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Dive In: Forest Caf‚

Margarita Monday’s is the inspiration for this week’s “go-to” dive. As a Californian, my first meal in Cambridge was at Border Caf‚. And ever since that day, I have been in a desperate search for a Mexican restaurant. It has only taken me 4 weeks shy of the entire year to find one.

The obvious pick is Ol‚ in Inman Square. Their guacamole is unreal, but remember – I am writing “Dive In” – which means that you should be able to drink and dine for a reasonable price.

Forest Caf‚ is a shocking discovery just a short walk up Mass Ave towards Porter Square on the left. I use “shocking” because there is nothing about the name Forest that makes me think of Mexican, spicy, poblanos, or enchiladas…

Behind a rather plain storefront is a festive and inviting atmosphere with a long bar on one side and dark red walls and high booths on the other. The staff is friendly but inattentive. They immediately set your expectations for a relaxed (read: slow) dining experience with a seat yourself policy.

Don’t be concerned. Grab a table and order a margarita and some guacamole. If you are with friends, let everyone order a different margarita and have a tasting. I can personally attest that they actually do have different tastes – go for The Gold Rita.

Not only is their salsa thick and spicy, their chips are warm and salty, and their guacamole is homemade from real avocados. But the truly incredible part is that there is mole sauce on the menu. Yes, mole. Chocolate mole, spicy mole, regular mole…and the waitress will spend as much time with you as you like helping you pick an enchilada for your mole, or vice versa. Every enchilada dish, whether it is chicken, beef, crab, or some other nightly special, comes with rice and whole black beans. The lucky ones among you will find a couple of grilled plantains sitting among the feast.

Almost all of the entrees are around $12 each and the margaritas are between $4 and $7. Add on the guacamole and you probably aren’t getting out of Forest Cafe for under $30 a person (it is impossible to just have one of their margaritas.) Though these prices are more run-out than dive-in, the authenticity of this Mexican fare is worth the splurge for a Margarita Monday night.

After all, Tuesday is a two case day!

Forest Cafe
1682 Mass. Ave., Cambridge;
617-661-7810
Prices: Guacamole, appetizers $4-$9. Main plates $10-$16.
Hours: Dinner: Sun-Thurs 5-10 p.m., Fri-Sat 5-11 p.m.
Reservations for large parties.

April 25, 2005
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