JAMAICA PLAIN – It doesn’t have to be Taco Tuesday to get an affordable Mexican hand held treat in your belly. At Casa Verde, the tacos are tasty any day of the week.
Located on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain, Casa Verde is a small, but spirited taqueria serving authentic Mexican meals out of a tiny open kitchen. It’s all the brainchild of restauranteurs David Doyle and Keith Harmon, the guys behind JP institutions like Tres Gatos and Centre Street Cafe. When it came to this latest installment, they decided to bring on Chef Sean Callahan, a guy who’s happiest in the kitchen.
“I want people to come in, have some great food; be stoked on what they’re eating; just be really happy when they leave and have a great environment for them to be in while they’re doing it.”
That atmosphere is definitely festive, with dim lighting, reclaimed wooden walls, and a subtle south of the border feel throughout.
“We try to create a really warm, hospitable atmosphere. We just want people to be comfortable, and to come in, have a good time, and have some great cold beer, delicious hot tacos,” Sean said. “We serve ten tacos. I try to adhere to traditional flavors and techniques.”
There’s the Lamb Al Pastor, a spin on the traditional pork dish, topped with grilled pineapple and salsa roja. Seafood lovers will want to light up their palates with the Shrimp a la Diabla. Then there’s the Chipotle Cauliflower, a taco that meat eaters and vegetarians agree is delicious.
“You get this really good fiery heat; a little sweetness in there; crunch from the cauliflower,” Chef Sean described. “People are surprised by how good it is. It’s really not just for vegetarians.”
If you do want meat in between your tortilla, nothing beats the classic Carne Asada.
“The Carne Asada is a really high quality flank steak that’s marinated with lime and a lot of great seasonings, and we have a red onion escabeche on top. For meat lovers it’s just a great taco,” Sean said.
The rest of the menu is laid back yet inventive, with starters like the plantain croquettes: a sweet and savory snack stuffed with ripe plantains, queso fresco, and raisins. Try the flavor-packed Grilled Cotija Cheese served with grilled bread; or there’s the Mexican Grilled Street Corn, always a staff favorite.
“It’s one of my favorite dishes because it’s just really fun to eat with your hands,” the chef said. “It’s a little bit messy, but to me it has all the classic flavors that I love in Mexican cuisine. A little bit of heat from the chili powder, lime cilantro aioli, and Cotija cheese, which is a little bit salty. It’s just really a delight to eat.”
What would any Mexican restaurant be without chips, salsa and guac?
“I think people would rebel against a Mexican restaurant that didn’t have those. We have a traditional red salsa and a green salsa. We’ve mixed it up a little bit with a peanut and arbol chili salsa that I think is absolutely amazing. Our guacamole’s a little different as well, but I think at the end of the day we go through massive quantities because people love chips and salsa.”
If you want to go really authentic you can have the tlacoyos.
“Super traditional street food,” Sean explained. “It’s stuffed masa cake in the form of a football, topped with salsa verde, Cotija cheese, a little onion, and crema.”
More recognizable dishes include cheesy enchiladas stuffed with Swiss chard; tender Carne Asada served over rice and beans; and the Chicken Mole is a must order.
“It’s slow roasted. It’s really, really moist. The mole sauce is just a really complex sauce. A little bit of chocolate, cinnamon. It’s a really satisfying dish if you’re interested in something a little bit larger than a taco,” David Doyle explained.
Desserts at Casa Verde are as creative as they are tasty. There are Sopapillas served with cinnamon sugar and honey, and the Plantain Ice Cream Sundae topped with chocolate.
“As opposed to having a hot fudge on it, we’ve made our own house made magic shell, so you have the crunchy chocolate exterior around the ice cream with some toasted pecans,” Chef Sean described.
While life in the kitchen may be crazy, as long as he’s seeing smiling faces from the dining room, this chef will always be happy.
“I like to see people happy after a meal, and that’s what drives me. Getting to see people eating and enjoying themselves is really the reward at the end of the day.”
You can find Casa Verde at 711 Centre Street in Jamaica Plain, and online at casaverdejp.com.
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