Alex's Chimis

Soulful fare from the heart of the Dominican Republic
By MC SLIM JB  |  March 25, 2009


I haven't eaten much Dominican food since the South End's excellent Miami Café closed. But Alex's Chimis, a humble, 12-seat counter-service storefront, has rekindled my fire for the cuisine. There's no posted menu, so start by asking for the well-translated takeout menu. The namesake chimi is a delicious entry point: a smallish sub on good Cuban bread, a long crusty sandwich roll. The foundation of the chimi super ($4.99) is a single layer of thin ground-beef patties seasoned similarly to kubideh or gyros (perhaps reflecting Middle Eastern influences on Dominican cuisine), topped with pickles, shredded lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and a Thousand Island–like dressing. The chimi de pierna ($4.99) is even better, with similar fixings but more generously loaded with slow-roasted pork shoulder. Both are messy and fantastic.

Alex's star attraction is a series of very fine rotisserie-chicken combo plates, all of which include two generous sides. The combo Dominicano ($7.99) is typical: it features half a rotisserie chicken with crisp, amber-bronzed skin. (I recommend accepting "sauce" — a drizzle of intensely garlicky dressing — when offered.) Sides include familiar Caribbean starches like platano maduro (ripe yellow plantains, cooked soft with a nicely caramelized exterior), tostones (flattened, crisp-fried slices of young plantain), yuca (big chunks of mild cassava), batata (large rounds of deep-fried sweet potato), papas (large-cut French fries), and guineos (boiled young banana). Grain options include moro (white rice with green pigeon peas) and the popular cho fan (like a Caribbean-Chinese fried rice, with bits of pork and chicken, mung sprouts, peas, and corn). Deep-fried offerings sans sides include individual pieces of chicken ($1.25), chicharrón, pork skin with a goodly layer of meat and fat left on ($4.99 for the rather large "small"; $9.99 for the enormous "large"), and orejita ($1.99), gelatinously crunchy pork ears (better than they sound). Pastelitos ($1) — house-made turnovers filled with ham and cheese, beef, or chicken — are excellent and a bargain.

Soft drinks include canned Goya tropical-fruit juices ($1.25), fresh-squeezed juices and lemonade ($2.50–$3), and excellent smoothie-like batidos ($2.50) of interesting tropical fruits like zapote, a/k/a mamey. The morir soñando ($3), a DR favorite that adds sweetened milk to a fresh-OJ base, tastes like a gourmand's Orange Julius. I can't say much good about this recession, but one positive glimmer is how it's forced me to give a second look to long-standing, worthy places like Alex's, which is now 10 years old. Food this value-priced, filling, fresh, and homey is worth a trip even in better times.

Alex's Chimis, located at 358c Centre Street, in Jamaica Plain, is open Monday through Thursday, from 10 am to 9 pm, and Friday and Sunday, from 10 am to 10 pm. Call 617.522.5201.

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