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Bites: Angela’s Café in East Boston

July 17th, 2012 · 2 Comments · Restaurants

Bites: In which I share with you short dish reviews from my adventures with Tasted Menu. 

A few weeks ago our office ventured out to East Boston to eat at Angela’s Café, a hole-in-the-wall family run Mexican restaurant.  East Boston isn’t really a destination spot for folks in the Boston area, but perhaps it should be. After reading MC Slim JB’s ode to Angela’s a few years back, and Jen’s review last year, I’d been dying to try the place.

Which is funny, because I almost got myself killed on my trek to the restaurant! {Cue laugh track and groans.}

On the way, I encountered an asshat pick-up driver, who, “nonplussed” by the fact that I was choosing to legally go straight at the red light instead of left decided that he was going to honk loudly and “encourage me” to move forward. Forward…into the vehicle in front of me so he could make the turn. And by encourage, I mean, hit my bumper to get me to move despite the fact that the vehicle in front of me was literally four inches from my car and there was nowhere for me to go.

Unfortunately, he didn’t know what he was dealing with: my starving, livid, just-sat-on-the-Pike-for-60 minutes alter-ego, who decided that getting out of the car and snapping pictures of his license plate and screaming bloody murder at him was the appropriate response. Besides, I rationalized, if he decided to shoot me there would be lots of witnesses.

After suitably expressing my feelings about the matter, the light turned green, I got back into my car, and drove onto the restaurant. As I turned back for one last look, I noticed that he was now stuck on the curb he decided to drive over. Serves you right, jerk-face! 

As parking karma has it, I made it to the restaurant on time, found myself a spot right in front, and was in for a treat for dinner.

*                    *                  *

Angela’s is a tiny spot in East Boston, with a handful of tables. I don’t have photos of the space, but picture it as a neighborhood joint, a little bit tacky, cozy and pleasant. We made a reservation (likely the only one of the evening), and when we walked in the place was pretty empty, but soon after we arrived groups of people started wandering in: couples, a group of women celebrating a birthday with lots of margaritas, a lone gentleman in office attire grabbing a meal after work, a group of international college students. The music in the background, a mix of classic rock and pop provided some incongruous entertainment – but really we were there for the food.

All in all, we really liked the place. Here are my reviews of the meal as posted on Tasted Menu, including my individual ratings. The scale is from 0-10, where 0.0 equals “A traumatic experience” and 10.0 “A culinary epiphany”.

We started out with the  Guacamole {8.7}
Ripe avocado dip served with tortilla chips, $9.00

Ignore the kitschy animal shaped molcajete, because this is some serious guacamole. Perfectly ripe avocados, good seasoning, onion, a hint of lime. It becomes depressing when Chipotle is the best guacamole you can eat in town, so I was happy to find that Angela’s really hit the mark on theirs.

Favoritos de Angela (Serves 4) {7.8} Chicken Mole Gordita, Tinga Tostada, Taco Arabe , Ceviche Tostada, Taco Pastor , Rajas Poblanas, Verde Chorizo Gordita , and Nopales Tostada, $23.00

With a large group of friends to split this (or three really hungry people), I think this is a nice showcase of some of the different flavors of Angela’s. At $23, it’s also a pretty darn good deal for what you are getting.

Here were the individual dishes on the platter:

Nopales Tostada {5.0} Crispy corn tortilla layered with re-fried pinto beans, shredded lettuce, sour cream, Mexican cheese, and a slice of avocado

As an ardent nopales lover, I staked claim on this particular tostada at our table, and was sorely disappointed. As Alex mentioned – flavorless. This could have been so much better if the nopales had been slightly pickled, or even with a few squeezes of lime.. something!!

Tinga Tostada {6.8} Shredded beef sauteéd with onions in a mild spicy chipotle sauce

Maybe I just don’t love tostadas – or possibly I’m just bitter about the iceberg lettuce? Nevertheless, the tinga on this was nicely flavored. I would have gladly eaten it on it’s own without the starchy base.

Gordita Poblana {7.3} Unique in Boston, a handmade corn tortilla with mild spicy green or red sauce choice of chicken or Mexican sausage

We tried both the chicken and chorizo, and I do believe that the chorizo was the winner – however the mole (specifically the sauce) was pretty outstanding.

Rajas Poblanas {8.7} Sauteéd strips of Poblano pepper with red onions and sour cream served with Mexican cheese and two corn tortillas

Soft, meltingly tender, sweet peppers. I could have eaten a pound of these as my meal alone and I would have left happy. One of the best vegetable sides I’ve had in quite some time.

