Me owners/operators Lorenzo and Emily Tenreiro. Early indications are that something truly special is going on here in Melrose.

The space, converted from the now defunct Peacuddy's Coffee House,on Franklin Street, just at the Melrose Highlands Commuter rail station is truly transformed with bright red walls, wooden spoons, chalkboard menus and mid-mod drop lights which set the whole tone for the cafe.

Lorenzo knows coffee and you will no doubt recognize a barista or two if you frequent Coffee, Tea or Me. He has brought the same stellar coffee options here to La QChare...but....if the coffe draws you in... the food will bring you back.

Latin American with a serious nod to Venezuelan cuisine, the menu is expansive. They are offering an array of Arepas with a wide selection of insanely good fillings like: Roast pork, or Oaxaca Cheese and Chorizo, or Carne Mechada (Venezuelan beef, )or the breakfast Arepa with scrambled eggs, house made salsa, cheese and chipotle sauce.

Also on the menu.. Cachapas. A homemade Venezuelan sweet corn pancake with a variety of fillings.

The breakfast menu is a bountiful blend of South, Central and North American favorites. I had the breakfast quesadilla yesterday and couldn't have been happier. They were served with crispy yucca fries topped with a cilantro sauce. Other breakfast plates include Empanadas, Pancakes with Arequipe (dulce de leche syrup) Tostadas Francesas( challa French toast with almonds, and panela caramel roasted bananas) and a personal favorite, Chilaquiles.

The Chilaquiles are tossed with your choice of green or red sauce, shredded chicken and two sunny side up eggs. The green sauce is tart and spicy, while the tortillas remain crisp and delicious

And there are Tortas, Tacos, Burritos, Tostones, Carne Asada and more...

Not to be missed are the freshly baked pastries produced by Emily Tenreiro!
If coconut peach muffins are out... you want one.

Please note: While the atmosphere is traditional carry out cafe, the food may take a little while to produce. It's only their second day being open so I always expect some glitches at the beginning, but with that said, the wait was no longer than what I would expect from a decent sit-down restaurant. As there is a large commuter traffic moving through the location, my suspicion is that Lorenzo and team may need to add some "grab and go" options for those catching the train.

Still, I can't say enough good things about La QChara. Melrose is awash in Italian sub and pizza shops, Roast Beef and Seafood spots, or Chinese carryouts. An addition like this, with this quality of food is long overdue and a VERY welcome change around here.

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  1. La Qchara
    506 Franklin Street
    Melrose, MA 02176
    781-662-5555

    6:30am - 6PM

    1. My buddy from PR who lives in Melrose is going to be psyched.

      1. this looks to be acoss the street from gray's appliances?
        if so, maybe it's my lucky year!

        1 Reply
        1. re: opinionatedchef

          Just a couple blocks away. Gray's is at Main and Franklin. La Qchara is at Franklin and Greenwood.

        2. Thanks for this. I was so excited when I heard he was planning to open this place. Can't wait to try it!

          1. This is prob completely irrelevant for others, but I am delighted by the NAME chosen for this place. In my ever expanding self-taught Spanish vocab., i have ALways blocked out the word for Spoon. But now...I think i've got it!!

            3 Replies
            1. re: opinionatedchef

              Gosh sorry but my buddy and I, both Spanish speakers were conferring on how much we disliked the name.

              1. re: StriperGuy

                well of COURSE, stripey! you never needed help remembering the word for spoon! it just implanted itself in your brain ,while it kept drifting out of mine!

                1. re: opinionatedchef

                  ;-)

            2. cant wait to try! I looked up to see what a cachapas was and it was funny cuz we kind of make them at home not knowing what they are! We take leftover cornbread and mix it with corn or creamed corn and eggs and milk and cook it and eat it with cheese melted on it, so I am guessing their mix of similar ingred. will be even better... Plus just to have basics like plantains, black beans local is a bonus.. Looking forward to a global stroll of La QChara. Toobys and Comellas. BTW, if QChara means spoon, does QDoba mean bad spoon?

              3 Replies
              1. re: chompie

                Haha! I think that's EXACTLY what it means.

