Taco Mex: East Boston Hot Spot

Let's Eat by Kitty Kaufman

Luis Vasco, owner of Taco Mex, came from Colombia 15 years ago where he was a successful businessman. Here, he went to work in a restaurant. Although he was soon kitchen receiver and then assistant cook, it turned out there were better opportunities for a young man in the business of construction. Which is how, three years ago, he came to buy a building at 65 Maverick Square that was sorely in need of renovation. Somebody told him the first floor would be ideal for a restaurant.

"East Boston, long an Italian setting, is now about 80% Spanish," Vasco said. "We're seeing more young professionals here who like its affordability along with being close to the city." He's right, it is a quick trip from downtown through the tunnel with an easy turn onto Chelsea Street and in four blocks you're in the heart of East Boston. Well-known for his commitment to the community, Vasco's generous plates attract state reps and city councilors along with regulars.

Idalia Castaneda runs the kitchen that pours out an impressive array of El Salvadorian, Colombian and Mexican cuisine from 7 am to 11 pm. That's seven days a week, 16 hours a day. It's likely a whole lot closer to round-the-clock by the time the night shift wipes everything down as the morning crew gears up for the first order of huevos rancheros.

Generous plates of tacos, quesadillas, pupusas and tamals are piled with fresh salads, sauces and beans. And if you're not sure what's what, the menu has color photos. Wine is available by the glass and the night I was there, nearly everyone was having a Corona. Vasco also owns the nearby Kailua Hawaiian restaurant (964 Saratoga Street, (617. 567. 1162). Kailua's equally colorful menu includes both Latin and Chinese cuisine. Both places cater "comidas para sus fiestas."

Back at Taco Mex, hope that someone plays the all-Latin jukebox where a buck still buys four tunes. Unusually classy for a modest neighborhood setting, it's great for family outings or a reasonably quiet dinner for two. Wish it was our neighborhood.

© September 21, 2005 for The City Shopper
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