There are some restaurants (and bars) that many folks will take one look at from the outside, say "I don't think so," and keep driving. It could be because the place looks a bit sketchy or possibly because the neighborhood seems rather questionable, or maybe a little of both, which may be the case for some when it comes to Mi Pueblito in East Boston. But this Mexican and Central American eatery on Border Street is completely different from what you might expect it to be based on the exterior, as it is a friendly, comfortable, and laid-back spot that is good for everyone from families to couples to groups of friends or co-workers.
Unlike the bustling Meridian Street, which runs parallel one block to the east and is loaded with shops and restaurants, Border Street is desolate in parts, with a lot of industry and very little in the way of dining spots. And the section of the road where Mi Pueblito is located is particularly so, with a vast fenced-in space across from the eatery, complete with cranes, warehouses, and in the background, the Mystic Bridge. The restaurant itself looks just a tad menacing from the outside, being easily mistaken for a dive bar or a neighborhood spot that isn't very welcoming to strangers. Once inside, however, all of this changes, as it isn't even close to being a dark watering hole, instead being an attractive family restaurant with a cheery interior. Booths are set up along the left and back walls, with a row of tables along the right wall and more tables in the middle, and the kitchen area is partly in view behind the right wall in the front. Sconces give off warm light while artwork on the walls add a homey feel, and colorful chairs and floor tiles continue the theme of being in someone's house rather than a restaurant.
Don't expect to get watered-down Mexican-American dishes at Mi Pueblito, though the place does have familiar items such as tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and enchiladas. But the dishes here are made from scratch, using traditional recipes from Mexico and Central America, making the familiar almost seem unfamiliar, though in a good way. Take the guacamole, for instance; the version offered here has a velvet-like consistency with little chunks of avocado here and there, and a bright taste coming from the lime juice, cilantro, and peppers added, without the harsh onion-heavy taste you might find at a less authentic spot. The fajitas are also vastly different from those that you might get at a sports bar or a chain, with the tender skirt steak having a smoky taste from being grilled perfectly, and fresh onions, peppers, and spices (including a good amount of cumin and cilantro) used. The chiles rellenos de queso (stuffed poblano peppers with cheese) are nothing short of spectacular at Mi Pueblito, with the combination of smoky pepper, mild and creamy cheese, and rich red sauce making for a truly unforgettable meal. A number of items that you might find in El Salvador or other Central American countries are also available here, with the papusas being freshly-made and extremely filling but worth getting as a side (the aromatic and flowery cheese and loroco papusas are particularly good). Another Central American item--and one that perhaps isn't for everyone--is the sopa de mondongo, or tripe soup, which by the way isn't available all the time, so you may want to check ahead. Seafood items include steamed tilapia, fried shrimp, and clam cocktail, along with a seafood soup that also isn't always available. A children's menu includes burgers, chicken nuggets, and for youngsters who are a bit more daring, a children's version of tripe soup. Beer and wine are offered at Mi Pubelito, as well as shakes that include a rich passion fruit and blackberry mixture and a mild and slightly sour guanabana. A few desserts are also available, including flan and tiramisu.
Mi Pueblito may look like a place that you might not want to walk into, but looks can be deceiving, and this is certainly the case with this welcoming eatery between Central Square and the Chelsea border. Whether it reaches the heights of the nearby Angela's Cafe (which focuses more on Mexican food) is a matter of opinion and personal taste, but neither of these spots should be missed if you like foods with roots south of the border.
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