For the dining-out-obsessed, it's hard to escape the nagging feeling that you're not keeping up with restaurant openings. No matter how many new places you visit, the to-try list keeps growing. I'm a fan of Inman Square's fine-dining Ole Mexican Grill, but never visited its budget-priced takeout offshoot, Olecito, across the street. When a second Olecito opened in Brookline, I knew I had to get over there. I'm glad I did: this cheerfully painted, 10-seat counter-service storefront is very good of its kind.
Excellence and value in tacos ($2.75 each) is a great start: Olecito's are bulging with fresh-tasting fillings on a proper two-tortilla foundation. The Baja version tops a couple of batter-fried shrimp with vivid-green cilantro pesto, piquant chipotle mayo, and shreds of barely pickled cabbage. Arrachera features cubes of marinated "steak" (more likely brisket) with mashed pinto beans, jack cheese, avocado puree, and chopped lettuce. Carnitas are superb: big chunks of slow-cooked pork shoulder with salsa verde, diced pineapple, and pickled cabbage. Rajas are a surprisingly good vegetarian taco, with red and green Poblano peppers stewed tender in Mexican crema, packing a gentle capsicum kick, with black beans, jack, and guacamole. The inevitable burrito ($5.50) is a worthy gut-buster, stuffed with the usual fillers (Mexican rice, black beans, crema, pico de gallo, guacamole) plus a choice of very tasty chicken, pork, beef, or grilled vegetables. Among the six tortas ($6.50–$6.75), complicated sandwiches served on excellent, sturdy rolls, the standout might be the Yucateca, which layers OJ-marinated cochinita pork with mashed pintos, pickled onions, queso fresco, avocado puree, and chipotle mayo. Sides are simple and rather good, like above-average chips and guacamole ($3.50) and a generous, simple side salad ($2) of iceberg, tomatoes, avocado, and queso fresco.
A cooler full of Mexican sodas ($2) includes Sidra (a fizzy sweet cider), Mexican Coca-Cola (quite superior to the HFCS-sweetened Yankee version), and many tropical flavors of Jarritos. The soda fountain dispenses excellent cane-sweetened Boylan products ($1.50 with free refills), including outstanding root beer, ginger ale, and lemon soda. Still in start-up mode, this location doesn't yet offer some listed menu items (soups, fried-fish tacos, desserts). The takeout orientation means diners who stay must eat with plastic utensils from foil wrappers; there aren't even paper plates. In the end, Olecito feels a bit too much like a glossy franchise operation to evoke a traditional taqueria, but its really fine tacos make that easy to forgive.
Olecito, located at 6 Cypress Street, in Brookline, is open daily from 11 am–9 pm. Call 617.739.1408.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this review incorrectly stated that Olecito's tacos were two for $2.75. In fact, they are $2.75 each.