On a Friday night in St. Paul, Boca Chica was the place to be. We walked into a large crowd near the bar and people packed tables everywhere around us – groups of friends or large family gatherings consumed every possible space. Everyone must have heard the same great reviews we did about the food and margaritas. Luckily, we had a reservation.
The waiter led us through multiple dining areas to a back room with a fireplace and lights strung from the ceiling (could be late remnants of Christmas, but we’ll credit it to a Mexico-inspired environment). For what it was, the ambiance deserves a high rating when compared to Boca Chica’s peers. Though seats were filled, the place was extremely roomy and we never felt crowded or squished into our spot. Yet, at the same time, the room was cozy and warm. (Don’t accidentally hit up the Boca Chica taco house across the street – definitely a colder vibe… and a very different clientele).
Chips and salsa arrived: success! The chips were nicely smaller than others we’ve had, and the homemade salsa was delicious: quite spicy and full of chunky, fresh ingredients. But, it came in a dish small enough to hold ketchup or mayo. Needless to say, refills were requested. And, the award-winning house margaritas were good, but we had a hard time finding the tequila among all the ice. At $6.50 a pop, we’d recommend one, but not two – try something else to last you through dinner.
Boca Chica’s menu is large, ranging from soups and stews to breakfast and main dishes. But no ala carte? For us, that’s a tough sell – especially when all the entrees could feed a table of three. Instead, Jim got the Enchiladas de Mole platter, which came with a bowl of tomato/pasta soup (unique, but good, and incredibly warming), Spanish rice, and refried beans. The mole sauce created a unique flavor that standard enchiladas lack, while the beans and rice were par for the course.
I chose the Pick 2 option (note: the online menu pricing is quite out of date – it’s no longer 2 for $10). The chicken taco wrapped in soft yellow corn shells was delicious, but I didn’t touch the black bean/cheese burrito – it came stuffed with refried beans and little else. The side of black beans, though, was impressive. Unlike some joints that serve black beans in a thick sauce, these came in a little broth with bits of cilantro and chunks of white cheese. It was refreshing instead of heavy, and I felt (a little) less guilty about the other grease I was happily consuming.
Our service was ideal for the experience. The waiter was quick and stayed out of the way, yet friendly and conscious of our drinks. And aside from the stuffed bull above our table, the place seemed completely normal – not to mention outrageously popular. As long as traffic’s clear, we’d gladly trek back for some Latino/Tex-Mex comfort. And, who are we kidding … probably another margarita, too!
RATING (out of 5 ♠♠♠♠♠)
Menu Selection: ♠♠1/2
Food Taste & Presentation: ♠♠♠1/2
COMPLETE EXPERIENCE: ♠♠♠1/2
Total bill, including tip: $56