Summer is starting to wind down (sorry!), but that's no reason to retire your cravings for hot and spicy dishes. To bring a little south-of-the-border sunshine to your life, we’ve rounded up a list of must-try Mexican-inspired spots serving everything from tongue tacos to spicy pork meatballs. Note: not responsible for any margarita-induced hangovers.
Courtesy of Cayden Grooms/Yellow Door Taqueria
Yellow Door Taqueria
Chef Colton Coburn-Wood taps his surfer days as a native Southern Californian for inspiration at this new Dorchester taqueria, opened in July. The Cali-Mex cuisine is served in a rustic-chic space and features creative takes like duck confit tacos with chamomile-vanilla-plantain purée and tequila-habanero braised beef tacos with onion bacon jam. Wash 'em down with tequila- and mezcal-focused cocktails like El Matador, a mix of mezcal, Aperol and amaro.
2297 Dorchester Ave.; 857-267-4201
The Baja Box
From cold to hot: This summer, the Ice Box, an ice cream shop on Quincy's Wollaston Beach, was replaced with the Baja Box — a casual, counter-service dispenser of fish, beef and chicken tacos, spruced up with various fixings and accompanied by nachos, street corn and a few other small bites. Like the Ice Box before it, the Baja Box continues to share (partial) ownership with the neighboring Clam Box, a Wollaston Beach landmark for the last 50 years.
793 Quincy Shore Dr., Quincy; 617-773-6600
When it opened in summer 2015 near the Stonybrook MBTA station, this tiny taqueria in Jamaica Plain became one of our favorite under-the-radar Mexican spots. But in February it opened a larger, even more buzzy location on JP's jam-packed Centre Street, bringing well-deserved notoriety beyond the strict confines of food-scene followers. We're happy to see more fans discovering the delicious tacos, burritos and tortas stuffed with everything from spicy chicken to beef tongue — and get ready, because a third, Mission Hill location is slated to open in the months ahead, turning these hot spots into a true hat trick.
Courtesy of Burro Bar
Opened in January, Burro is a smaller, pared-down sibling to Somerville's The Painted Burro. But the dishes still pack all the same punch. Among our favorites are the chorizo taco plate with a sunny-side-up egg, potatoes and chipotle mayo, tongue-tingling tofu tacos doused in a tamarind-Buffalo sauce glaze with blue cheese — and, on the cocktail front, the Hair of the Dog, an almond horchata cold brew with rumchata and espresso liqueur.
1665 Beacon St., Brookline; 617-277-0427
La Casa de Pedro
Opened in November, this very large Seaport restaurant — sibling to a more intimate Watertown original — isn't exclusively Mexican. Chef-owner Pedro Alarcón finds inspiration from across Latin American cuisines, including that of his native Venezuela. But Alarcón's Mexican travels are certainly well represented here, both in interior elements (the hacienda-style decor includes overhead light fixtures of colorful glass made from recycled Mexican bottles) and on the menu: think black bean tacos with avocado and mango sauce.
505 Congress St.; 617-737-2272
Courtesy Tiffany Lopinsky/Lolita
Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar
Though it's been a saucy little spot for food, drink and flirting for the last seven years, Lolita has new reason to rejoin our list of must-try Mexican restaurants: Last summer it revamped its entire menu for the first time in its history, and the result warrants a new look. The offerings are now dominated by snacks and street food, including grilled street corn, crispy Georgia rock shrimp with jalapeño escabèche and candied cumin, charred mushroom quesadillas with red onion jam and pork meatballs with a spicy pineapple-chile sauce. Then you'll find a half-dozen tacos and three large "feast" options for sharing: red chile chicken, pork belly carnitas and grilled long bone rib-eye. There are still plenty of margaritas too, and Lolita's not done yet: a twice-as-big Fort Point sibling (with expanded menu to match) is among our most anticipated fall restaurant openings.
271 Dartmouth St.; 617-369-5609
The team behind two other Jamaica Plain restaurants, the Spanish tapas haunt Tres Gatos and Italian-inflected Centre Street Cafe, recently rolled out its third venture: Casa Verde, inspired by the light, bright side of Mexican cuisine. You'll find shrimp ceviche with avocado and cilantro aïoli, some of the best Mexican street corn around, and even some cool desserts like deep-fried plantains with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and toasted peanuts. FYI, the team has even more in store. Though details on the concept are scarce, a fourth restaurant, Brass Cat Cafe, is also in the works for JP.
711 Centre St., Jamaica Plain; 617-477-9977