Mmmmm mmmm good! Just like Campbell’s soup. El Centro, a festive little Mexican joint in the oh-so-trendy South End, is spot-on. The small wooden tables and a tucked away living room nook with couches and a little coffee table (great for a small group of happy hour patrons) make El Centro a real hidden gem on Shawmut Ave.
Frank and I went for a late dinner after my class last Thursday night. The little restaurant is so patriotically Mexican, with Frida Kahlo pictures plastering the walls and a “culturally congruent” wait staff. *side note: I have to admit that I googled “Mexican unibrow lady” to find out the real proper name for Frida Kahlo. While googling her, I came across this interesting little quote from the well-known paintress:
“I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” She also stated, “I was born a bitch. I was born a painter.”
Ha. Love it!
Our Latina waitress started us off right by bringing FREE bean dip. She explained that tomorrow (Friday) was Mexican New Year, or maybe it was Mexican Independence Day, I’m not sure (it doesn’t matter because we got complimentary food!). Complimentary doesn’t always = delicious, but this bean dip was the bomb! I ordered guac along with the bean dip, and Frank and I were fat, happy and full of chips and dip within minutes (typical Mexican restaurant experience). Despite our full bellies, when the waitress came back to take our dinner order, you better believe we were ready. I ordered the “Mexican corn” and a mini cheesy-pepper tamale. Two points about this order: If you haven’t had Mexican corn, you better have a damn good excuse, or I can no longer be your friend. It’s grilled corn with mayonnaise, butter, cotija cheese and lime. Can you imagine anything better? I also love that they offer “mini tamales” because regular sized tamales are sometimes just too much. My Tamale tasted like sweet southern cornbread and I was totally diggin’ that! To sum it up, I ate corn, in every form, for dinner… and loved it! Frank ordered two tacos, one carnitas (which literally means “little meats” in Spanish) and one beef. I didn’t try them but they looked delish, with all the fixin’s: salsa, hot sauce and avocado. One thing I really truly love about authentic Mexican restaurants is that they use soft corn tortillas for their tacos. Nothing ruins a taco like a doughy flour tortilla or that crispy corn bullsh*t. Ugh.
And to top off this phenomenal Mexican feast, the waitress brought over a tray of locally made pastries for us to choose from. Among the churros (Mexican fried dough), pan dolce (sweet breads) and croissants, we chose the doughnut. Yep, the good ‘ol American doughnut. The granular sugar sprinkled over the top really made the doughnut special. This exclamation point at the end of our meal was just another complimentary Mexican holiday delight, and another gold star for El Centro!
Overall, Frank and I rank El Centro a hands-down “Empty Plate” restaurant. In fact, this experience prompted us to question our ranking system and consider adding higher rankings such as “I want to eat the plate” or “Gimme seconds NOW or someone’s gonna get hurt!”