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Barra augachile
Photograph: Courtesy Barra

What to eat in Boston: Green aguachile from Barra

Refreshing and bright, this authentic Mexican dish is sublime for summertime

Olivia Vanni
Written by
Olivia Vanni

Somerville’s Union Square is a beautiful, bustling mess of bikers, pedestrians and the cars that are trying so hard to avoid them both. It’s no secret that amidst all of this colorful chaos and commotion, you’ll find some of the best restaurants offering exactly what you want to eat in the Boston area—and that includes Barra.

Barra is aptly named, mostly because this restaurant is so small that it can only fit a bar inside (besides its kitchen). Since the pandemic, this exceptional Mexican eatery has carved out charmingly quirky nooks and crannies, like a back patio only accessible by narrow alleyway, just to accommodate the packs of patrons who eagerly enter to eat its authentic fare. 

Like just most Mexican places in town, Barra offers some of the typical items we’ve all come to expect whenever we eat this cuisine, such as the ubiquitous chips and guac, and obviously, tacos. But, for us, the real standout here is a plate that you’ll likely not find at your corner joint—and that would be its aguachile.

Aguachile is a customary dish consisting of uncooked fish or shrimp, marinated in lime juice and punched up with peppers. Similar in technique to the ceviches of Central and South America, as well as some forms of carpaccio that you’d see in Italy, aguachile relies on acidity—not heat—to gently cook these raw proteins. The end result: tender, luscious pieces of seafood drenched in a bright explosion of flavor.

Barra’s menu boasts a couple of different aguachiles, but we often opt for the green variety, where raw shrimp is doused in freshly squeezed lime juice (and a whole lot of it). With the addition of thin slices of cucumber and red onion, this dish features a welcomed, crunchy textural contrast to the soft soft pieces of shrimp. It’s flecked with cilantro for a touch of herbaceousness, as well as serrano and chiltepín chilis, which offer a slow and mild heat that beautifully balances out the strong, acidic citrus notes. Homemade tostadas come on the side as an invitation to pile the aguachile on top and take a big, crispy bite.  

This green aguachile screams summertime, when the sweltering heat and oppressive humidity call for consuming cold, refreshing food. To complement those apparent citrus notes, aguachile can be perfectly paired with any number of Barra’s tequila- and mezcal-based cocktails. We personally went for the spicy paloma (more citrus means more spice), but we’d also suggest: the traditional margarita with a chapulines rim (the salty savoriness from the seasoned grasshoppers makes the dish sing); the clamachela, which combines house-made clamato juice and a can of clean and crisp Mexican lager, to play up the seafood component; or a simple flight of straight mezcal to let you compare each bite against three different kinds of this smokey, agave elixir of the gods. 

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