                1. re: chompie

                  brilliant :-}

                  1. re: chompie

                    We tried the Cachapas today and really loved them. We chose the Ham and Cheese filling. Super simple but really delicious.

                    Also we sampled two of the Quinoa Bowls and really loved those too! Essentially a quinoa salad with different toppings. None of the selections have meat which makes them a great vegetarian option,if one is so inclined, but I couldn't help but think... Some chicken would be really good in this.

                  2. After reading the reviews on this new place I decided to give it a try for lunch today. Overall I thought is was very good but they are still working out some opening-day-kinks. They have a menu posted on the wall but there is no explanation of what each of the offerings is so if you are not familiar with Latin American food it's a bit confusing. That being said they have a stack of paper menus next to where you place your order that explains each dish. You order, pay and give your name at the counter and then choose a table. When your order is ready someone calls your name and brings it to your table. The overall service is friendly but disjointed and it's obvious that everyone is still new and they haven't worked out a smooth system yet.

                    There were a lot of things on the menu that I wanted to try but I ended up ordering the Los Carnitas tacos which were three soft tacos made with fresh corn tortillas. Each taco had a different filling, one was pork, one chicken and one beef. They were served with avocados, sour cream and a nice Spanish style rice. They were very good but my only complaint is that there was no salsa or any type of hot sauce to put on them. I had a Lemonada to drink which was really refreshing. Freshly squeezed lemon juice lightly sweetened. I wanted to try a Flan for dessert but they were all out.

                    I will definitely go back because I want to try the Arpeas, the Chillaquiles and some of the tortas. All the dishes being served to other tables looked very good. It's a great addition to area and offers an alternative to all the pizza and sub shops. I wish them well.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: RoyRon

                      Keep in mind that tacos are not at all Venezuelan. Better to find out what the specialty of the house is, and order that.

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        I am fully aware of what Venezuelan food is all about having traveled there quire a few times. When I walked in I was ready to order the Arepas and the fillings they offered sure sounded good but as I was waiting to place my order the server walked by with the Taco Los Carnitas. It looked so damn good that I changed my mind. I said clearly in my posting that I was definitely going back to try the Arepas and other dishes.

                        1. re: RoyRon

                          I've had the arepas and empanadas at Coffee Tea and Me and they are definitely worth seeking out... although it's partly because these are the only places serving anything like this in the Melrose/Stoneham/Saugus/Wakefield/Malden area. I

                          1. re: Chris VR

                            chris, now that you're over in Lex., keep reminding yourself(you prob already do) of the Moody St Latino and Indian options. (ex:Arepas, for me, are not as satisfying as their cousin, Gorditas , which have more protein filling; so that
                            Antojito's is a great find in Waltham.)
                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/911376

                            And there are all the other Stripey-Waltham Crawl places he covered, incl the Indian 'food court' (i still want to try their fried chicken).

                            [A bit OT but... after doing a CH Search for Waltham, I was reminded that you have a MULAN in Waltham, you lucky girl you! (I'm guessing that M is better than all the Lex. Chinese places.)]

                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                              Yep, looking forward to exploring the local food scene once we line up babysitters and I free up some evening time... pretty tied up right now through the end of November. Szechuan's Dumpling is our go-to Chinese place these days. (Well, more of our come-here place, since they deliver to us!)

                      2. re: RoyRon

                        We tried the breakfast arepas the other morning and I hate to say it... I was disappointed in them. The filling was great but the arepa itself was rubbery and tough. Hoping that's a one-off.

                        1. re: UnclePH

                          have you tried anything else besides the quesadilla and arepa? just wondering your thoughts on other items if you have....

                          1. re: chompie

                            Yes. We've tried a few items at this point:

                            Cachapas-really great. Nice light corn pancakes with a hint of sweetness. Filled with ham and cheese.

                            Chilaquiles - also great. Spicy tart green sauce with shredded chicken, two fried eggs and cotija cheese. There is a red sauce available as well, but have not sampled.

                            Torta-good but not as successful as some other items we've tried. Tenoch in Medford has me spoiled on that category. They need to griddle the Telera roll after they've assembled the sandwich.

