A Visit to Tres Gatos in Jamaica Plain
By Margarita Martinez
There are only a few Boston neighborhoods other than Jamaica Plain that have such diverse people and offerings of things to do. There are parks to visit, including Jamaica Pond, Franklin Park, and the Arnold Arboretum. Although we shot this episode in the winter, these are some of my favorite places to visit in the spring and summer. And what better thing to do on a warm day than go for ice cream at the original J.P. Licks. Right near J.P. Licks on Centre Street is a natural foods market, a kitchen supply store, a yoga studio, bistros, cafes, and so many cute, creative, and distinctive businesses. One such place is Tres Gatos.
Part music shop, part book store, and part tapas restaurant, Tres Gatos is a unique treasure. I don't know of another place in Boston where one can purchase a Charles Mingus record, an Alabama Shakes CD, and David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, all while enjoying churros and chocolate. Sales of CDs, records, and paper books have been down for the past decade, but Tres Gatos owner David Doyle, like so many other book and music enthusiasts, believes that there is still a market for these types of shops. I, too, miss the feeling of community when visiting independently-owned book and music stores. Purchasing books, music, and movies online is void of the pleasure of browsing items in person and talking to store owners and managers about what they recommend for a good read and listen. Doyle has come up with an excellent solution for making a music and book store profitable in the digital age: hire an amazing chef and open up a lovely and intimate tapas restaurant in the same location.
Chef Marcos Sanchez makes wonderful small plates that pack a wallop of flavor. In the kitchen we started with his favorite dish on Tres Gatos's menu: lamb bocadillo with chimichurri sauce. This bocadillo, or small sandwich, is made up of a delicious lamb patty pan-fried in chorizo oil with a vibrant green fresh herb chimichurri sauce on an amazing housemade potato roll (I had three rolls while we were taping) topped with Hawaiian red salt. Chef Sanchez then adds some crunch and onion rings to his Spanish-style burger. Tiny fried shallot rings complete our little dish. Chef Sanchez admitted to me that he has this lamb bocadillo dish every night either before or after closing the restaurant. That's probably because the bocadillo is a lot faster to make than his delectable crispy confit of chicken and artichoke mousse.
While visiting JP I also had the opportunity to get an insider's tour of the Latin Quarter on Centre Street. Alberto Vasallo, owner of the newspaper El Mundo, was nice enough to take me for a Cuban sandwich at a neighborhood institution, Oriental de Cuba. The cafe's walls are lined with pictures of Cuba, famous patrons, and the many people from the community who frequent the restaurant. After we ate our sandwiches and had some cafe con leche, we headed to a local barbershop. I realized I hadn't been inside a barbershop since I went with my father as a child. Just as salons are destinations for women to discuss the news and exchange a bit of gossip, so are barbershops for men. Alberto introduced me to some of the barbers and made me feel at home, but I definitely noticed that the customers and hair-and-beard-styling barbers got a little shy with a woman coming for a visit. I will not soon forget my truly unique and diverse day in JP.
VISIT NEIGHBORHOOD KITCHENS
About Neighborhood KitchensBuilding on a 35-year history of producing Latino and multicultural programming, WGBH’s award winning La Plaza team has a new offering — Neighborhood Kitchens, a series about the exploration of culture through food. Every week the show offers a unique window into immigrant communities in New England.
Saturdays at 4pm on WGBH 2
Fridays at 7:30pm on WGBH 44
Margarita Martinez grew up in the Bronx, NY and Ossining, NY with a Puerto Rican father and a Franco-American mother. She now calls New England home. Margarita has always had an insatiable appetite for travel and food. She made her first empanada as a teenager visiting Argentina, satisfied her sweet tooth with poffertjes and stroopwafels while studying in Holland, engorged herself on Thai street food for a month in Bangkok, and continues to search for authentic international cuisines in the Northeast. Margarita loves to discover new ingredients, flavors, and cooking approaches that she can bring to her own home kitchen.
On the GoIn each episode, host Margarita Martínez visits a different ethnic restaurant and learns three delicious recipes from the chef. She also explores the restaurant’s neighborhood, discovering hidden gems along the way. Join her as she learns about new ingredients, new cultures, and new neighborhoods. ¡Hasta pronto!
Watch: Full Episodes
Find a Neigbhorhood Kitchen
Margarita's Neighborhood Visits
»Boston: Bristol Lounge
»Boston's South End: Orinoco, Teranga and Oishii
»Boston's Back Bay: Casa Romero
»Boston's North End: Taranta
»Boston's Beacon Hill: Scampo
»All Around Boston: Mei Mei Street Kitchens
»Cambridge: Muqueca, Oleana, and Sandrine's
»Somerville: Dosa Temple
»Lawrence: Cafe Azteca
»Lowell: Simply Khmer
»Fresh from the Fish Market
»Jamaica Plain: Tres Gatos
»Dorchester: Pho Le and Cafe Polonia
»Medford: Bistro 5
»Portland, ME: Emilitsa
»Newport, RI: Tallulah on Thames
»Pawtucket, RI: Rasoi
Subscribe to WGBH Food & Wine Emails
Follow WGBH Foodie