Naco Taco, Chef Michael Scelfo’s second restaurant venture after Alden & Harlow, opened its doors in early March 2015 in Cambridge’s Central Square area near MIT. And it was an instant hit. (Edit 6/15: Michael Scelfo left Naco Taco in June 2015 – after getting the restaurant off the ground, he handed the reins over to Chefs Robert Preciado and Amanda Howell).
Naco arrived just in time for patio season, and because we’ve been hit with a heat wave in Boston lately (no complaints here!), we were grateful for Naco’s large outdoor seating area with shady umbrellas and ice cold drinks.
Seriously, there is no better way to cool down than with their white thai basil sangria. It’s a vacation buzz in a glass. Their drink menu focuses more on wine, beer, and sangria. Their micheladas are fun and definitely incorporate the ingredients used throughout the restaurant. We had a lot of pork here and we’re talking all different cuts of meat. First, we had the crispy pigs’ ear chilaquiles – it was amazing and surprised us a bit. The pig ears provided a nice, subtle crunch, resembling the traditional dish using fried tortillas. The flavor, however, was rich and fatty and reminded us of our beloved pork belly. You don’t need to be an adventurous eater to order this, because it is simply delicious finger food.
We started with two salsas and chips – you could order a sample all eight of their salsas, but we were happy with two: the pumpkin and the pineapple. The pumpkin sikil pak, essentially a pumpkin seed dip, was thick, rich, and hearty. The burnt pineapple salsa, on the other hand, was refreshing and the perfect summer salsa. Both were great, but we’re excited to try new salsas on our next visit.
The tacos are small – we finished them in only three to four bites, but they could totally be downed in just two. This is a good thing, because it means you can order a lot more and keep your taste buds guessing.
The torched avocado taco was surprising – the smoked almond salsa was definitely smokey, and everything melded together well to create a very satisfying few bites.
The chicken taco was the favorite, though: with delicious crispy yet meaty braised chicken thighs, plenty of cotija cheese, and fermented kale, this one had stellar texture and flavor. You’ll be wanting more than one.
The pork taco, al pastor, was a close second: garnished with the familiar and refreshing pineapple slaw, it embodied the spirit of summer. It’s simple, but packs a lot of flavor. Also, don’t forget to try the green sauce with all your food. It is divine.
The last taco, the steak taco, did not disappoint either – it came dressed with carrot salsa and chile sauce. Although it wasn’t the standout of the bunch, it was a solid taco and deserves an honorable mention.Onto the finale: a giant pig’s head sandwich. Did we mention we ate a lot of pork? Don’t be alarmed, it’s just a pork sandwich. From a pig’s head. The cabeza ahogada (meaning “drowned head”) is a large sandwich made with pork, applewood bacon, avocado, and tomatillo crema sitting in a chile broth. This will definitely fill all your hungry thoughts. It’s a bit spicy, a wee smoky, and a lot of WOW!Even though they just opened recently, service operated smoothly and everyone we encountered was helpful, knowledgeable, and super friendly.This place is very young and the crowd reflects that. It’s a great place to stop by if you’re planning impromptu drinks and small bites. New Englanders, take advantage of the outdoor seating because summer is here and this is the place to be seen sipping your beer and downing your tacos.
Starting this week, Naco Taco opens at 11am every day, and they dish out tacos until 11pm Sunday to Wednesday, and until midnight Thursday to Saturday. Check them out here.