                            Quinoa Bowls- loved it! We've sampled two of them. Essentially a cold quinoa salad. The dish is very hearty and flavorful. We've tried two of the three options. I think these are vegan.

                            1. re: chompie

                              I was there this week and tried the cacapas with queso blanco. Lovely, homey dish but a bit "one-note", however they were happy to include a side of guasacaca sauce, which really made a difference. The horchata was not really sweet at all, a nice smooth texture with a heavy sprinkling of cinnamon. I really enjoyed this.

                              The cachapas came out about 10 minutes after my companions (cobb salad and arepa), so just be aware if you go in there tight on time that the cachapas aren't the thing to order.

                        2. This is very good news. I can't wait to try. Here's their Facebook page:
                          https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Qch...

                          1. Ate there last week, finally! We had the Chilaquiles with green sauce and then some other thing that was mashed plantain cakes used to sandwich chicken and other stuff. And of course, coffee. We liked both, although I don't like plantains much in general, but hubby liked it a lot. The chilaquiles was yummy, but maybe just not for me. Not sure how I feel about a plate of chips. I mean, I feel good about it but my waistline doesn't. Hubby had Yucca Fries with his lunch and they were flat out awesome. I would just get those. We plan to go back and try other stuff as soon as we can. Lorenzo and Emily are friends of ours and we are so excited that they branched out. CTM is always great, a huge step up from Starbucks and DD's. Pricey, but worth it. The coffee is really far better, and the snacks are too. Finally Melrose has ore than pizza and subs!

                            1. uncle, do they serve both brkfst and lunch til 3 or do they split them up? thx.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                Everything on the menu is available at anytime. I think up to 6PM.

                              2. Got here today and had some wonderful food. FYI, google map was worthless for this placeTheir sign goes up tomorrow but otherwise, remember 506 Franklin.It is the corner space right next to the RR crossing on Franklin St. Seems to be a good location; even at an off hour (3/4PM) there were couples meeting w/ babies, couples, and families for take out.

                                I met the chef and was able to ask him about the prep of various dishes. ( I knew that Venezualan food is, like most other So.Amer. food, too mild for my taste) and, after hearing that we liked very robustly flavored food (sauces,spices,components) he steered us to the Chilaquiles and the Pabellon Criolla.We were really pleased with both. Because we wanted to try both the salsa verde and the ranchero sauce, he was sweet enough to divide the chilaquiles order into 2 smaller plates.
                                At its minimum,his chilaquiles are fresh crip corn tortilla wedges sauteed with sauce to coat and sprinkled with dry cheese. Cooked shredded chicken and/or fried eggs can be added. We opted for both. The chicken was cooked too dry but still added alot to the dish; the eggs were rubbery/too high heat on the flat top, but that can be remedied. The flavors of the sauteed chips and sauces were terrific. Once we get him to be gentle with the eggs, I could eat this every morning and feel lucky!

                                They basically do 2 styles of beef - the Carne Asada and the Pabellon Criolla (also has another M name when used in another dish.) The Carne Asada is a salt, pepper and garlic seasoned skirt steak that is grilled. The Pabellon is beef brisket, long roasted and then long braised, in a complex mix of onions, chiles, tomatoes, herbs and spices.... It had alot of flavor and was served
                                with rice, black beans and fried sweet plantains, all very well flavored and perfectly cooked.

                                What a delight to have 6 or 7 healthy salads, including 3 whole grain(gasp!) bowls. Our Quinoa Boliviana had generous avocado, beets, corn, cilantro, lightly dressed and lovely.
                                Flan was particularly dense and creamy and not too sweet. Arroz con leche was a light version of rice pudding.

                                My Love's Limonada was a tall glass of lightly sweetened lime lemon juice and he loved it.
                                they have tons of coffee and tea drinks; enough to have a different one every time you come in.
                                And they also have take-away things on display. We knew that our meal was very fairly priced
                                but REALLY, when was the last time you paid $2.75 for a piece of cheddar,bacon,spinach quiche with a home made crust??!

