Latin American food is hard to come by in Boston. Back home, a traditional Mexican meal is only minutes away by simple request. Unfortunately, I’m typically the only “Latino” in half-mile radius at any given time. As a result, my options for any cuisine vaguely having to do with Latin American are slim at best. In my angst, I began searching for some Latin American food in the area aside from Chipotle. White people burritos weren’t going to do the trick. I eventually came across Don Ricardo’s located in the South End and gathered my eating companions for our next adventure.
Don Ricardo’s is nestled in a side street off of the South End’s famous “Restaurant Row.” Don Ricardo’s is a little cramped, a little dated, but has a cozy family feel. We were actually greeted and sat by Ricardo himself. He and his wife took care of us throughout the meal; it was easily some of the best service I’ve had while eating out in Boston. Granted, I had no idea what they were saying half the time due to my incapacity to speak Spanish. But their warm smiles and eccentric passion for food alone made the dining experience worth it.
But onto more important matters: the food. In a fit of irrationality, I ordered paella for $18. A huge leap for a cheap bastard like myself. For those of you who might not know, Paella is a traditional Spanish dish served with yellow rice, chicken, squid, muscles, and lobster (my very first)! My friend Jacob had a Peruvian linguini (think the texture of pasta but the taste and spices of a mild salsa), while my friends Adrienne and Melinda ordered a traditional Peruvian lamb dish and a standard grilled shrimp platter. Naturally, we did this family style so we could share in the Latin American goodness as much as possible.
The shrimp was good, juicy but nothing special. Adrienne’s lamb dish was well prepared. Not chewy, and surprisingly tender considering the thick cut of the meat. The linguini was interesting but I can’t say it was particularly memorable. That may because of my predisposition to Italian pasta and the corresponding tastes I usually associate with linguini. Regardless, it wasn’t my thing. I did however, enjoy my paella. The yellow rice was fantastic and absorbed the flavors of the chicken and squid quite well. I loved the muscles; rich in flavor and it came right off the shell. My lobster experience was more of battle between the lobster and I, though I think the lobster won. If I knew the meat was that hard to get out, I would have bought lobster ravioli from Trader Joe’s. But in all honesty, I did enjoy the lobster. I wouldn’t say I’m crazy about taste (the consistency was perfect but the flavor was nothing special) I would certainly have it again despite my shell cracking “issues.”
In addition to the food, my [lush bag] friends ordered two pitchers of sangria. Since I don’t drink, I can’t attest to the taste of the sangria personally. But from what they told me, it was less fruity, with a stronger wine flavor than sangrias they’ve had in the past. They seemed to enjoy it and at $17 it made a fun addition to the main dishes. All in all, we really enjoyed our Don Ricardo’s experience. The food was by no means out of this world. But if you want some relatively cheap and authentic Latin American eats, Don Ricardo is your man. Plus, who wouldn’t want to be served by the cutest abuelo/abuela pairing this side of the equator?
You can check out Don Ricardo’s yourself at:
57 West Dedham Street
Boston, MA 02118-1636