A few months ago all of the Boston food and restaurant blogs started reporting that the owners of Davis Square's Posto were planning to open a Mexican restaurant a few store fronts away in the space formerly occupied by Gargoyles on the Square.
About three weeks ago the Posto crew opened their new baby, the Painted Burro ("burro" means donkey in Spanish). On Monday night I went with three of my favorite girls to check it out. This adventure combined three of my favorite things: trying a new restaurant, guacamole and tequila!
We arrived in Davis Square at 6:30pm. The Painted Burro has a sign that looks a bit like a biker tattoo. Perhaps one you'd get in Mexico?
I love the cartoon of the donkey on the front door.
When you walk in the first thing you see is the hostess stand. We asked the hostess how long the wait would be for four people and she said, "The earliest we can seat you is 7:30pm. If you want to sit in the bar, you are welcome to. We serve the full menu there too."
So we turned and walked toward the bar. When this space was Gargoyles, the bar was against the divider that separated the bar from the dining room. Now, as the Painted Burro, the bar is in the front window.
The light from the outside illuminates the rows and rows of tequila bottles.
We took a seat at a high top table in the bar area and decided to order drinks while we waited. Between the four of us there were three house margaritas and one strawberry.
The margaritas came in these super funky glasses that looked a bit like the rocks I once climbed through in Scottsdale, AZ. They were a perfect fit with the south of the border decor.
My strawberry margarita was wonderfully pink. It tasted just like the strawberry margarita at Border Cafe in Harvard Square.
While we sipped our drinks the waitress brought us a silver bucket of tortilla chips and a small dish of chunky, tomato salsa.
To me, the chips tasted stale. Despite that, I appreciated their fun, vertical presentation.
At about 7:20pm the hostess came over to let us know our table was ready. At this point, we were starting to feel the buzz and were ready to chow down.
The dining room decor at the Painted Burro is very sparse.
There isn't much need for art because the wood beams on the ceiling steal the show.
For those who dined at Gargoyles, that space was incredibly dark and cavernous. There was a heavy curtain separating the dining room from the bar and there were zero windows, so it felt like you were underground. I much prefer this bright, inviting space.
We were seated at a cozy table for four and our new waitress came over right away to see if we needed drinks. We sure did! She also handed us the festive menus.
The Painted Burro's menu is designed for sharing. We were excited to sample multiple dishes.
We started with the queso fundido with roasted shishito peppers. I was expecting a queso dip with peppers diced into the cheese, like the consistency of broccoli cheddar soup, but what arrived was a bowl coated in a medley of cheeses and topped with full size peppers.
The queso came with tortillas and our waitress explained that they encourage you to scoop the cheese and peppers into the tortilla and eat it like a burrito.
So we each made a small plate of cheese and peppers.
I have to admit, the peppers were tasteless, but the cheese was incredible! I could have eaten an entire bowl of just the cheese! The queso fundido comes in multiple flavors and next time I'd like to try the mushroom.
Next up was everyone's Mexican favorite - guacamole! This guacamole was so fresh and had the best lime flavor. Every bite had a burst of citrus. It was fantastic.
When we finished all of the chips, we moved onto to using the queso tortillas to scoop up every last bit of that guacamole.
Our third shared dish was the olive borrachos. In Spanish the word "borracho" means drunk. The olives are swimming in orange, oregano, chiltepes and mezcal and were 100 percent addicting. The olive marinade gets all over your fingers, but it's completely worth it.
For the main course we decided to split two kinds of tacos. Each taco plate comes with two servings. The two meat eaters in the group ordered the chorizo tacos.
The tacos came topped with a fried egg and a chipotle mayo. One of the girls raved that the chorizo was the best she'd ever had. She said, "This is definitely homemade. The meat is cooked perfectly, it's nice and spicy, there are onions in here and this over easy egg is . . . mmmm . . . eggs just make any dish better."
The two of us who are vegetarians agonized over which taco to order. There were two veggie choices - the zucchini and cactus taco or the ramp taco. Our waitress recommended the ramp and said it's only in season for a limited time, so we trusted her and braved a food neither of us had eaten before.
Let's just say this ramp was on the decline. Get it? A little ramp humor.
The ramp itself didn't really taste like anything and the ends of the ramp were too firm, like the ends of asparagus. I definitely wouldn't order this dish again.
During our dinner we saw the couple next to us get a gorgeous looking dessert so before we were even finished with our tacos we were already curious about what would be on the dessert menu.
After our dinner plates were cleared our waitress brought over the mini menus and we scrutinized every choice. We ultimately decided to split two dishes: the sweet corn ice cream and the chocolate mousse.
I'd never had sweet corn ice cream so I had no idea what to expect, but this ice cream was one of the best flavors I have ever tasted! I thought it tasted like a sweeter vanilla bean, but my friend said she thought it tasted like coffee. Either way, it was sublime and we licked that bowl clean.
The chocolate mousse came in an interesting presentation. At the bottom of the dish was a layer of cherry preserves, then came the mousse, then whipped cream and finally, a macaroon.
The chocolate mousse was dense and rich and we couldn't get enough! If you could dig all the way down to the cherry preserves, a bite of the cherry and chocolate together was bliss.
Who would have thought a Mexican place in Davis Square would have sensational desserts?
Our experience at the Painted Burro was a great one. The location is excellent, the bar scene is fun, the dining room is welcoming and the staff is incredibly well trained. We asked our waitress about at least ten dishes (and their ingredients) and she answered each time as if she had conceptualized and cooked the dishes herself. Though we disagreed with two of her recommendations (the shishito peppers and the ramp), she was kind, attentive and knowledgeable.
Our food and drinks were fantastic. The lime flavored guacamole, the drunken olives, the sweet corn ice cream and the chocolate mousse are all dishes I will return for again and again.
I am thrilled that the Painted Burro delivers the same high quality atmosphere, experience, food and drink as its older brother, Posto. Let's hope this family keeps expanding.
Visit the Painted Burro at 219 Elm Street in Somerville.