Thanks so much for all of your wonderful dining-with-tot suggestions. We ended up sticking close to home and supping at Acitron, the new(ish), slightly upscale (yet kid-friendly!) Mexican restaurant in Arlington Center.
The service was wonderful. I would highly recommend bringing a child here. They brought our tot water with a straw, chips, etc. and were very happy to seat us -- we didn't get a snooty vibe at all. The dining room was full at 6pm, yet our server was patient and attentive.
However, the food was very mediocre. We started with an order of guacamole. This was fine, but I devoured it mainly because I was hungry. It could have used a bit of zing. Basically, it was bland. I love avocados, don't get me wrong, but I want more than a buttery glop of 'cado on my chip when I order guac! Salsa and chips, served complimentary, were fine. I will say that the chips were sturdy, not too crispy, hot, salty, or oily.
Mr. Swank got Cochnita Pibil, an $18 plate (came with two sides). Menu description was thus: Axiote seed, spices and fresh orange marinated roasted pork, shredded, garnished with pickled onions and scallions. Essentially, this was a pretty scoop of shredded pork that Mr. Swank described as "bland." (Our tot, however, loved it.) Tasteless rice and watery mushrooms were his sides. Blah, he said.
I opted for Chiles en Nogada, also an $18 platter. Menu description: Fire roasted poblano peppers stuffed with seasoned ground beef and topped with a sweet white creamy sauce made of nuts, spices and cream cheese. (Sauce is traditionally served at room temperature). Room temp indeed! My plate was very lukewarm -- and would have tasted far better hot! My rice and mushrooms were also served room temperature. Very off-putting. This is a cream sauce, too, so the room-temp made it seem almost congealed. As for taste -- the nuts added a pleasant crunch. Aside from that, I felt as if I was eating a green pepper coated in Elmer's glue. Very bland.
I ordered a margarita. It was very acidic and strong -- not mixed well.
When we left at 7:30 pm, business was booming, and a small line had formed near the door.
In general, I think Zocalo serves far better food for about half the price. Ditto La Posada in the heights. The menu aspires toward higher-end Mexican, but the food lacks flavor. I wouldn't willingly return to pay $18 for a bland plate of food.
Acitrón Mexican Bistro
473 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA 02474