When you love cheap eats, it’s tough to stay away from Allston, which boasts a veritable UN of budget-friendly restaurants. Homesick students and ex-pats from around the globe can be found chatting in their native languages over the foods of their homelands, then picking up tiny checks. After eyeing it for months, I finally visited Taqueria El Carrizal, which like many ostensibly Mexican places is actually Guatemalan/Salvadoran with a far-ranging Latin-American menu.
|Taqueria El Carrizal | 254 Brighton Avenue, Allston | Mon-Fri, 10 am to 10 pm, Sat-Sun, 9 am to 10 pm | 617.779.0022|
At this clean 50-seat space, pupusas ($2), the classic Salvadoran starter, include two thick masa tortillas crisped on the griddle, served with curtido (a spicy slaw of shredded, lightly pickled cabbage, carrots, and jalapeños), and thin tomato sauce. Each pupusa includes a choice of fillings: rich chicharrón (pork rind with layers of fat and meat, deep-fried and chopped) mixed with quesillo con loroco (a tangy white cheese flavored with the dried bud of a flowering vine), frijol y queso (cheese and mashed pinto beans), or ayote (mashed butternut-like squash.) The excellent taco ($2) amply fills a proper double layer of griddled corn tortillas with chopped, grilled carne asada (marinated skirt steak), chicken, or beef tongue, adorned simply with onion and fresh cilantro. The accompanying salsa adds welcome fire and moisture.
These same meats, along with adovada (marinated pork) or milanesa (batter-fried steak cutlet), can fill a torta Mexicana ($5), a fine overstuffed sandwich in a roll with avocado, tomato, refried beans, and a spicy tomato sauce. Heartier appetites might choose the churrasco plate ($12): grilled steak, Salvadoran sausage (reminiscent of American breakfast links), yellow rice, pintos, radishes, slices of avocado, tomato, cream-cheese-like crema, pico de gallo, iceberg-lettuce salad, and two griddled unstuffed pupusas. Watery horchata ($2) is refreshing, but the pulpy, pineapple-like marañón ($1.75), the fresh-squeezed juice of the cashew apple, is better.
You could order ho-hum, gringo-ish, cheese-laden nachos ($6–$8), burritos ($6–$7), and fajitas ($12–$22) here, but the Central and South American dishes and Mexican tacos favored by Latino patrons seem closer to Allston’s authentically minded spirit.