“Poland Springs Sparkling with Lemon. White Cheddar Cheezits. Wheat Thins (original). Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon. Brown Bread with Raspberry Jam from HiRise Bakery. And above all, triangles (by which I mean spanakopita), in large quantities, please…” That’s the answer I give when my mom asks what she should buy 2-3 days before I come home each year. Things to have around the house. But when faced with what and where to eat out in Boston during my limited time back there, the answer gets a bit messy. I want pho, real Vietnamese pho, fragrant with ginger and perfectly balanced in flavor. I want Korean sundubu jjigae and Sichuan hot pot. And as much as I want the real Chinese in Chinatown, I want just as badly the many wonders of American Chinese: the crab rangoons and scallion pancakes, teriyaki beef and orange chicken. I want a toasted Everything Bagel. I want a sandwich with more than 3 ingredients. I want clam chowder in a bread bowl, fried clams or oysters. I want good onion rings or strings. I want a Sausage, Egg and Cheese on a Croissant with iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts. I want that little 50 cent fudge brownie from 7-11 that I used to get, with a Slurpee, after concerts on Lansdowne. I want Sam Adams Octoberfest, which always evades me. I want Blue Moon and Harpoon IPA. I want Taco Bell, bad, and I want real tacos just as bad. I want literally anything spicy. The one thing I don’t want is a burger. The French are better at those, anyway.
But how do you choose a first dinner back when you miss the taste of an entire continent? I usually show up with a list already in mind, quickly explain to my mom why I don’t want to go to the newest French bistro that just opened in Harvard Square, why I don’t want charcuterie and cheese with wine, nor fusion Japanese. I’ll pass on oysters too. Plenty of those where I live.
This particular time around I was craving tacos the moment I landed and my mom, bless her soul, had a solution straight away, saving me from having to search for what’s decent these days. She whisked me off to Tenóch down the street on Highland Ave. The specialize in Mexican street food, most famously the tortas, Telera bread sandwiches with a wide selection of fillings. There’s also tamales, quesadillas, burritos, all that good stuff. Tacos cost only $3-3.50 each.
I got three tacos – carnitas, pescado and chicharron – each of which came on a soft corn tortilla with a green guacamolillo sauce slathered on. The carnitas were juicy, simple. Chicharron contained bits of everything, but the pork rinds themselves could have been a tad crunchier. Pescado was exactly what I wanted. A large, long hunk of flaky white fish, coated in a crunchy crust and topped with cukes and a squeeze of chipotle mayo for heat. Not spectacular, but great for a quick and simply bite with a Pacifico (which I had to sip in secret, as I – inevitably – forgot my ID [at this point, a passport] at home). The type of easy-breezy taco night I have really started to miss as of late.