If you had the choice between a juicy, half-pound, fresh-ground sirloin burger and a Big Mac, I would really hope you’d choose the first. I think of burritos in these same terms. Why would you ever choose Chipotle or Q’doba when you could have Anna’s or Felipe’s? These preferred establishments have a certain quality of authenticity that a chain like Chipotle can’t even stand up to. Generally, a huge sirloin burger is a bit more expensive than a greasy patty from McDonalds, but when it comes to burritos in Boston, authenticity does not have to be costly.
If you walk into a Felipe’s or Anna’s, which are both quite similar, you will be overwhelmed by Mexican legitimacy in everything from the tiled tables to the people working behind the counter. Of all the times I’ve been to either of these places, I’ve never seen someone working who was anything other than Hispanic. A quality of realness is added to the dining experience as you listen to their Spanish conversation, blended in with the Spanish music that pours out of overhead speakers. All of the menu items are authentic, offering everything from carnitas (traditional Mexican roast pork) to homemade horchata (traditional Mexican milk and almond drink).
When you walk up to order, you basically just tell the guy what you want. You can customize anything that you order by telling the preparer what you would like on or in your dish. If you’re daring and have a decent Spanish vocabulary, they will be amused if you order in Spanish (especially if you’re white). Both restaurants are cafeteria style, so there are no waiters and waitresses. The menus include burritos, quesadillas, tacos, and various Mexican plates and sides. My usual order at Felipe’s is a chicken burrito. I have it made with cheese, chicken, rice, beans, salsa, lettuce, and sour cream. It ends up costing me less than $6 and it is definitely filling. If I were to order a burrito at Q’doba or Chipotle, it would be at least a dollar more and a lot less delicious.
Felipe’s is a “cash only” establishment, so make sure you hit the ATM before you go. Anna’s has recently begun to accept credit and debit cards, so it’s no problem there. Felipe’s is located in The Garage in Harvard Square, and Anna’s six locations include Charles MGH and MIT. The rest are listed on their website (www.annastaqueria.com). If you’re hungry and low on cash, sink your teeth into an authentic Mexican burrito from either of these excellent spots.