Orale, the new Mexican restaurant at 24 Main Street in Hopkinton, is a welcome addition to our town’s dining scene. From the moment you step inside, you are transported to a lively, colorful, and vibrant space that exudes the warmth and hospitality of Mexico.
New restaurants often take time to work out the kinks, but this does not seem to be the case at Orale. In the two areas that matter most – food and service – things are working well. We were greeted by Sebastian, who asked if we wanted dine in or take out (note to self: we have another great takeout option in town). He seated us right away.
Orale is in the same building Bittersweet occupied for years. For readers that remember, the layout is essentially the same, with the counter and kitchen up front and the dining room off to the side. It is a small but cozy space painted in bright colors and unique Mexican artwork on the walls.
There is a small bar in the back corner of the dining area, but Orale is still about a month away from receiving approval for their full liquor license, so for now it serves as a juice bar. We ordered both a pineapple and a mango “Natural Juice”. We could hear Sebastian at the bar working the blender and what came out was unexpectedly fresh and delicious. At one point we spied him mixing whole fruit and a bit of coconut water into one of the drinks.
As is traditional with Tex-Mex, a small plate of chips and salsa was dutifully delivered, and although it was artfully presented, the salsa was mild and unimpressive.
For an appetizer we started with the vegetarian nachos with a side of guacamole. After the chips and salsa we weren’t sure what to expect, but it turns out we’d made a solid choice. What came was a bed of chips loaded with grilled sweet potato, zucchini, peppers, and street corn topped with melted Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream and lettuce. Every bite was good. The guacamole too was very fresh and had a nice hint of lime. The kitchen thoughtfully put the pico de gallo on the side since one in our party is spice intolerant.
We moved on to our mains: Chicken fajitas, carnitas tacos and the Orale plate – a mix of grilled steak, shrimp and chicken. Each was served with a scoop of yellow rice and refried beans and everyone was happy with what they’d ordered.
You might notice from the pictures that the plates seem small. In our experience, a typical Mexican restaurant serves huge portions on huge plates with endless baskets of chips and salsa. You leave feeling stuffed – sometimes a little too stuffed. Orale is different in that the portions are not large, they’re just right. And the flavors are great too. The carnitas tacos tasted like the pork had been marinated for hours and the fajitas were well seasoned. Corn tortillas on the side are the norm, but they have flour tortillas by request and they’re delivered to the table piping hot.
We finished the meal with Dulce de Leche (a moist cake with a delicious caramel center) and a plate of churros that were cooked to a perfect crisp, topped with cinnamon, sugar and chocolate sauce and served with vanilla ice cream on the side. Chef’s kiss.
As for the bill, it was $103.59 if we paid cash and $107.47 if paying by credit card (to account for the transaction fees, we suspect). We ordered a lot of food so this seemed like a reasonable amount to us. Pricing out the same meal at Torito’s in Westborough put us at $94.73, and while Torito’s is a little cheaper, we like having a reliable dining option in the center of Hopkinton.
Several businesses have occupied this location and for many reasons it hasn’t worked out. But we don’t think that will happen this time. Judging from the thriving dining room and the number of takeout orders we observed, Orale is here to stay. And for that we are glad.
A few notes and suggestions for improvement:
- Mexican restaurants tend to attract families and little kids, and given the small space, it can get noisy. If you’re looking for a quiet night out Central Public House next door is a better option.
- The menu is nice, although it’s confusing to see chicken wings and cheeseburgers, and not in the kids’ section.
- Exposed kitchens are overrated. Anyone that has worked in a restaurant – no matter how fancy – knows that the kitchens are dreadfully messy. Patrons don’t want to see it.
- The yellow rice that accompanies each dish is bland, as is the salsa.
Overall score: 8/10. Would recommend and will try again.