by Adam Wong ’17
There’s a new contender in the late night food game. El Jefe’s, the new restaurant on Mt. Auburn Street, seeks to get in on the market of the late night drunchies game, taking up the same hours as Tasty Burger, the hegemon of 3AM post party sustenance. We were hungry, so we went to check it out.
When we went in late one Wednesday night (Thursday morning for you damn literalists) we were greeted by a warm atmosphere, a busy kitchen, and decor that suggested Havana or Tijuana. Painted exposed concrete, old finished tables and decorative flor Cholula tiles relaxed us, and got us in the mood for some casual Mexican food.
We ordered ourselves the 3 taco package and a burrito, ringing in at $6.50 and $7.00, respectively. In the tacos we got Carne Molida Picante (a kind of spicy ground beef), Chorizo, and shrimp. In the burrito, you know we had to load it up with our old standby, Carnitas. We did get served out of Pyrex glass dishes that your mom uses to make meatloaf, but we were told it was interim stuff until their new equipment arrives. Regardless, the stuff waiting for us in the Pyrex was quality. The options are quickly refreshed from the stove and grill just behind the line, which is impressive, considering the amount of goodies you could slam down on your tortilla. Perfectly (and we do mean perfectly) cooked Mexican or lime rice, pork pinto beans, roasted veggies, plantains, and some bangin’ guac can be added to any one of your creations at no extra cost. Forever the arbiters of thrift, we could never consider getting every extra possible, until we found this place. You’d have to be crazy to put plantains AND guac in your burrito, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. You do you, man.
We sat down and got eating. The carnitas was fatty and sweet, reminiscent of some of the Mexican food closer to the border back home in California. The shrimp taco, with simple lettuce, cheese, and pico de gallo toppings, was awesome. The shrimp was al dente, and was deliciously shrimpy. The chorizo, instead of being served as ground spiced meat, was fried, slightly crispy slices. I could get more of the spicy fatty pork into my mouth and really taste the red chiles that gives the sausage its distinctive red color. We were surprised when we found the spicy ground beef taco to be our favorite. Though visually reminiscent of elementary school lunch, the taste is on a whole other tier, and strong enough to hit your taste buds through the deepest inebriation.
One of our top discoveries was the salsa verde. A common sight in Mexican restaurants across the country, the thinnish, forest green sauce found here is anything but common. It is peppery, hot, flavorful, and so good, we would name our kid after it. Looking for an excuse to eat more of it, we ordered a steak quesadilla (only 5 buccaroonies) where another pleasant surprise jumped out at us. The steak… was GOOOOD. Peppery and tender, the steak was right at home in the extra cheesy quesadilla, and just peachy in the salsa verde.
Being a new and small establishment, El Jefe’s seriously takes in community input. In fact, community input is built into the organization of the restaurant in the Picante bar. A huge wall of dozens of different sauces to spice up your night, the Picante bar can be expanded with hot sauces of your own choosing. With this kind of responsibility, El Jefe’s gives us at Harvard the opportunity to make it a real home of ours.
El Jefe’s in the square is a huge move. Though its grub was not as good as Felipe’s, it is a different genre of Mexican food, and brings with it different benefits to the table. El Jefe’s has got yummy food, lots of it, and late. While fools be standing in line at Tasty Burger for an hour while waiting for 2 small burgers costing them an exorbitant ten dollars, I at least will be skipping round the corner and getting my money’s worth at el Jefe’s, the new boss of “why am I awake” dining.