Review: Acitrón

EATinton logo: Fred Kalil
Frederick Kalil reviews

Having always been of the belief that good Mexican food needn’t suck the wallet dry, I habitually tap into Arlington’s modest — and very good — spots when I get the hankering. It’s come to my attention that the pattern of falling into habit and coddling assumptions resulted in harboring a blind spot to Acitrón, which I had last visited at least 10 years ago. A look at the current menu convinced me that a return was in order.

Starters worth attending to

The first-listed item on the menu is a sauced cornbread appetizer priced at $12, seemingly the kitchen’s bold, throwdown challenge to my faith in simpler Mexican fare. This pan de elote, made with peppers and cheese, is napped with an expanse of poblano cream sauce and impresses as a full-scale dish. Moist and puddingy but admirably crusted on the bottom, it might equally be enjoyed as a dessert. The abundant sauce was declared “velvety” by an impressed tablemate.

It’s tempting to liken queso fundido, the traditional dish of melted cheeses, to perilous quicksand: Once sucked in, it can be difficult to extricate oneself. Acitron’s version beckons benignly with evidence of mushrooms, peppers and onion breaching the surface. Tucked in their cloth envelope, accompanying soft tortillas make for handy scooping and enable the impulse to repeat till their supply is exhausted. “Es un milagro” was the pronouncement that gave voice to our consensus.

Mole in all its dimensions

Mole sauce always holds an appeal for me, and it was sampled in two versions. Shrimp in a tamarind mole sported a good portion of sizeable shrimp in a sweet-spicy sauce scattered with sesame seeds. They were served astride a square of jalapeño cornbread unlike the kind encountered earlier, this one resembling a dense gingerbread. The more familiarly encountered mole made a table appearance with the enmoladas, painterly in presentation but essentially corn enchiladas filled with shredded chicken.

Well balanced and complex with a kiss of heat, the sauce’s many ingredients were discernable. The common pitfall of being overly sweet was avoided, a signal of care in the combination of flavors that was evident in all preparations. This on a Monday night, shunned by some restaurant diners as the chef’s night off. Tellingly, it looked like there wasn’t an empty seat in the place.

Chile drama

Several iterations of chile relleno are offered, notably the chiles en nogada stuffed with seasoned ground beef. Its dramatic appearance banished any conjecture regarding the elevated level of achievement in the kitchen.

My eyes might have protruded at the vision of fire-roasted poblano blanketed in a creamy nut-based sauce studded with ruby pomegranate seeds on top. Our server alerted us that this item is served at room temperature, a treatment that no doubt enhanced its multitude of flavors.

Reward for puddingheads

Of the three dessert selections, the tres leches cake was an obvious choice. Firmer than most I’ve had, it disintegrated nicely into the lake of milkiness on the plate.

The flan is made in house; and it’s a knockout rendition; I can say that as a hard-core puddinghead. Golden brown as Indian pudding within, it tasted of burnt caramel in all the best ways.

It was noted that throughout our meal “nothing was too salty, too spicy, too sweet.” An equivalent just-right encomium could be applied to the seamless and unobtrusive service -- unfailingly attentive and pleasant. Remember that? 

Acitrón Cocina Mexicana

473 Mass. Ave., Arlington




Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.


Monday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Sunday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

June 21, 2023: Prep Neighborhood Kitchen: Walk by this unassuming place at your own risk

This restaurant review of Acitrón by YourArlington freelancer Frederick Kalil was published Monday, Sept. 25, 2023.

A resident of Arlington, Kalil has been eating food since birth. Starting from a home in which family cuisine ranged from kibbeh to cretons, he has sought high standards and a world of flavor at his own table and when dining out. After years of writing about dining options for the neighboring Tufts community, he now explores local kitchens for his fellow Arlingtonians