                                We are so psyched to have this place nearby. Thx to UnclePH et al for the reports!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                  Went back today for those luscious green chilaquiles, and also had the arepa w/ shredded beef (mechada i think). Scarfed every last drop :-} They are supposedly going to be open next week til 7:30PM instd of 6pm.

                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                    Really? That's awesome. I need to try the arepa again. We've only had it once and the execution wasn't the best. I suspect it was a one-off.

                                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                                      Lorenzo, the chef/owner, is starting to introduce daily specials! The other day it was Calamari Veracruz(mild tomato based sauce) and a creamy Chicken Soup.

                                  2. Thanks for this recommendation! I headed out there this morning and had the black bean and sweet plantain arepas -- delicious. I've never had arepas before, so I can't compare them to anything, but I definitely want to go back and try more things. Tons of vegetarian options. Portions are modest enough that people wanting a big brunch experience might want to order 3 dishes for 2 people. (Although possibly I was just ravenous due to it being much later than I usually eat breakfast.)

                                    It makes a nice little Saturday morning bike ride out there from Medford, so I expect I'll be back.

                                    1. Went here with friends last night, each of us ordered something different. Me, on my never ending search for Baja fish tacos had the fish tacos. There were three fried tilapia tacos, with rice and black bean. The fish was not crispy, but that was my only complaint. It looks like they cooked one larger piece of fish and cut it into three, to place inside of the warm, soft tacos. A little slaw and sauce completed the dish. I felt like I would like some hot sauce to put on it, but the only one they had was siracha, which I didn't use (don't know why).

                                      One friend wanted the Tortilla soup, but they were sold out. She got one of the quinoa bowls, with chicken and avocado on top. She said she really liked it and would order it again. She also got a plate of nachos with salsa and I have to say, those were one of the best things we had. The nachos were still warm and the salsa was very fresh and tasty, with a bit of a bite.
                                      Another friend got the chicken frajitas, which comes out in a little frying pan and a watermelon, red onion and corn salsa on the side. She said it was really good too.

                                      We decided to split the Tres Leches cake and it was fabulous. One of my DC's ordered another to take home for the weekend. If you go, do try it.

                                      We are going back again next Friday to try some other dishes.

                                      www.saffron215.blogspot.com

                                      Here's a picture of my fish tacos.

                                       
                                      1. We hadn't been to La QChara for many months, since i had finally had my fill of their delicious Chicken (w/o egg) Chilaquiles with Salsa Verde. Prompted by mcel's reminder, i was excited to browse their new website and see that they have expanded their menu to cover many diverse Latin cuisines. Unlike other Latin restaurants in Boston, the diversity goes from Mexican Tortas to Fajitas to Venezualan Chachapas, Arepas to Veg/GF Quinoa Salad Bowls. And a Kids Menu. Maybe because this menu expansion was new to me, I got excited about it, when what I should have done is 'approach with caution', like we do those Pan-Asian Korean owned Chinese restaurants that serve Thai and Sushi.

                                        Lorenzo, the owner, couldn't be a nicer person, and i really want him to succeed, but I think he may be giving too much responsibility to his two Mexican and Honduran cooks. My Love's Cubano was good but nowhere near that at Dave's Pasta. He also enjoyed his Salad of beets and hearts of palm. My beef fajitas came out on a sizzling iron platter and looked terrific; nice char on the veggies. But the beef was actually the toughest most inedible beef I've ever been served.
                                        Lorenzo whisked it away and replaced it with chicken fajitas. And now the chicken was as dry as a bone ( the same problem i've had before with their chicken chilaquiles.) Their 'chipotle aioli' was really a chipotle (maybe) tartar sauce- like concoction and everything, even the fresh salsa ,was salted. So............. next time i'll try asking for 'not cooked too much' meat and we'll see what happens. End comment: I think there's lots of potential at La QChara but, if you are particular about certain aspects like dry meat and salt, you may want to conduct the orchestra a bit to get what you want.

                                        http://laqchara.com/

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                                          OC, since you broke the ice on the subject, we also had those types of issues too, but months ago and with non-meat items.. some non-edible items of which one was plantains which were hard as a rock and I think raw if I remember. He was very nice and said they couldn't get the right kind of plantains, but my thought is if you know its wrong, don't serve it.. But I never wrote about it cuz he is so nice but I guess OC inspired me to come out with the truth..maybe it can help them know where to improve..

