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Cheap Eats

Sauces for every taste

(Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)
By Denise Taylor
Globe Correspondent / February 25, 2009
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Five things matter most at T-Rex Taqueria - tinga, pipian, verde, mole, and adobado - and, no, they are not Santa's standby reindeer. Rather, order any burrito or dinner plate at the 5-month-old Brookline eatery and they'll slather your pick of these tasty homemade sauces onto it.

But choosing may be a problem. As we stand inside the cheery, yellow storefront squinting at the chaotic blackboard menu, we are unable (and unwilling) to decide on a sauce. So we order a side of each with a super veggie burrito ($5.50). We then plop down at a thin counter (the only seating at this 10-seat, mainly takeout joint) and start a taste test.

Deep-red tinga sauce lights up our taste buds with a smoky, garlicky tomato and chipotle puree. Verde sauce mingles the toasty flavor of roasted tomatillo with the heat of four types of chilies. Dark brown adobado cuts the bite of roasted guajillo and ancho chilies with a splash of house-squeezed OJ. Mole is too sweet for our taste, but pipian is a favorite. A thick, nutty-tasting puree of toasted pumpkin seeds, tomatillo, and roasted poblanos flecked with cilantro, it is earthy, rich, and addictive.

Each sauce is a simplified version of a classic and all are vegan. Chef and owner Jim Fahey likes his recipes uncluttered. After 25 years studying and cooking Mexican cuisine, including 14 as the chef at Cambridge's Forest Cafe, he prefers unfancy street- or home-style cooking. "The kind you'll find in the little fondas, where people cook with what they have," he says. He also cuts out the usual broth and lard to better serve vegetarians.

It's a risky approach. His spicing may be too unfamiliar for some. The missing fat and broth may, in turn, be too inauthentic for sticklers - or too plain. But Fahey's fare is fresh, made with care, and very cheap.

Guacamole ($4.50) is a pleasing mash of ripe avocado. Veggie burritos ($5.50) bulge with an impressive mix of fresh vegetables. Chicken, pork, and steak burritos ($5.50) are best with sauce on the side (rather than mixed in) and added one bite at a time. We find chicken and pork tacos ($2.75) bland; fish tacos with chipotle mayo ($5.50 dinner plate) and spicy steak tacos ($2.75) are a treat.

We return to the sauces with simple meat-beans-and-rice dinner plates ($8) served, like everything here, in takeout pans. Tinga sauce proves tasty on each choice. Pipian goes well with the chicken or roasted veggies. Verde sauce soaks flavorfully into enchiladas ($6). Adobado adds fire to the steak or pork. Together, they make for one savory palette.

T-REX TAQUERIA

6 Cypress St., Brookline Village. 617-487-4360. All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible entrance. No restroom.

Prices Tacos $2.75, burritos $5-$5.50, plates (full meals) $5.50-$8.

Hours Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun noon-7 p.m.

Liquor None.

May we suggest Guacamole; veggie burrito with any sauce; steak or fish tacos; enchiladas with verde sauce; chicken

or veggie specialty plate

with pipian sauce; pork or steak specialty plate with

tinga sauce.

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