A tale of two tacos leaves us asking, Mexi-Can I?

by Beacon Staff • December 10, 2008

Emerson students won't have to face a trek across the Rio Grande to get good Mexican food. Instead they can make the much quicker trip across Tremont Street or down Boylston Street. Boloco Inspired Burritos and Maria's Taqueria each provide a different take on the tortilla wrapped flavors right in Emerson's neck of the neighborhood.

Maria's Taqueria, located on Tremont Street across from the Cutler Majestic Theatre and Little Building, offers Emerson students avoiding the Dining Hall a spicier menu.

The menu includes Maria's 10 or 12-inch burritos, tacos, quesadillas and tortas in addition to full plates with your choice of the basic meats. The platter options also offer rice and beans.

The salsa, ground out of roasted tomatoes and chili peppers, is a little sweet, but will give any scoville (a measurement of spiciness) junkie his fix. A lunch with a burrito, three tacos or just the plain dinner will run a bit over six dollars.

The locale boasts six two-person booths for the more intimate taco trysts and a four-seater for larger parties. The few seats serve the eatery well since the customers often take their food to go.

A local of Boston, Malik Underwood was visiting Maria's for the second time and brought along a friend. He said the taqueria compares greatly to any sit down restaurant.

"I was walking by the place when it was under construction and I got really excited because I am a big fan of burritos," Underwood said. "I told [my friend] Rosemary to put down that egg roll she was going to eat and come try this place."

The service is quick and efficient. An order is placed at the back of the store with the cashier while the worker starts putting together the order in a salad bar setup.

Providing good space and the blessing of burritos, Maria's Taqueria is perfect for any Emersonian looking to catch a quick bite or relaxing moment during finals between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

But for students who find crossing Tremont Street too tedious, Boloco Inspired Burritos will open on Dec. 12 further down Boylston Street The manager, Jason Clay, said they will offer free burritos to anyone with an Emerson ID from 5 to 8 p.m on Dec. 11 as a warm-up.

"The menu is sensible, not trying to be hip," Clay said. "Naturally raised meat and corn-based cups, which are recyclable."

The burrito variety starts with traditional Mexican flavors, but also offers tastes from other parts of the world, such as the buffalo chicken, teriyaki, tofu and the new Yucatan Burrito with habanera flavor and pickled onions. All burritos start off at $5.50, fully loaded with vegetables and a choice of meat. A large is one dollar more.

"Now that natural products are cheaper, we are serving nicer meat that you can find in restaurants for high prices in your burrito for much cheaper," said Michael Harder, the president and CEO of Boloco.

What makes Boloco different from other restaurants that claim to be green, is that the grub here is certified by third party organizations like Coleman's Natural Foods, whose animal-raising protocols surpass standards set by the USDA according to its Web site.

"The FDA calls any meat that hasn't had coloring or chemicals added to change their flavor, meat," said Harder. "But we want evidence to know that the meat is green, how the cow was raised, whether antibiotics were used or not."

This particular branch is the 15th in Boston from the company based in Berkley Mass, and within a few days, there will be another opening off of School Street near Downtown Crossing. The inside, Clay said will feature organic painted walls and paperstone tables, crafted from recycled paper and resin.

Harder said this environmentally friendly spot offers many nutritional choices, and a size option for their price standardized burritos. Each burrito starts off with a larger assortment of vegetables than the traditional burrito with the option of whole-wheat tortillas and brown rice.

"Real food means it's not chemicals made to look like food," said Harder. "No scripts for our workers so that you're talking to a real person and real things to make the atmosphere, wood and recycled materials."