                                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                                            OC,
                                            Yes, I am glad you mentioned the dry meat, because my friend's fajitas chicken looked dry and overcooked. She didn't say anything about it though, and I didn't try any.

                                            Thanks for the tip, we are going back again this Friday.

                                            www.saffron215.blogspot.com

                                            1. re: mcel215

                                              m, i very rarely try baked sweets, but lorenzo's wife bakes some good things- displayed on the counter. I was impressed w/ her v moist yellow cake layered w/ nutella, w/ coffee icing, and you may enjoy it if it is there.

                                            2. re: opinionatedchef

                                              Yah Pan Latino = Bad Idea.

                                              Like the food traditions of say Puerto Rico have anything to do with the food traditions of say Mexico.

                                            3. yep, the most obvious Duh for anyone who knows anything about Latin food- is that Mexican cuisine is, like Chinese, a world unto itself. I believe that it is safe to say that, in comparing all the Latin cuisines, Mexican is the richest, deepest, most complex and most nuanced of all of them . And yet, it doesn't mean that that potential is activated by the Mexican cooks here in Boston. It is so disappointing to me-to receive bad food from them. Beef like shoe leather, chicken cooked til there's no more moisture? Blah flavors, fake sauces. arggggggh. I mean, sometimes you see it and you can figure that the Mex. cook was told by their head (Gringo)chef-to do it that way, even though it's not how that Mex cook would do it in Mex. But often enough, it's a Mex cook who chooses to cook something a certain way.....and it's just not good; their skills are elsewhere but not in the kitchen.And that's what i'm starting to feel about those cooks at QChara.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                Don't forget the complexity of Peruvian cuisine, though.

                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                  As good and complex as Peruvian is, not on the same level as Mexican, or say the cuisines of China IMHO.

                                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                                    Perhaps, but to characterize Peruvian cuisine as "not complex" as it was previously in this thread is a gross misunderstanding of the cuisine.

                                              2. karl, unless you know something that i don't, i def think of peruvian and columbian and.....NOT being complex. Your definition of complex must differ from mine.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                  I know more by reptutation than experience. I share your esteem for the Mexican cuisine family as one of the worlds greatest, but your post made me remember admonitions i've received about the amazing variety in Peruvian cuisine. This is not news - here's one NYT piece in 1999:

                                                  http://www.nytimes.com/1999/05/26/din...

                                                  open in Chrome Incognito window.

                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                    I completely agree Karl. The notion that Peruvian or Colombian cuisines are not complex seems quite short-sighted to me. In Colombia, there are vast differences in the cuisine of Cartagena as compared to Bogota, which differs greatly from Baranquilla and Medellin.
                                                    Peruvian cuisine is a mix of Indigenous, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and Italian.
                                                    How much more complex does it need to be?

                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                      k,want to thank you for that link. really interesting.

                                                  2. I went here again tonight, my friends really like this place. I will say that the service is excellent, but the food is now just mediocre.

                                                    I got the Portabella tacos, which when I was ordering, one of the waitress' said it was her favorite (because I asked if they were good). It was a chopped up portabella mushroom with very little flavor. When I was ordering I asked if I could also have some salsa to add to it. The waitress said it comes with a dressing and I said "oh okay". The dressing was neither here nor there and I should have stuck to my guns. It needed something, they were just okay. It came with a side of yucca fries and some were cooked well, while others were really hard. The ones that were cooked were delicious.

                                                    The best thing on the menu, was still the shared piece of Tres Leches cake. It's fantastic. :)

                                                    My friends want to go back next week and I want to go out with my friends.... lol! I guess I'll try another dish. Anyone have any recommendations? Thanks.

                                                    www.saffron215.blogspot.com

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: mcel215

                                                      I've only had one meal there but do recommend you insist on a side of guasacaca sauce.

                                                      1. re: Chris VR

                                                        Thanks Chris, going back Friday night again.... will ask! :)

                                                        www.saffron215.blogspot.com