Plenty of cantinas will serve massive margaritas to hordes of queso-mad throngs today. Here's where to go for a deliciously subtle, simpler feast.
245 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge
Ignore the goofy name and focus on the savory $6 chilaquiles: a hefty platter of pan-seared tortilla chips swimming in tomatillo sauce, topped with lettuce, onion, tomatoes, queso fresco, and a drop of sour cream. Counter service only.
Taqueria el Amigo
196 Willow St., Waltham
This shanty on the fringes of Waltham looks like the type of place that's easy to get thrown out of at 2 a.m. Inside, hardcore spice-heads inhale tantalizingly tender, smoky chili pork tacos (4 for $6). No alcohol, but there is Mexican soda.
Tu Y Yo
858 Broadway, Somerville
No enchiladas jacketed in oily cheese, no watery salsa, no mountains of sour cream. Instead, feast on mushroom-stuffed crepes in poblano pepper sauce, frog legs in green mole, and an exceptional stuffed poblano pepper with creamy walnut sauce.
3 Lewis St., Boston
Here, the staff is friendly, the prices are cheap, and the torta Tenoch — a beast of a sandwich with Telera bread, beans, pork, ham, Oaxaca cheese, chipotle mayo, avocado, and onions — is a thing of beauty. Enchiladas are light, simple, and best stuffed with chorizo and topped with a fiery chile de arbol.
401 Harvard St., Brookline
A divine destination for Mexican street food on trays. You can't go wrong with their specialty, Baja-style fish tacos (beer-battered shrimp is the best). Service is swift, prices are reasonable, and rice is heftier than the chewy, modular grains at other taquerias.
1312 Mass Ave., Arlington
Sweet service, homestyle cooking, BYOB, the thickest mole this side of, well, Boston ... what's not to love? The fresh cactus omelette is not to be missed.
293 Bennington St., East Boston
Four magic words: All-day huevos rancheros. Not to mention soft lengua tacos for $1.75 apiece, enhanced by a sprinkle of onion and cilantro, as they should be.
Cantina La Mexicana
247 Washington St., Somerville
This place existed before Union Square was cool. It used to be a slightly grungy takeout spot, but now there's a full dining room (where you can guzzle highly potent margaritas). Tamales ($7.95) stuffed with chile rojo and pork or chicken, topped with pico de gallo, sour cream, and guacamole, are a superb deal.
735 Mass Ave., Cambridge
This casual taco stop often gets overlooked in favor of nearby burrito fiefdoms like Chipotle. But their array of salsas, and their tangy enchiladas verde, make for happy snacking.
333 Border St., East Boston
For a hulking tortilla casserole girded with cream cheese, red sauce, your meat of choice, and fried eggs, look no further. Naughty.
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