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Cheap Eats

Spicy and true to its Mexican menu

Lara Hocheiser (left) and her sister, Jen, enjoy dinner at the new La Carreta in Framingham. Lara Hocheiser (left) and her sister, Jen, enjoy dinner at the new La Carreta in Framingham. (Michele McDonald for The Boston Globe)
By Kathleen Burge
Globe Staff / April 27, 2011

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Before the brick building near the Post Office on Cochituate Road in Framingham began serving Mexican food, it was one more Bickford’s, a towering sign out front, breakfast served all day. Walking into La Carreta, past another large sign and a wooden wagon, still feels like entering a chain restaurant. La Carreta has three New Hampshire restaurants.

So it’s a happy surprise to find that this new Mexican spot serves fresh and original food.

“Hola!’’ says a waitress as we enter for lunch. The owners renovated the restaurant into a warm dining room, with tile floors, earthy colors, deep blue chairs, and hanging lamps. One end of the restaurant is devoted to a sprawling bar with big-screen TVs and 83 kinds of tequila. On weekend nights, a mariachi band serenades diners and drinkers. The restaurant displays a whimsical touch: One day at lunch, servers congregate around a table of women celebrating a birthday. As one of them slips a sombrero onto the head of the birthday girl, whose blush can be seen across the room, the group breaks into a rousing Mexican song.

Once we are seated, our server brings tortilla chips and salsa. The chips are warm and the salsa is served in a small carafe. The restaurant does not cater to palates adverse to spice — the salsa has a kick. We order a side of guacamole ($4.95), which has been freshly made but needs salt.

Enchiladas poblanos ($9.75 for a lunch portion), with homemade corn tortillas, are one of our favorite entrees. The mole is dark and rich, slightly sweet, and the dish arrives warm. There’s nothing wrong with the Veracruz plate ($9.99), with grilled shrimp, vegetables, tortillas, and rice and beans, but there’s nothing memorable about it, either. A side of rice and beans arrives with some entrees and we like the slices of onion added to the beans.

Grande burrito ($13.85) lives up to its name, huge and packed with chicken, rice, and beans. The burrito is covered with salsa and a thin layer of melted cheese; although the menu describes it as “smothered’’ in cheese, we are glad it is not. Arroz con pollo de Mama ($16.99) is an interesting twist on the common dish, with cubes of sauteed chicken mixed in with the rice, peppers, asparagus, and the largest green pimento-stuffed olives you have ever seen.

Grilled fish tacos ($16.99) are made with strips of grilled mahi mahi and a tart red cabbage. The chipotle sauce keeps them from being bland.

La Carreta offers a dozen combination plates for lunch — tacos, burritos, chili rellenos, enchiladas, quesadillas — and even more for dinner. It gives us a chance to get to know what this new restaurant does best. Many things, we decide.

Correction: Because of incorrect information supplied to a writer, the telephone number in an earlier version of this review was incorrect. The telephone is 508-424-2535.

Kathleen Burge can be reached at kburge@globe.com.

LA CARRETA

270 Cochituate Road, Framingham, 508-424-2535. All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.

PRICES Appetizers $4.95-$9.95. Lunch specials $7.25-$10. Entrees $12.99-$26.95.

HOURS Mon-Sun 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

LIQUOR Full bar.

MAY WE SUGGEST Enchiladas poblanos, arroz con pollo de Mama, fish tacos, grande burrito.

Ratings

  • 4 Stars Extraordinary
  • 3 Stars Excellent
  • 2 Stars Good
  • 1 Star Fair
  • No Stars Poor