Where to Villa México Café, a beloved burrito joint once housed in a Beacon Hill gas station. Mother-daughter team Julie and Bessie King, Mexico natives, now have their very own storefront downtown.
What for Burritos, hot chocolate, long lines, and good cheer.
The scene Friendly and filled to the brim. The Kings call everyone who makes it to their counter “dear,” and occasionally Julie appears with trays of Mexican hot chocolate to sweeten the wait. Villa is a sliver of a space, and office workers line up for a burrito fix well before noon. Big cheeses in cashmere, women in business suits and snow boots, and chatty downtown denizens pack in tight. Consider taking your meal to go: Counters are narrow and stools are small. One overexcited customer, and you could end up with salsa in your lap.
What you’re eating Burritos, tamales, flautas, cactus salads, and a handful of entrees listed on big chalkboards. Burritos ($8.75) have crunchy grilled tortillas; opt for mild or spicy (lined with a creamy pinkish sauce), then stuff with preferred proteins. Those with bigger appetites should try mole poblano, chicken and rice drenched in chocolate-based mole sauce ($15.99). This is one of the few to-go taquerias in town that sells tamales ($9.99 for two with rice and beans, pictured); stuff with beef, chicken, pork, or pepper and cheese. And be sure to order salsa ($1.50 and up): King’s sweetish house version, also sold by the jar, has a cult following. Summoned to work early? Soothe your pain with Mexican sweet bread — advertised as “sweet as a snow-free winter” — with coffee ($5.50).
Care for a drink? Grab Jarritos Mexican soda from a cooler, or inquire about fruit waters ($4.50) or Mexican milkshake specials ($4.99). On cold days, there’s hot chocolate – Ibarra Mexican chocolate blended with milk.
Overheard Office gossip; dietary confessions. “He threw his career away over a girl,” a wiry, fleece-clad man mutters in disgust. “What’s a flauta?” a woman in a fanny-pack wonders aloud. “Honey, that’s where they roll ’em up tight!” offers a happy-faced dude in uniform. “I’m walking to Quincy, so I’m living large with chips and salsa,” declares a young woman. “Salsa? Risky!” snorts her friend, wedging herself next to the cooler. “I eat too much falafel from Stop & Shop,” a 20-something guy reveals to a colleague. “It’s good you’re living a lifestyle that you can support,” the colleague replies. “Hot chocolate for everyone!” shouts Bessie, setting down a tray.
121 Water St., Boston, 617-957-0725, www.villamexicocafe.us