Few Boston neighborhoods are as blessed with affordable restaurants, or as unfairly overlooked, as Eastie. In addition to terrific old-school Italian fare, Latin American cuisines are exceptionally well-represented, including authentic Mexican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Peruvian, Brazilian, Venezuelan, and Colombian. Many places traverse culinary borders to appeal to a cross-section of locals, as is done at La Fogata ("The Bonfire"), a tiny 12-seat counter-service place that features Colombian, Venezuelan, and Mexican specialties.
La Fogata's main attraction is its assortment of Colombian deep-fried savory turnovers with masa-dough wrappers. The empanada ($1.40) is crescent-shaped, filled with minced potatoes and chicken or beef, and offers a mild capsicum-chili glow. The pastel ($1.90) is larger, round, and stuffed with shredded beef or chicken flecked with mild bell pepper. The papa relleno is filled with a baseball-size scoop of mashed potato. All of these boast saffron-yellow crusts, skillful fry jobs, and just a bit of grease. They're portable, cheap snacks: delicious and filling.
Another standout is the arepa de pollo ($6), a corn cake like a thick tortilla with a nice grill char on it, amply topped with shredded dark chicken and cilantro. The arepa de chocolo ($6) features ham, butter, mild white cheese, and a drizzle of condensed milk. Mexican offerings include hefty burritos ($6.50) and quesadillas ($6), but the tacos ($2/each) are especially fine: two layers of soft corn tortillas overflowing with diced chicken or beef topped with tomato, shredded cabbage, cilantro, and lime. Heartier appetites can opt for the mini bandeja ($10), a platter of grilled steak, fried chicharrón, a fried egg, beans, rice, plantains, and an arepa.
There are even a few yanqui-leaning dishes, like burgers ($6) you can top with cheese, avocado, or barbecue sauce, and deli sandwiches ($6) of tuna, turkey, or ham and cheese, all served with fries. Drink options include tropical-fruit juices like lulo ($1.25), a kiwi-like fruit, and tropical-fruit sodas ($1.50). Dessert options include sweet pasteles ($1.50), flaky triangular pastries baked in-house (the dulce de leche–filled one is lovely) and cones or dishes of ice cream ($2.50–$3.75). Servers speak English well, and are happy to show Anglophones around the menu, though snapping a cameraphone pic might get you mistaken for a health inspector. While that fancier, more famous Bonfire restaurant (by Todd English) is going out of business, you can see why this one is thriving. Every city block needs this kind of frugal, friendly, versatile little cafeteria.
La Fogata, located at 226 Sumner Street, in East Boston, is open daily, 7 am–10 pm. Call 617.569.4120.