It’s no surprise that Casa Verde — a cozy Mexican restaurant that opened in May — is owned by the team behind two other popular places in Jamaica Plain, Tres Gatos and Centre Street Cafe. The spot feels like it’s run by folks who know the neighborhood. At brunch we see what feels like all of JP: young families, grandparents, groups of rumpled hipsters recovering from the night before, and couples enjoying a lazy Sunday.
At dinner the lights dim, the service is a bit more formal, and the bar is a comfortable spot to watch the game or linger over a drink with your date. Exposed brick, bold colors, and an open kitchen toward the back of the galley-style restaurant — helmed by executive chef Sean Callahan — give it a more appealing aesthetic than your run-of-the-meal taqueria.
It seems right to start with tacos, which come on chewy corn rounds from Vermont Tortilla Company. The lamb al pastor taco ($5) is gamey — but in a good way — with sweet pineapple, sharp onion, and fresh cilantro to lighten it. A fried smelt taco ($4) is a tad on the fishy side. A chorizo taco ($4) is surprisingly bland, even with salsa verde and sour cream. The chicken wings ($8), however, are anything but; a savory, spicy peanut and arbol chile sauce coats the tender half-dozen bone-in pieces, which arrive with a cooling side of crema.
Casa Verde is affordable, but the menu prices can be a bit deceiving. Sure the deliciously smoky shrimp taco is only $4, but it’s on the dainty side. You’ll need three, and maybe some rice and beans, to make a meal. Another charge you might not be expecting is the 3 percent hospitality fee, meant to help even out incomes for back and front of the house. This is something you’ll see at Casa Verde’s sister restaurants too. It’s certainly a small charge (and a price that we’re happy to pay), but some patrons have strong feelings for or against the practice.
Along with tacos, tortas are a specialty. Hearty, house-made bolillo rolls are sliced and stuffed with black beans, onion, avocado, tomato, salsa verde, and your choice of filling. We choose carne asada ($12), with a generous amount of marinated hanger steak. The sandwich is a meal in itself, but we can’t resist the arroz rojo (red rice, $3), which is brick red and studded with sweet carrots and onions. Accompany the food with a Gunsmoke ($9), the house margarita made with smoky mezcal; Casa Verde has a cordials license, but we’re told a full liquor license is in the works.
We enjoy brunch the best, with its sprawling menu of sweet and savory options. But be prepared for food to come out oddly staggered (this is the price of tacos served tapas-style), and the well-made margaritas are sometimes slow to arrive. We start with breakfast nachos ($9), with tomato, jalapeno, queso fresco, and a chipotle-adobo hollandaise, which is reminiscent of orange queso dip. Did they run out of hollandaise and make a quick swap? No matter — we’re more than happy with the mess of house-fried chips and gooey topping. Huevos motulenos ($8), a tostada topped with chorizo, refried beans, salsa, queso fresco, and a sunny side up egg, would be a beautiful hangover cure, with or without a Red Michelada ($6) with smoked salt and ghost pepper.
Shrimp Benedict ($8) is decadent with that chipotle hollandaise (it really is hollandaise this time) and onion escabeche, and dainty enough that you can chase it with a breakfast sweet. Try a fried plantain split ($7) with a chocolate and pecan-covered scoop of vanilla ice cream, or the Day of the Dead-inspired pan de muerto ($4). The bread tastes like it might be a day old, but it is still quite delicious doused in the accompanying dulce de leche sauce. Or enjoy the sopapillas ($6), puff pastry with honey, cinnamon, and sugar that will take you back to the very best fried dough stand you ever visited at a county fair.
Despite a few hiccups, the little restaurant has all the ingredients of a great neighborhood hang: mostly good food, refreshing drinks, and an inviting atmosphere. Mi Casa? Tu Casa? There’s a reason so many from JP meet at Casa Verde.
711 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-477-9977, www.casaverdejp.com
All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible via back door.
Prices Tacos and snacks $2-$9. Tortas $8-$12. Sweets $3-$7.
Hours Mon-Fri 11:30 a.m.-midnight (limited menu after 10 p.m.). Sat-Sun brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner 5-10 p.m. (limited menu until midnight).
Liquor Beer, wine, cordials
What to order Shrimp taco, lamb al pastor taco, chicken wings, breakfast nachos, huevos motulenos, Gunsmoke margarita
Catherine Smart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.