It is always tough choosing where to eat in East Boston, as this close-knit working-class neighborhood across the water from the rest of Beantown has countless restaurants, including all kinds of ethnic dining spots. Many of the restaurants in East Boston are Mexican, Central American, and South American, with a few really standing out, including Angela's Cafe, El Paisa, and a wonderful El Salvadoran place near Central Square that few seem to know about (even though it has been around for years) called Topacio.
Located near the entrance to the Sumner Tunnel, Topacio is only a couple of minutes from downtown Boston, yet feels like it is a world away. The neighborhood in which it resides is full of little independent shops and row houses, with very little gentrification in the immediate vicinity. Topacio is one of several restaurants in and around Central Square, and like most of the other eateries in the area, it is small, unassuming, and completely unpretentious. The interior of the dining spot is a long, narrow space with about 10 small tables along the left wall, two larger tables (with room for perhaps 8 people each) against the right wall in the front, and a counter area with seating that extends toward the back of the dining area. A TV in the front of Topacio shows a variety of shows in Spanish, and indeed, not everyone who works in the restaurant speaks English, so if you don't speak Spanish, be prepared to point to what you are ordering on the menu.
Much of the cuisine at Topacio is El Salvadoran, but there are a number of more familiar dishes as well that you might find at a Mexican restaurant. Starters, sides, and small dishes include some of the best pupusas in the Boston area, with a hearty and nicely textured bean and cheese pupusa as well as an interesting version with cheese and loroco (a flower that has a uniquely bitter and nutty taste). Other options to start include a creamy, flavorful, and mild guacamole, quesadillas, nachos, a grilled steak salad, and a seafood soup.
The main entrees at Topacio include some varied seafood dishes, such as stuffed lobster, shrimp with cilantro, and fried fish, as well as a number of poultry dishes including roasted chicken cuts and primavera chicken. Steak lovers should not overlook the carne asada here, as it is simply outstanding, with a lean piece of grilled beef marinated in a deliciously tangy vinegar-based sauce. And for those who might wish to lean toward Mexican fare, the burritos are huge at Tapacio, with the beef burrito including the aforementioned marinated beef mixed with a number of ingredients, including onions, tomatoes, and peppers. A few other dishes include liver, beef tongue, and pork chops. Beverages offered include all types of fruity concoctions, including a sweet and smooth mango drink. Breakfast is also served at Topacio, with plantains, eggs, and tamales all being on the breakfast menu. Prices for all dishes are cheap, with many items being around or under $10.
Topacio is by no means an elegant place, and the potential language barriers may post a slight problem to some, but this is a real find, and one that fans of ethnic cuisine certainly need to consider. Count this little spot as yet another reason why East Boston is such an exciting place to go for food lovers.
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