Written by Nastassia Velazquez, photos by Carolyn Komatsoulis.
In the midst of a serious craving for Mexican food, I stumbled upon a question that I’m surprised I didn’t ask myself earlier: where do you find good Mexican food in Boston? This beloved New England city is well known for its awesome seafood (think Union Oyster House), but when I get a hankering for some good guacamole, I had no idea where to start. To shine a light on the small-scale (but definitely delicious) Mexican food scene in Boston, the Quad’s photo editor Carolyn and I visited four different Mexican restaurants to see which of them makes the best taco: Mexican food’s primary staple. Here’s what we discovered.
Note: Our scale was a 1-10 scale. A light 7 is between a 6.5 and a 7, a solid 7 is between 7 and 7.5 and a strong 7 is between a 7.5 and 8.
Chilacates Mexican Street Food
224 Armory Street, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
Our first stop was Chilacates, a cozy little restaurant located in Jamaica Plain. They offered an impressive array of Mexican foods: burritos, quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, and tortas. Carolyn ordered a quesadilla with carnitas (pulled pork), Monterey jack cheese, and sides of guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, and lettuce. I ordered a taco with carne asada (grilled steak), white onions, cilantro, radish, and sides of pico de gallo, guacamole, cheese, and sour cream. I also ordered some chips for the both of us to share.
Carolyn rated her quesadilla a solid 9/10, noting how delicious the carnitas were and how well they blended with the cheese. The guacamole was a strong 7 to a light 8 for her due to its light and fluffy texture, while the pice de gallo was a strong 6 to a light 7: although it tasted good, it didn’t have the strength of flavor she likes in her pico (not enough onions).
I rated my taco a strong 7 to a light 8/10. It was soft and warm, which definitely added to its appeal, but the taste wasn’t particularly distinctive (even though it still tasted good). The guacamole was a strong 7 for me because of the same reasons, while the pico de gallo was a light 8 because of its sharp taste.
El Pelón Taqueria
92 Peterborough Street, Boston
Our next stop was El Pelón Taqueria, a small restaurant located in Fenway within a small strip mall of restaurants. They offered staples such as burritos and tacos but also some smaller options for less hungry patrons: plantains, taquitos, and tostadas. We both decided to order a single taco with carne asada, refried beans, limed onions, pickled cabbage, cucumbers, and fire roasted salsa.
We both rated our taco a strong 4 to a light 5/10. The tortilla was rather thin, which caused the whole taco to fall apart easily after one or two bites, and the meat was undercooked. The limed onions, pickled cabbage, and cucumbers mix didn’t do the taco any favors, either; they felt out of place and therefore caused the taco to taste odd.
Another negative was that the authenticity factor was missing: Carolyn and I were surprised that El Pelón didn’t offer pico de gallo and sour cream as topping options for regular tacos. Furthermore, limed onions and pickled cabbage made the taco smell bad, at least for Carolyn.
21 Brattle Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Our third stop was Felipe’s Taqueria, a casual counter service eatery located in Harvard Square. Large, inviting, and bustling with energy, Felipe’s had the best atmosphere out of all of the Mexican restaurants we visited.
Felipe’s menu was relatively simple in comparison to Chilacates’ and El Pelón’s menus, mainly focusing on burritos, tacos, and quesadillas. However, they offered an impressive variety of meats, condiments, and chips and dips.
I ordered two tacos with carnitas, cilantro, red onion, guacamolillo sauce, and sides of guacamole and pico de gallo. Carolyn ordered a quesadilla with carnitas, cheese, and a side of pico de gallo. She also ordered chips, guacamole, and queso for the both of us to share.
Carolyn rated her quesadilla a strong 7 to a light 8/10, citing the rude cashier as a negative. However, she usually doesn’t like corn tortillas, and she liked the corn tortilla she had at Felipe’s, so she considered that an impressive feat. She also felt that the size was perfect: the taco wasn’t huge but also definitely not a snack.
I rated my tacos a strong 8/10. Although they were small, they were absolutely delicious, mainly because of the unique and authentic guacamolillo sauce. Both the guacamole and the pico de gallo were a strong 8 to a light 9/10 for me; the guacamole had the perfect mix of avocado, lime juice, and onion, while the pico was just the right amount of spicy.
The only downside to eating at Felipe’s is that their queso is less than stellar: it was a little too liquidy and sour for our tastes.
El Jefe’s Taqueria
83 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Our fourth and final stop was El Jefe’s Taqueria, located just minutes away from Felipe’s Taqueria. Like Felipe’s, they focused on a smaller range of foods for their menu: tacos and burritos. However, customers get a bang for their buck that makes the smaller menu worth it: three tacos for $7.95 is a great deal. Because it was our fourth Mexican restaurant of the weekend, we weren’t feeling hungry enough for three tacos, so we each got just one taco with carnitas. For her toppings, Carolyn added guacamole, cheese, and pico de gallo. I added Mexican rice, spicy black beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, and cheese to my taco.
Carolyn rated her taco a light 7 while I rated mine a solid 7. They tasted fresh and authentic to the both of us, but we agreed that they lacked that special spark that would’ve made them stand out amongst other tacos. Trading uniqueness of taste for variety of ingredients seems to be the decision El Jefe’s Taqueria has made for their menu, but we enjoyed eating there nonetheless.
Turns out Boston has a lot of great Mexican food to offer! But out of all the Mexican restaurants we visited, Felipe’s Taqueria was definitely the best, and we highly recommend checking it out. I know I’ll be back there to try out their burritos next.