Newcomers to Boston often take a while to discover Waltham, a neighboring small city that boasts 80 restaurants within a 15-minute walk of its central Common. These encompass an impressive swath of world cuisines: upscale Italian, Spanish, French, and New American; pan-regional Indian; authentic and Americanized Chinese; Yankee barbecue; real Mexican and Tex-Mex; Irish pub and American saloon fare; excellent pizza and subs; plus Korean, Japanese, Thai, and Cambodian. It’s also home to Mi Tierra, a humble family-run Guatemalan and Salvadoran place that has quietly operated on upper Moody Street for more than a decade.
Many customers here are Spanish-speaking Central-American ex-pats feasting on generous plates of authentic fare built on mild, starchy ingredients. My standby is the pupusa combination plate ($8.95), which includes two pupusas, each a hand-rolled, griddled masa tortilla enclosing an inner layer of minced pork and/or herb-flecked white cheese. The overflowing sides include a tomato-based dipping sauce, curtido (a tart slaw), white rice, mashed-then-grilled black beans, and two fried plantain halves. While good vegetarian options are available, meat lovers may favor dishes like “costilla, chorizo y chuleta” ($13.95): a simply grilled beef rib, pork chop, and sausage (plumper, finer-grained, and milder than its Castilian cousin), served with casamiento (black beans mixed with rice), salad, and tortillas.
Seafood fans should sample ceviche de camarón ($12.95), chopped raw shrimp, tomatoes, onions, and cilantro marinated in lime juice. Splurgers can order the lone over-$15 option here, a fisherman’s plate ($23.95) loaded with broiled clams, scallops, shrimp, and fish, served with pungent mojo de ajo (garlic sauce), salad, and rice. Massive breakfast plates are served all day, like the montañero ($10.95), a chewy grilled beefsteak topped with fried eggs and served with black beans, crema (a little wheel of soft, tangy cheese), and masa tortillas.
Soft drinks include excellent tigernut-flavored horchata ($2.50) and the wondrous, unique atol de elote ($3), a hot, pudding-like beverage of sweetened, cinnamon-spiced pureed fresh corn.
You should order modestly on your first visit: cleaning your plate at lunch will sustain you far into the evening, but you may need a siesta. The two dining rooms don’t offer much to look at besides a wall map, bare booths, and CNN en Español. But friendly service, soul-satisfying food, and recession-friendly portions make Mi Tierra a worthy anchor to Waltham’s international dining smorgasbord.
Mi Tierra, located at 585 Moody Street, in Waltham, is open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, from 11 am to 10 pm, and on Saturday and Sunday, from 9 am to 9 pm. Call 781.894.5676.