Missing the food of their native Mexico, they opened Pancho’s Taqueria in Dedham.
The Boston Globe
By Ellen Bhang
April 12, 2016
For years, Dedham resident Nohely Chavira-Williams wondered why she couldn’t get a proper taco in town. There were all kinds of eateries in the neighborhood, but not one offered the fresh, nuanced flavors she remembers from her native Mexico. She frequently mentioned this to her restaurant manager brother, Carlos Chavira. “I told him, ‘We have to have a Mexican place here,’” she recalls. Last month, the siblings turned that conversation into their first restaurant.
Pancho’s Taqueria inhabits a prime location on High Street in the heart of Dedham Square. The sprightly lime green signs let you know that the former tenants, a florist and a knitting supply shop, have moved on. Open for just a month, and named for Chavira-Williams’s miniature schnauzer, this cheerful 16-seat spot already draws crowds. At lunch hour, everyone from construction workers to business types in natty sport coats line up to order customized plates.
When you request a torta called La Choripancho ($6.95, one of three traditional sandwiches on the menu), the assembler slides telera bread onto a hot grill, alongside a mound of shredded cheese. As you scoot down the line toward the cashier, he works on another customer’s order but keeps a watchful eye on the grill. Soon after, he crumbles spicy chorizo onto the bubbling cheese, slides the melty packet onto the bun, then asks which garnishes you prefer. Make it easy and get the works: diced avocado, shredded lettuce, juicy tomato, pickled red onion, and a squeeze of zippy chipotle mayo. (You may not think you can finish it, but you will.)
The chef here, Luis Figueroa, is a friend of the owners. He helped launch El Centro Mexican Restaurant in Boston’s South End and later worked at El Centro Dos in Brookline Village. This team is keen on getting the details right.
Take for the example the salsa that comes with an order of thick-cut tortilla chips ($3.50). So often an afterthought at other places, the condiment here is crafted from roasted tomatoes and serrano chiles. The extra step of roasting lends appetizing smokiness and tiny flecks of char to the sauce. The same care is paid to a side of guacamole ($2), pristinely ripe avocado mashed by hand, with minced sweet onion, cilantro, and a lip-smacking squeeze of lime.
It’s impossible to resist another dollop of that guac on a Mexican plate ($7.50), which includes rice, glossy black beans, pico de gallo, a trio of warm corn tortillas, and your choice of meat. We get flavorful grilled chicken, but pork carnitas and grilled vegetables are also on offer, as is carne asada (steak) for $1 more. Two could split this platter, or one of the amply stuffed burritos ($5.45, $6.25) that appear on most other tables.
Similarly generous is the Mexican Caesar salad ($6, add meat for $1.75), featuring crisp Romaine tossed with a creamy cilantro dressing and mild cheese. Crumbled tortilla chips stand in for croutons.
Don’t miss the elote ($3.25), corn on the cob slathered with seasoned crema (similar to creme fraiche), sprinkled with a shower of cotija cheese. If you miss the classic addition of chile-lime seasoning, ask for the shaker — it’s behind the counter. A house-made horchata ($2.25) made from ground rice, condensed milk, and cinnamon is an indulgent sweet treat. A lighter, tarter option is a ruby-hued hibiscus beverage called Jamaica ($2.25). It drinks like a fruity iced tea.
A sunny window seat is the perfect spot to admire a colorful fish taco ($3.35). A duo of corn tortillas provides the foundation for robustly seasoned grilled pollock, topped with julienned broccoli stems (an innovative ingredient offering crisp crunch) plus tomatoes, cilantro, and a drizzle each of chipotle and cilantro dressings. This is the taco that Chavira-Williams was craving all these years. Get two.
551 High St., Dedham, 781-329-9468, www.panchostaqueria.com
All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.
Prices Soup, salads, sides $2.50-$6.75. Tortas, tacos, burritos $3.35-$6.95. Combination plates $7.50.
Hours Daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
What to order La Choripancho torta, elote (seasoned corn on the cob), Mexican plate with chicken, Mexican Caesar salad, fish tacos.
Ellen Bhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.