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

UnclePH Oct 8, 2013 01:26 PM

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.

  1. a
    antimony Nov 9, 2013 05:27 AM

    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. opinionatedchef Oct 31, 2013 11:40 AM

      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
        opinionatedchef Nov 2, 2013 01:05 PM

        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
          UnclePH Nov 2, 2013 01:12 PM

          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
            opinionatedchef Nov 15, 2013 05:37 PM

            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. opinionatedchef Oct 29, 2013 05:10 PM

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

          1 Reply
          1. re: opinionatedchef
            UnclePH Oct 30, 2013 04:17 AM

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

          2. j
            jhanaw Oct 29, 2013 11:09 AM

            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. Gio Oct 10, 2013 08:44 AM

              This is very good news. I can't wait to try. Here's their Facebook page:

              1. r
                RoyRon Oct 10, 2013 07:54 AM

                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
                  StriperGuy Oct 10, 2013 08:13 AM

                  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
                    RoyRon Oct 10, 2013 12:24 PM

                    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
                      Chris VR Oct 11, 2013 01:18 AM

                      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
                        opinionatedchef Oct 11, 2013 05:35 AM

                        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.)

                        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
                          Chris VR Oct 11, 2013 05:51 AM

                          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
                    UnclePH Oct 12, 2013 09:24 AM

                    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
                      chompie Oct 15, 2013 06:33 PM

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

                      1. re: chompie
                        UnclePH Oct 15, 2013 07:02 PM

                        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
                          Chris VR Oct 16, 2013 11:19 AM

                          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. c
                      chompie Oct 9, 2013 06:37 PM

                      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
                        UnclePH Oct 10, 2013 03:14 AM

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

                        1. re: chompie
                          opinionatedchef Oct 10, 2013 07:39 AM

                          brilliant :-}

                          1. re: chompie
                            UnclePH Oct 12, 2013 09:10 AM

                            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. opinionatedchef Oct 9, 2013 11:47 AM

                            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
                              StriperGuy Oct 9, 2013 12:00 PM

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

                              1. re: StriperGuy
                                opinionatedchef Oct 9, 2013 01:37 PM

                                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
                                  StriperGuy Oct 9, 2013 02:07 PM


                            2. Chris VR Oct 9, 2013 02:37 AM

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

                              1. opinionatedchef Oct 8, 2013 05:24 PM

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

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: opinionatedchef
                                  UnclePH Oct 8, 2013 06:59 PM

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

                                2. StriperGuy Oct 8, 2013 03:05 PM

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

                                  1. u
                                    UnclePH Oct 8, 2013 10:28 AM

                                    La Qchara
                                    506 Franklin Street
                                    Melrose, MA 02176

                                    6:30am - 6PM

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