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Jose's Cambridge recent experience


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Jose's Cambridge recent experience

itaunas | Aug 28, 2008 08:06 AM

I remember when Jose's used to serve iceburg lettuce in their salsa (it was a bit weird and certainly unconventional, but actually gave it an interesting crunch -- they also served hots to the side so you could spice it up). The couple of things they did interesting for the time was instead of ground beef, they offered stewed beef (no ground option) for their burritos and guacamole was included as no extra charge, plus used real actual cilantro which was partly a novelty at the time. This got pretty tired quickly with Forest Cafe doing more interesting things, even Picante had something different, Central american wars brought us real taquerias... and in came Boca Grande then Anna's (from the Cambridge/Somerville perspective it was this order) with big burritos for little money. When it changed ownership, they tried to go more authentic (there is no more lettuce) and upgrade the food to more traditional homestyle cooking (good to have Pozole for instance), which brought them a fair amount of press. They also added some top-shelf margaritas for drinks and shots, but prices were still pretty inexpensive. I tried it a couple of times at the restaurant and a few more times at their MIT truck, but in particular the truck was really bad. In the past year, the burritos at the truck have improved quite a bit (although service is serial so very slow) along with selection so it was on list to try but not very high.

Recently I needed takeout, Maria Bonita was closed and Qingdao was doing renovations (I didn't feel like heading over to Lupita) so I decided to give it a shot. They have expanded the menu even more than before, with a few interesting items on the menu and more emphasis on tacos, but what I especially noticed was the prices were at or even above Forest Cafe and Tu y Yo. They have updated the dining room decoration, the servers are more professional, the bar has a top shelf line, but what first bit me about the prices was the restroom was a disaster (as dirty as always with a running sink, the doorknob came off in my hand, etc). The next thing was the food. The good old reliable super burrito with stewed beef was still good, with guacamole and even an improvement on the beans. It won't convert an Anna's lover, but certainly good enough for after work drinks paying a bit of a premium on the food for the full bar. The Adobo had a decent mild bite, but was a muddy mess of flavors (pork also not available)... the chorizo y papas tacos were messily prepared, greasy, and small for $15 (I think La Verdad might be less expensive). No sign of freshly prepared sauces, this was similar to taqueria food, but not as good as some $1.50/taco taquerias. Three plates came to $60 with tip, no drinks. The menu has more interesting items, but they weren't made with care and the best of our selection was the original type dishes.

Its entirely possible that we choose wrong and I am glad they are trying to be more authentic, plus expand their horizons. The rent or real estate, plus full liquor license demand higher prices. It could provide a better "roadhouse" experience to Border Cafe or On the Border for a similar price, but are not doing it with care on the newer plates we tried (Forest Cafe is a better full bar and fancier/sauced mexican option), and after 20 years its time to fix the bathroom.

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