BOSTON – Color, flavor, lots of cheese, and mucho margaritas. That is what happens when South of the border comes to South Station. Tavitas is a rocking, new Mexican restaurant, located inside Boston’s busiest train station.
Between the historic building’s architecture, the restaurant’s eye-catching artwork, and the kitchen’s obsession with freshness and flavor, Tavitas is far from your typical Tex-Mex joint.
“We’re more than just a restaurant in a train station,” said General Manager Douglas Burke. “We’re inspired by the sounds, food, culture of East L.A., so not your typical Mexican joint. Our food is definitely outside the box, a little bit different.”
“We do a lot of smoking. We do a lot of brining, curing,” said Chef Eric LeBlanc. “We just put a lot of flavor and time into all the ingredients. Whether it’s charring or searing or roasting or baking, it’s got a lot of love into it.”
Chef Eric definitely has a passion for tacos and tortas, crispy plantains and creamy queso fundido. But the dish he’s becoming famous for is a unique delicacy known as The Walking Taco.
“Basically it’s a taco, all the love, all the fillings inside a bag of chips.”
And he means that quite literally. Take a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, slice it open, and then stuff it with a three cheese blend, grilled chicken, crema, spicy slaw, and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. It’s perfect to eat in, or take it on the go.
“It’s definitely fun. It’s definitely different, and it’s definitely interesting,” said Douglas. “It’s my favorite thing on the menu.”
Other popular items include everything from burritos to burgers. There’s a Mexican style Steak and Cheese packed with roasted peppers and chipotle mayo; an indulgent Cuban sandwich stacked with two types of pork, Argentinean chimichurri sauce, and house pickled veggies; and they also happen to serve some of the biggest and best nachos in Boston.
“Our nachos are way different than any place I’ve ever worked,” Douglas said. “We lay them flat on a baking sheet. We cover them in our tres quesos, and fire roasted poblano peppers.”
“We have the chips, the cheese, the chiles, the corn; we bake it in the oven; we pull it out. We then put crema on top, and then we serve it with salsa on the side, along with cilantro on top,” continued Eric.
The chicken wings at Tavitas are marinated for 24 hours in agave, chipotle, salt, sugar, and garlic, then they’re smoked for two and a half hours. After they are flash-fried, the tender, slow-cooked meat pulls right off the bone.
There’s one more dish you definitely don’t want to miss: the fire roasted Mexican street corn.
“We grill it in the husk, to steam it to cook it. And afterwards we peel it out of the husk, and we get more flavor and more char on it. We then coat it with our chipotle mayonnaise, a little bit of cotija cheese, and then on the side we do a charred lime,” described Chef Eric.
Admittedly, it is pretty weird that this cool and trendy Mexican restaurant is located inside an old train station. Yet that’s part of what makes eating here so fun.
“Eighty thousand people pass through South Station a day, so you get kind of a little bit of everything,” Douglas said. “It’s never the same kind of clientele. There’s never a day when I come to work where I don’t say to myself, ‘Man, I’ve never seen that before.'”
There’s always the chance that the tacos and margaritas could be so distracting, that commuters could actually miss their train. So the restaurant came up with a clever solution: they installed a webcam on the roof that streams video of the train board directly to a screen behind the bar.
“Our experience is more of a sit down, have a drink, hang out with your friends, spend some time. It’s become more a hot spot for commuters as well as local business people coming after work,” Douglas said. “They sit, hang out, have drinks with their friends, joke around.”
You can find Tavitas at 650 Atlantic Avenue, at the corner of Summer Street inside South Station, and online at tavitas.com.
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