East Boston is a treasure trove of Latin American restaurants serving delicious, filling fare. But it’s a neighborhood where exploring on your own is essential, as tipsters like Yelp and the usually reliably adventurous Chowhound aren’t much help. For instance, local amateur reviewers offer few postings on Restaurante Montecristo, a cheery, versatile 70-seater, where the table service is more friendly than adept in English, but whose well-translated menu will let you point and enjoy. Like many ostensibly Mexican restaurants in Greater Boston, the owners are actually Salvadoran or (as here) Guatemalan.
Montecristo will feed you amply and well whether you favor massive border-food-style burritos ($4.95–$6.95), Salvadoran pupusas ($1.75 each), or tacos Chapines ($8.95), a Guatemalan specialty of corn tortillas wrapped around stewed chicken and fried into crisp cylinders. These are served with rice and excellent stewy pinto beans flecked with celery and mild chilies. Dribs of accompanying green-chili sauce add sneaky-hot bite. Tacos ($2 each) are more Mexican in style: a double layer of soft corn tortillas, ample meat filling, chopped onion, and fresh cilantro. Fillings range from excellent, like shredded beef or chicken; to wonderful, as in the diced beef tongue or a crumbled chorizo faintly reminiscent of kielbasa; to ravishing, like the adobado, complexly spiced, crimson-tinged roast pork. Pupusas are a better-than-average rendition of the fat, stuffed, griddled corn tortilla. Revueltas, filled with a mince of chicharron, beans, and cheese, provide an especially fine counterpoint to the accompanying curtido, a vinegar-and chili-dashed cabbage salad. Customers seeking extra piquancy can help themselves to complimentary pickles of onion, carrot, cauliflower, and chilies, incendiary and lightly fermented.
With its three-meal service, Montecristo ought to be in more Bostonians’ breakfast/brunch rotation. It’s hard to imagine a tastier, better-priced plate of eggs than huevos picados ($7.95), which loads scrambled eggs topped with tomato and onion alongside beans, sliced avocado, crème-fraîche-like crema, fried plantains, and warm corn tortillas. To this plate, the desayuno Montecristo ($10.95) adds slabs of ham and chicharrones, a meal to last most eaters the entire day. Drink options include a range of licuados ($3), thin juice/milk shakes over ice (try cantaloupe or mango/banana); fresh-squeezed pineapple juice ($2); and jugo de marañón ($2), an intriguing tropical fruit juice. In all, Montecristo bolsters the burgeoning argument that Eastie is among Boston’s top two or three cheap-eats destinations. It’s a shame that so few budget-minded Anglos are patronizing terrific little family-friendly places like it.
Restaurante Montecristo, located at 35–36 Central Square, in East Boston, is open daily, 8 am–1 am. Call 617.561.6046.