Tacos El Barbon is bringing authentic Jalisco street food to a city that is in dire need of real-deal Mexican. Recently, we sat down with Ramon– the big beard behind El Barbon!
COVID-19 has been a death sentence for many in the restaurant industry, but Ramon has been using this time as an opportunity to follow a passion. For years, Ramon was just an at-home chef cooking for his family and friends. Every time he cooked he would get the same question, “When are you going to open a restaurant of your own?”
Ramon noticed a gaping hole in Boston’s culinary scene, the lack of a true authentic Mexican taqueria. He was frequently hearing from his friends in California about real authentic taco trucks on every street corner. But in Boston, his friends and family could not find anything that reminded them of home (other than what he was cooking up in his own kitchen).
Finally, the right time came around. Ramon decided to go all in and host his first pop-up in Revere. 4 hours later and 200 pounds of meat sold, he realized he was onto something. After this, he started catering events, and the first major event he catered absolutely blew up his operation, in a good way.
Having Instagrammable tacos isn’t the only reason El Barbon has garnered a cult following in the Boston food scene (although it surely helps). The secret behind the success is Ramon’s passion for bringing together authentic Mexican flavors that have been passed down from generation to generation. It is not just being able to follow a written down recipe that make the difference, it is how the food is prepared that is the real x-factor.
Ramon says that he will make a recipe 5 or 6 times, calling his mother and aunts when something tastes off, trying to understand what really makes the difference. One example of this is how he hand grinds all of his spices himself. Does this take much more time and effort than buying pre-ground spices or using a blender? You bet it does. But it also makes a world of difference when it comes to flavor– which is apparent whenever you bite into one of his birria tacos.
As much as we talked about traditional Mexican street food, Ramon is a creative soul, and it shows with his other creations (which you most definitely will not find in Mexico or maybe anywhere else on the planet). These creations include birria ramen and birria pizza! For Ramon, though as crazy as his menu items might get, they all have one thing in common, they are all still packed with authentic Mexican flavor.
In Ramon’s opinion, traditional Mexican flavors are getting lost with more of the new hip taco joints popping up. Most of these are more of a social spot to drink rather than a place to truly experience the culture. Each type of taco has its own specific toppings that go along with it. That is the reason why you will not find any guac or pico in his birria tacos, just cilantro and a chili salsa– because that is the flavor profile you would get on the streets of Jalisco.
Part of our goal at Something NearU is to educate our readers on different cultural cuisines, so we thought that there was no better person to ask than Ramon about what he thinks the most underrated and overrated Mexican food items are.
To our surprise, Ramon said that the taco is the most overrated item. He says this because he believes that at most places, the taco is simply not done right. It has become mainstream and Americanized. That being said, he also said tacos are one of his favorite items when done right. According to Ramon, one of the biggest things missing in Boston is a killer tortilla. This is something he wants to change.
Another major reason he thinks the taco is overrated is due to people being afraid to get out of their taco “comfort zone.” When most people think of tacos they think of carne asada, carnitas, or al pastor. These are great, but this is the taco “comfort zone.” Some of Ramon’s favorites are lengua and tripe (that is beef tongue and intestines for those of you who aren’t familiar). Ramon has made lengua tacos for friends, who loved them until he told them what was really in them. Tripe offers a unique texture and major burst of flavor if prepared correctly. Ramon recommends expanding your palate to newer flavors outside of what you might be used to. This is when the taco really shines.
In Ramon’s opinion, the most underrated item is menudo, a dish that Ramon had actually just made for his family the day before we sat down to chat. Menudo is the equivalent of an American chicken noodle soup, except the broth is made with cow stomach, not chicken. We have to say that menudo is very flavorful and the perfect dish to warm you up on a cold New England day.
So what is in store for the future of El Barbon? Ramon is just getting started. He wants to continue to push the culinary boundaries and create even more mouthwatering dishes.
Ramon is one of the rising stars of the Boston food scene and you can expect big things from him to come.
For more info on upcoming events find Ramon and Tacos El Barbon on:
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
Need more to satisfy your Mexican food fix? Here are some of our local burrito and taco guides to salivate over:
Burrito and Taco Guide Boston
Burrito Guide San Francisco