Lone Star Taco Bar embodies the best of Allston, a Boston neighborhood that I have complicated feelings about. The small Tex-Mex restaurant is affordable without being cheap, desirable without being fancy, urban-trendy with an effortlessly hip vibe that usually annoys me, but in this case I find justified by the awesome food. Most of the diners appear to fit squarely into the 20-something college-kid crowd that overwhelms the ever-gentrifying neighborhood, yet thankfully, the obnoxiously loud partiers don’t represent. And even in the parking desert that is Allston and Brighton, I have *always* been able to snag that very last parking space nearby, which is a sign from above that I am supposed to be eating this food.
The Lone Star team has opened a second location in East Cambridge to positive reviews. I can’t vouch for that particular location since I haven’t been. But I can vouch for Deep Ellum, Lone Star’s sibling restaurant, located next door to its Allston location. (If you ask, the Deep Ellum bartenders will get creative with the ginger syrup and make you a splendid mocktail so you can fit in while your Globe coworkers drink and gripe about the state of journalism.)
But I digress.
First on your agenda at Lone Star should be grilled “street corn” i.e. corn-on-the-cob made magical. For Lone Star’s take on the Mexican street food known as elote, sweetcorn is heaped with chili-lime aioli and dusted with a handful of cotija, a salty, crumbly Mexican cheese. At three sizable half-cobs, this serves three people nicely for appetizers.
I have not found a way to eat the street corn without getting the tangy-spicy-unctuous aioli all over my fingers and face, but some foods are worth getting messy for. This is one of them. (Mei Mei’s Double Awesome is another, but that’s a whole separate blog post.) And I will admit that sometimes, after I have devoured every last kernel of corn from the cob, I just take a spoonful of whatever aioli remains and eat it straight.
Lone Star serves brunch every day until 4 p.m. While not quite as awesome as serving brunch all-day-every-day, I think we can all agree that this is still awesome.
The jalapeño corncakes come with butter and real maple syrup. (It’s a shame that I have to specify real vs. fake for maple syrup, but many a restaurant has ruined an otherwise pleasant breakfast with maple-ish sludge, so I try to give credit where credit is due.) There is a little inconsistency in the pancakes—some bites are much spicier than others—but if you’re okay with that element of surprise, these are a great option to get your breakfast carb fix. They’re not too light and not too dense.
As good as the appetizers are, the tacos are where it’s at—true to the restaurant’s name—and more than reasonably priced for the quality. The carnitas (confit pork) is perfection: tender but slightly crispy. The Baja fish taco is a close second for me, topped with sweet-and-spicy mango-chili aioli and pickled cabbage that adds a hint of vinegar.
I didn’t realize that the nachos don’t come with meat unless you ask, so I improvised by dumping the excess braised chicken from the tostada onto the nachos. The result is a hot and delicious mess.
There is a single dessert on the menu: flan. I’m not a huge fan of flan in general, so I’d probably opt to stuff myself with another taco (CARNITAS PLEASE), but I think any flan enthusiast quite enjoy this as a finale.
I haven’t been to Texas or Mexico, so I can’t speak to the authenticity of Lone Star Taco Bar’s Tex-Mex cuisine. However, I’ve eaten my weight in Tex-Mex food in the Boston area a dozen times over, and so I think I have some standing to say that Lone Star Taco Bar really is special. Apartment listings in Allston should list their proximity to this restaurant. In a neighborhood known for affordable food, it stands out for quality.
INFORMATION as of December 2016
Address & Phone — Allston
479 Cambridge St.
Boston, MA 02134
Address & Phone — Cambridge
635 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA 02141