After reviewing a number of more expensive restaurants in the South End, I wanted to share a recent experience I had eating lunch at Orinoco. This tiny Venezuelan restaurant with only 30 seats has been a neighborhood favorite ever since it first opened in 2006, and its success here has allowed it to open in two other locations in Brookline Village and Harvard Square. However, it is this cozy neighborhood restaurant that is open Tuesday through Sunday where Sergio and I joined our friend, Alden, for lunch last week.
The Orinico lunch menu includes “Antojitos” (little cravings), Arepas which are traditional Venezuelan corn pocket sandwiches as well as Pepitos which are Venezuelan-style sandwiches served on french bread, Empanadas, salads and a few main plates. Nearly everything on the menu is between $5 -$10 making it one of the most affordable restaurants to grab lunch in the South End.
Alden ordered for lunch the Pepito de Costillita. This is a big boneless baby-back ribs sandwich that is slow-cooked with a passion-fruit bbq sauce that is so good it will have you licking your lips after every bite. The sandwich is topped with pickled onions and vinegar coleslaw and fried plantain chips come on the side. I took a bite and can vouch that the ribs melt in your mouth.
Sergio ordered the Pepito de Carne. This sandwich was also on the larger side and stacked high with toppings. The sandwich comprises sautéed flank steak, pickled onions and salsa rosa with fried plantain chips on the side. I thought this was also ridiculously flavorful, and I’d be hard pressed to say which choice was better. My only caveat should you order either sandwich would be to think about what you might wear, because they can be messy to eat and will definitely require extra napkins. I think of these as sandwiches you’d have with friends or your boyfriend / spouse – definitely a tough first date meal to enjoy.
I wish that my sandwich photographed as beautifully as Alden and Sergio’s, because I loved what I ordered (despite enjoying bites of my lunch mates sandwiches – strictly in the name of research for this review). However, I feel like my photograph of the Pepito Medianoche (Cuban-style) lacks the mouthwatering appeal that the other photos evoke. Although you cannot see it, this pressed sandwich which is served warm includes slow-cooked pork with pickled onions, ham, swiss cheese, salsa rosa and mustard and like the other sandwiches is also served with fried plantain chips on the side.
Orinoco disproves the adage, “you get what you pay for” because our sandwiches which ranged from $8.00 – $8.50 taste waaaaay better than a lot of meals I’ve had for twice that price. If you live in the South End and want to grab a bite at a great neighborhood restaurant I’d highly recommend checking out Orinoco – just be patient because this place fills to capacity quickly.
Orinoco South End
477 Shawmut Avenue || (617) 369-7075