Every Thursday night I have dinner with one of my best friends from college (11 years running) and this week we were feeling adventurous. Determined to try somewhere new, we scoured the web for a spot that not only looked delicious, but where we could park easily. I don't know about you, but I can't stand circling for parking or overpaying for a garage. The worst!
We decided on Casa Verde in Jamaica Plain, which is owned by the same team that runs Tres Gatos, a Galler family favorite. My grandparents have lived in Jamaica Plain since I was four years old, so I've done a lot of dining out in that neighborhood - Canary Square, City Feed, Centre Street Cafe, The Haven, The Real Deal, Vee Vee, Monumental Cupcakes and more.
Casa Verde is located on Centre Street, directly across from Boomerangs. If you aren't familiar with the neighborhood, the best place to park is in the giant lot behind Blanchard's. It's two-hour free parking.
As we strolled up, the chalkboard out front advertised tacos and tequila. Sign me up!
We had made a reservation through the Reserve app, which is awesome. Rather than call you to confirm your reservation during the work day, they simply text and you reply back with "1" if you're still on or a "2" to cancel. Easy peasy!
When we arrived, our table was ready with a "reserved" sign on it. We were seated at a high top next to the bar, right in the heart of the action.
I had already peeked at the menu online, but was excited to review all the offerings.
I have to admit, I was a bit bummed that the online menu didn't match the current menu. I was psyched for a brussels sprouts taco that is no longer on the menu.
My dinner date and I were chuckling at all the creative cocktail names - Ghost Face Killah, Witch Doctor, Lunch Box.
I decided to order the Vera Cruz, a classic margarita. When I studied abroad in Spain we had a favorite Mexican restaurant in our neighborhood called Vera Cruz. Just saying the drink name out loud flooded me with happy memories.
My friend chose the Aztec Paintbrush, which was vodka, guava, lime and peychaud's bitters, garnished with a fresh sprig of rosemary.
After a few sips, she shared, "This drink is so delicious. It has a nice guava flavor, without being too sweet. It's super refreshing."
We both arrived hungry, so we knew we wanted to share a few starters. Worried that chips and guacamole might fill us up too quickly, we opted for lighter fare. She began with a bowl of the spicy watermelon gazpacho. The soup had that bright pink color you expect from a watermelon, dotted with torn cilantro.
She took a few spoonfuls and then said, "I wanted this to have a strong watermelon flavor, but it really doesn't. The soup is very spicy and is much more savory than I was expecting."
Next we shared the elote, better known as Mexican street corn. I usual avoid corn at all costs (I hate the way it gets stuck in your teeth) but when it's slathered in cheese, it's tough to resist.
I have always thought the best street corn is at Lone Star Taco Bar, but Casa Verde's rendition may knock it out of the number one spot! These ears of corn were grilled to have the perfect level of char, topped with cotija cheese, a cilantro aioli, chili and lime. The cilantro aioli was so creamy and delicious that we used our forks to scoop up every last drop on the plate.
I have flossed twice since this dinner last night and I am pretty sure there is still some corn in there. It was worth it.
For the main course, my friend decided to try two tacos. The first to arrive was the crispy yuca with kale, chipotle aioli, cilantro and crema.
Once that taco disappeared she raved, "This was amazing! The yuca was not overly fried or too greasy. It tasted light. The kale was also really tasty. Next time I am going to order four of these!"
She also sampled the shrimp a la diabla, which was chili marinated shrimp, cabbage, salsa verde, cilantro and crema.
When I asked how she enjoyed the second taco, she replied, "I definitely should have eaten this taco first, because while I was enjoying the yuca taco, this tortilla got very soggy. That aside, it had a really nice, vinegary slaw." She also noted, "I thought the shrimp would be extra spicy, but they really weren't. If people are worried about it being too hot, it's not."
For my entree, I decided on the chipotle cauliflower torta with chili lime fries.
My issue was tortas is that the bread to goodies ratio is usually off (too much bread). The Casa Verde torta had just the right amount of bread and was packed with tasty veggies. The cauliflower was joined by avocado and peppers.
For me, the star of the dish was actually the chili lime fries! They were expertly crisped and had a great smoky flavor to them. You can get them as an appetizer topped with cheese sauce or chorizo (and you should).
When our dinner plates were cleared, our waiter asked if we'd like to have any dessert. Before I tell you what we got, I have another bone to pick with the Casa Verde online menu. On the website, it says the desserts are a tres leches bread pudding or sopapillas, a classic Mexican dessert of fried pastry. In actuality, the desserts are choco tacos (WAY BETTER) and fried plantains with dulce de leche. Casa Verde, if you can hear me, please keep your online menu current!
Of course we each ordered a choco taco. I have so many childhood memories of ordering this frozen treat from the ice cream truck at Nantasket Beach and enjoying it while vanilla ice cream dripped down my hand and chocolate smudged all over my face.
The Casa Verde version is a bit more grownup - a house made waffle cone shell, vanilla ice cream, canela chocolate sauce and chili dusted almonds.
To say we loved these would be an understatement. The shell tasted like a Pizzelle cookie. The ice cream was the perfect level of frozen (not melty, not hard to bite into). The chocolate sauce had a bitterness to it that helped tone down the sweetness of the dish and the almonds added a festive topping and welcomed crunch.
We both agreed we would have been even more obsessed with the dessert if it had a salted caramel sauce on the side for dipping. My friend also suggested, "To continue the taco theme, they could have a dish of whipped cream on the side to mimic sour cream."
Overall, we had a blast at Casa Verde. In addition to the refreshing drinks and the tasty food, they were playing Motown jams all night that had us dancing in our seats. We bopped to Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Ritchie, the Jackson 5 and more.
As we walked out, we turned to each other and said, "Let's definitely come back."