IN THE KITCHEN Helen Aguirre, her husband, and their children used to frequent an ice cream shop in a Natick plaza only five minutes from their home. When the space became available, Aguirre, a nurse who hails from western Belize’s Cayo district and has lived in the United States for 19 years, realized she wanted to open a restaurant there. “We just love fresh food and thought it was a good idea,” she said.
Baha Mexican Restaurant opened in April 2017 and is “a source of pride for the kids. Their friends come in with their families,” said Aguirre, the owner. “It’s more than just a restaurant.”
THE LOCALE The restaurant is located at the intersection of Speen and Mill streets in Natick. The bright, simple space is cheerfully decorated with Mexican artwork and adornments. Diners order their meals at the counter overlooking the open kitchen and are served at their tables. Upon sitting down near some hungry high schoolers, we were presented with a basket of toasty chips and pleasantly piquant salsa.
ON THE MENU A colorful menu board on one wall details a long list of Mexican and Central American delights. Some are the standards one might expect: nachos, quesadillas, and flautas are all prominently featured, as are chimichangas, tamales, and enchiladas ($9 to $15). But the menu also takes some interesting curves.
Take the humble burrito: Surely, it’s delicious on its own, stuffed with seasoned rice, beans, pico de gallo, cheese, lettuce, sour cream, and your choice of meat (we selected grilled chicken, $9) or vegetables. But do as we did and take the menu’s guidance to “make it a wet burrito mojado” (for an extra $1.49). Our mouths were agape when the plate arrived at the table, the enormous burrito smothered in browned, bubbly cheese and drenched in a delicious, smoky, spicy mole sauce blending nuts, chocolate, cinnamon, and a number of other ingredients into a complex, luxurious coating. (Other “wet” sauces include red, green, and chipotle-based). It provided not only a delicious, filling meal at the restaurant but ample leftovers for later.
Street tacos ($3 to $4) make up the heart of the menu, and with good reason. Lovingly wrapped in a double layer of corn tortillas (hard shells are available as well), they overflow with fillings, including our selected lineup of carne asada, carnitas, and al pastor, as well as chorizo, fish, shrimp, and chicken. For toppings, diners can choose between onions and cilantro, or lettuce, pico de gallo, and guacamole — either a winner in our book.
As good as the burritos and tacos are, also consider branching out into the kind of fare that’s not necessarily standard at smaller spots like this. The variety is especially pronounced in the appetizers — and, as with the rest of the menu, prices are reasonable enough to sample several. Baha fries ($9 to $11) are loaded up with cheese, sour cream, and salsa and can be topped with chicken, al pastor, or steak. Ceviche-style shrimp ($13) is marinated in a pico-laced sauce. Elote loco ($5), a classic Mexican street food, is corn-on-the-cob slathered with mayonnaise and dusted with cheese and chili powder. Pupusas ($3), a Salvadoran specialty, are grilled corn tortillas stuffed with pork, cheese, or loroco, an edible flower. For a taste of the owner’s native Belize, try the salbute ($3.50), a seasoned corn tortilla topped with shredded chicken and cabbage.
Aguirre said she is especially grateful for the support she has received from family, friends, and neighbors in getting the restaurant off the ground. “I’m so glad I live in this community. Everyone has been so supportive,” she said.
Baha Mexican Restaurant, 2 Mill St., Natick, 508-655-2242, www.bahamexican.com.
Rachel Lebeaux can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.