Where to El Centro Tres in Belmont Center. There are other branches in the South End and in Brookline.
What for Mexican food and margaritas.
The scene Barrio casual. Three women with silky hair and smooth tans pick at chips. An older couple chats with a waitress about life in Somerville. Another server attempts to explain to a large party of parents and teenagers that a chicken chimichanga does, indeed, come with chicken. A happy bartender in green sneakers moonwalks behind the bar, bottle opener hanging from the back pocket of his baggy jeans. Sombreros and a portrait of Frida Kahlo adorn the orange walls.
What you’re eating Chef-owner Allan Rodriguez has designed a large menu of Mexican staples: tacos with homemade tortillas, guacamole and chorizo, bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with cheese, lava stone skirt steak in guajillo sauce. Complimentary chips come with a thick, fiery salsa. There is no dessert menu, but ask about homemade flan.
Care for a drink? The menu highlights margaritas and mojitos ($10 each), courtesy of a full bar. There are also Mexican beers, sangrias, horchata, and shots of Patron.
Overheard Dietary demands, faltering friendships, musings on beauty, and remembrances of buttery lamb. “Can I have a cup of ice?” a muscular woman asks a server. The eager server returns with ice. “And a plate of lettuce? Just lettuce?” The server scoots off and reappears, toting a towering platter of shredded lettuce. “She used to be cool, but then she opened her own law firm,” the lettuce-lover’s dining companion gripes. “Can you imagine telling a gorgeous woman that she looks just like her father?” a bronzed beauty asks her friends, shooing away the bartender. “We haven’t seen each other in three years. We’re going to be here a while.” A prim couple makes chitchat with a smiley waitress. “It’s pricy but really good. The lamb’s tongue is $3 a slice. It was, like, buttery, and from a cart. Brasa. L-a-b-r-a-s-a. On Broadway in Somerville,” the waitress says gamely. The wife nods, eyes wide; her husband, dapper in short-sleeved plaid, whips out his smartphone and pulls up La Brasa on a map. “And do you have an — apartment — in that area?” the wife asks the waitress, like a worried nana. “I wish. I live in Davis,” the waitress says, laughing. A wild-haired lady in green capris and a crimson fleece sweatshirt barrels through the door. “I’m here!” she announces. 66 Leonard St., Belmont Center, 617-484-1515, www.elcentroboston.com.
Kara Baskin can be reached at email@example.com