Taco Arabe {7.0} Roast pork sauteéd in a chipotle sauce with onions stuffed in a roll of soft flour tortilla

I tend to go corn rather than flour tortillas, but this taco arabe was a nicely balanced bite, and I’m always a sucker for the smoky depth that chipotles add to any dish.

Shrimp Ceviche Tostada {7.5} Crispy corn tortilla layered with re-fried pinto beans, shredded lettuce, sour cream, Mexican cheese, and a slice of avocado

Okay, so I still haven’t figured out the best way to eat a tostada without getting it all over myself… this was a good one, the shrimp was fresh and light, and the toppings melded into a happy combination.

Then, for dinner, we sampled three of the main dishes.

Mole Poblano de Angela {8.0} Variety of dried chiles, nuts, and seeds with sweet chocolate cooked over a period of several days, served with a choice of chicken breast or pork loin, $16.00

This deep, rich, and complex mole was wonderful, one of the better moles I’ve had. My dining partner ordered it with the chicken, but next time, I’ll likely order it with pork. (Having been raised largely porkless, I try to consume all the porcine goodness I can get to make up for it.)

Enchiladas Rojas o Verdes {6.0} Stuffed corn tortillas with shredded chicken, pork, or vegetables (onions, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, red and green pepper).  Topped with sour cream, Mexican cheese, radish, onion rings, and a slice of avocado, $14.00

I have this bad habit of not ordering the Enchiladas Verdes, and then kicking myself after having a few bites of my dining partner’s inevitable plate of them. In this case, after dipping my fork a few times in the bland and boring enchilada sauce, I felt lucky that I hadn’t made the same mistake. Totally disappointing.

Carne Asada {7.8} 10oz. grilled sirloin steak served with shredded Poblano pepper, black beans, and mango sauce, $17.00

I’ve been on a total steak kick in the past few months. Never the girl to order the slab of beef in the past, I’ve now been craving it and getting it every chance I can get. What has happened to me? I thought this was a decent carne asada, cooked a little more than my liking, but nicely seasoned. The sides of rice and beans were nice, and of course the little plate of rajas made me happy as a clam.

And there were drinks.

Michelada {7.5}

Alex is on a quest to find the perfect Michelada. While he doesn’t actually *like* Micheladas, I think it’s a point of pride to order them. He’ll drink ‘em until he damn well does. This means that I’ve gotten tastes of several over the past few months at our work dinners. I thought this one turned out pretty well, although rather than his choice of Pacifico I might have gone with a Negra Modelo myself.

Sangria {7.5}

Everytime I drink Sangria, I think about Thanksgiving. Yes, U.S. turkey day. Six – seven years ago? There was sangria in a large vessel, Quelf, and weird adventure. Life changing. That’s all you are going to get about that one. {This particular sangria was fruity and good.}

And then, of course, desserts. Three of us, three desserts. That’s how we roll. 

Crepas con Dulce de Leche {7.0} Mango sauce, chocolate syrup, and caramel sauce inside warm folded Mexican pancakes, $6.95

I could have done without the mango, but the crepe itself was delicious – almost like buckwheat? and the dulce de leche even more so. Did you know that you can make your own dulce de leche in your slow cooker? Now you do. Google it. Make it.

Panecillo de Chocolate Mexicano {4.5} Homemade chocolate bread pudding with vanilla ice cream, fresh forest berries and chocolate syrup, $6.95

Sometimes you eat something so off-putting that you want to cry a little bit. This particular dessert kind of horrified me. The mango and not particularly sweet chocolate clashed miserably. As for the panecillo itself, although Alex already stole my joke, I’ll repeat it for you. Two words: Hockey. Puck. Now the weird thing is.. I still.. kind of liked it? I feel like it had bones that could have been made into something delicious. Had this density had a deeper, richer, chocolate-y taste, it might have been something. Alas.

Flan Tradicional {9.1} Homemade vanilla custard, $5.95

Y’all should probably go out and try this flan. Without reservations, this was one of the most memorable flans I’ve ever had.. in my life. I would have placed it second to Don Ramon’s flan con coco in West Palm.. although, having not had that in about a decade, and not knowing for sure if it’s held up, I will in fact say that this flan takes top place. Soft, wobbly, quivering custard. Just a gorgeous mouthful.

Angela’s Café
131 Lexington St.
Boston, MA 02128
(617) 567-4972
http://www.angelascaferestaurant.com

See my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu

Angela's Cafe on Urbanspoon

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