It was a rare Saturday night… we actually had a babysitter and they were FREE (as in — cost us nothing)! Good friends of ours were going out to dinner to celebrate a birthday and we were fortunate enough to not only be invited, but to also partake in their wonderful babysitters — Grandpa Grumpy and Bubby — th 4-yo’s best friend’s grandparents.
The birthday dinner was held at Tacos El Charro… a small, non-descript Mexican restaurant on the somewhat seedy side of Centre Street in Jamaica Plain. From the outside, Tacos El Charro looks a tiny bit sketchy… and on the inside, not much better.
The room is decorated with all kinds of Mexican paraphernalia — including pinatas, sombreros, mariachi band photos, a “trophy” sheeps head (yes… you heard me right) and a shotgun hanging alongside a round of ammunition (already spent). The room is clean, brightly lit and the tables are covered with old-school floral tablecloths – covered with clear plastic. There is one woman who takes orders and also mixes up the sangria and then a small kitchen where all food is cooked to order.
Love Mexican food but sick of the overpriced, upscale gringo version? Head to this spot, where Pepe and Aida Gutierrez _ he’s from the Mexican state of Jalisco on the Pacific coast _ serve the real thing at reasonable prices. The couple know their fiery spices and marinades, and the waiters stop by frequently with the water pitcher. The mole sauce is a wonder, the quesadillas crunchy and oozing with cheese, the fajitas sizzling, and the flan soothing. $4-11. Reservations on weekends. T-Jackson Square, Orange Line.
So I was intriqued – I hadn’t had really good Mexican in a while and I was looking forward to getting great food and cheap prices. I was not disappointed.
We had about 10 people in our party and a table was created to accommodate us — though we did make reservations in advance. When we arrived, the place was pretty much empty (at about 7pm) — but business picked up as the night wore on. We were immediately given several baskets of home made, crispy-fried, tortilla chips and a delicious salsa (also made in-house). The salsa was really good… fresh, with chunks of tomato and a clearly defined taste of cilantro — without being over powered by onions. Exactly how I like it. The chips were definitely on the greasy side — meaning they were not low fat — however they were great.
We also ordered a few carafes of the house Sangria. What arrived was a conspicuously purple concoction that was low on the alcohol level and high on the sweetness factor. Some fellow diners compared it to flat Grape Crush. I liked it though. It was tasty… but not overly traditional: no fruit, odd color, no taste of wine whatsoever — but good none the less. This picture doesn’t do the color justice… it was PURPLE.
The menu is pretty simple, with a selection of various tropical fruit juices, a handful of beers and a few wines by the glass. There are tacos (both soft and hard), quesadillas and all the other traditional street food you would normally find on a Mexican menu. If you go, make sure you turn the menu over and look at the backside… as this is where all the entrees are. I almost missed this page — but I’m glad I didn’t.
I opted for one of the combination platters… as I could not decide between several yummy sounding dishes (including Veracruz Red Snapper and fresh seafood Ceviche). My platter included 1 soft taco (I opted for the shredded chicken), 1 chiles rellenos and enchiladas mole (I opted for the default filling — shredded chicken again). I can’t remember the exact price, but I want to say it was $10.95 (at most) and well worth the price.
The portion was huge and all meals come with rice and re-fried beans. I’m a sucker for re-fried beans and these were REALLY good. They were probably cooked in a meat base (I don’t want to know), but I scarfed them up anyway. The rice was lightly seasoned and good as well (not overly dry like some other places).
Looking at the picture above and going clockwise around the plate, the chicken soft taco was wrapped in the paper and contained freshly shredded all-white meat chicken and sauteed onions. The enchilada was chock full of the same shredded chicken, enchilada sauce and cheese and was then smothered in one of the best mole sauces I have ever had. The poblano pepper (chiles rellenos) was HUGE. It was stuffed with cheese, covered in sauce and then seriously sprinkled with Parmesan cheese — which melted during the process. All the items were delcious and the same seemed true for everyone’s meals — which varied from the Fajitas to Enchiladas to Carne Asada.
The meals were huge, fresh and delicious and the prices were extremely affordable. In this economy, I highly encourage you to visit this restaurant and others like it… not only because it’s cheap, but also because you are supporting the small business owner who is trying to get ahead and stay ahead of this fiscal crisis we are in.
All-in-all a really fun night out with friends and a very satisfying meal. We will definitelybe going back to Tacos El Charro… with the 4-yo and for takeout as well… and I look forward to it!