Lolita Cocina offers gratis apple and pop rocks cotton candy, Temazcal boasts an ipad menu with mouth watering food images and Zocalo makes guacamole table side. Although I enjoy all of these places for various reasons, I must say it is refreshing to come upon a mexican nook, embedded right in the South End, that is low frills, understated and friendly.
El Centro - an addition to the Mexican fiesta Boston has been experiencing this past year, focuses on a small menu, inspired by chef Allan Rodriguez and his hometown of Sonora. The interior is very cozy, if a little awkwardly arranged, with brick walls and interesting contrasts in colour and patterns.
Unlike all the other mexican restaurants, El Centro does not have a hard liquor license and instead they pride themselves on offering pretty sturdy sangria. We ordered their white sangria - I loved it: it was refreshing and strong enough to know you had not been served a juiced up droplet of wine. One of my friends is actually not a sangria drinker and ended up with an empty glass before the meal's end..testimony to its success? I think yes:)
Their guacamole came as a starter. It was delicious with healthy lumps of avocado meat sprinkled with some hot sauce, sharp cheese and cilantro.
We each tried a fish taco which, apart from the far too generous amounts of sauce was absolutely delicious.
Their grilled corn, a traditional mexican dish, was charred just right and topped with cheese. I would have preferred a stronger cheese topping, perhaps more cheese on this dish and less sauce on the taco would have been more appropriate.
For main dishes, we got their Sonoran-style steak which is served in its natural jus and accompanied by flour tortillas, rice and the usual accompaniements (ie guac). The meat was tender and juicy, not the best but definately decent.
Their shrimp stew was the champion in my opinion. It came in a delicious corn sauce, slightly sweet and spicy and the shrimp were large and succulent.
I opted for the enchiladas, upon the recommendation of the waitress. Unfortunately, this was the most bland dish of the bunch..I have a tendency of choosing the least intriguing dish - then again, a good enchilada is a sign of mexican authenticity anywhere...
All in all, any misgiving at El Centro is forgiven for its unassuming and honest approach. You won't find perfect service etiquette; you may not get fresh silverware with each dish, however you will get attentive service, the manager and owner are both very invested and little things like ice refills in your sangria make for a nice, intimate touch, in a cozy little hot spot.
I would definately go back if only for some great tacos and sangria which make for a fabulous combo anytime!