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State Park, Chilacates, Amuleto Mexican Table: Reviewed

A menu overhaul and a look into Greater Boston's Mexican cuisine.

State Park signage
State Park signage

State Park is on the rise, according to The Boston Globe's Devra First in her review of the Kendall Square eatery, which first opened in 2013 as a sister bar to Hungry Mother, which is now closed after seven years in operation.

Even without its sister, State Park is "better than ever," First writes. Chef and co-owner Tyler Sundet reworked the menu, making it feel "like less of a scene, more of a restaurant," First says.

Lunch acquired some old favorites — tobacco onions and barbecue spaghetti with garlic bread — and dinner took on an elegant feel. Pickled eggs, buttermilk biscuits, and fried pork ribs balance with a light smoked fish dip and "composed salads."

"But State Park's Arctic char is one of the nicest fish dishes I've had of late — perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked," First says. "It's reminiscent of, and as good as anything at, Hungry Mother. Stealing the show: the hot fried chicken, flavored with ghost chilies and other spices, and worth every painful bite, First finds.

On the beverage site, State Park offers a range of beers and cocktails (some in pitcher and mini-pitcher sizes), plus wine and dessert, which "both seem a bit beside the point, but are here for those who want them," First says. Overall, the restaurant "is as much fun as ever."

At Chilacates in Jamaica Plain, the Improper Bostonian's MC Slim JB finds real, accessible Mexican food. He bemoans the bachelorette swanky, tequila-based vibes frequently found at upscale Mexican cuisine restaurants and applauds the relief available at Chilacates for everyday prices.

Using tacos al pastor as an indicator, Slim says, "these might be the tastiest tacos in the city at any price, full stop." The "crisp-edged pork" and grilled pineapple in the tacos meld with house-made corn tortillas and invite a dollop of what Slim calls "fabulous" fresh salsa.

Other taco options include carne asada, shredded chicken, slow-braised pork, beef tongue, and a seasonal vegetable selection.

Also on the dinner menu: quesadillas, tortas, and burritos, available with the same taco fillings, plus some side options.

"Chilacates does an excellent version of the street-food staple that is elotes," Slim writes. Customers can pair their meal with Jarritos sodas or housemade horchata. Despite its tight space inside, Slim says, "Chilacates feels like a godsend."

In Waltham, Amuleto Mexican Table charms in a space with a history of Mexican cuisine, according to Devra First. "Some of the restaurant's main dishes would be at home in any upscale bistro,"  she finds, "but the food works within tradition rather than exploding it. It is current, clean, and bright."

The restaurant's chunky guacamole is a hit, despite less-than-stellar tortillas (some soggy), and "the best part of starting a meal at Amuleto might be the complimentary dish of vegetable escabeche," which First finds refreshing.

She says the two octopus dishes are standouts, camarones a la diabla — with its shrimp, warm chipotle sauce, and bright lime rice — is balanced, and the house-made corn tortillas for the tacos leave you wanting more.

"Balance can be elusive," First says, noting the "beautifully grilled piece of salmon" served with pineapple and tomatillo, where "the pineapple isn't sweet enough to meet the tart tomatillos halfway." The pork tenderloin alone lacks "oomph," and she finds the chicken in the enchiladas dry.

The frozen margarita is a "surprise winner," and Amuleto delivers "warm hospitality and good taste."

State Park

15 Hampshire Street, , MA 02139 (617) 848-4355 Visit Website

Chilacates (Amory Street - JP)

224 Amory St, , MA 02130 (617) 522-6000 Visit Website

Amuleto Mexican Table

, Waltham, MA (781) 893-1389