Don't be deceived by the modest exterior and somewhat off-the-beaten-track location of Mi Tierra Restaurant, which is up at 585 Moody St. in Waltham. Inside, it's spacious and attractive and, most importantly, the food is good, fresh and inexpensive. It's a family-owned and operated business, so the staff is both friendly and conscientious.
Suggested dish: Many of the offerings contain similar ingredients: corn tortillas or tostadas, black beans, white rice, guacamole, plantains, chicken and pork. It's the delicate seasonings and fresh hot sauce (placed in a bottle on the table) that make them stand out. One Guatemalan specialty is the pupusa, a corn tortilla stuffed with pork or cheese ($2). There are also plenty of vegetarian offerings, cool fruit drinks and lots of side dishes. Beer and wine is also available.
We chose a vegetarian lunch special: two corn tostadas covered in a guacamole spread, red onions, cheese, rice, black beans and a whole fried plantain ($7). The tostadas were crispy and the guacamole spread excellent: not too heavy and lightly seasoned. Central Americans use black beans, instead of red beans in Mexican food, which is served in a seasoned, slightly smoky paste. It's a real comfort food. The plantain was hot, creamy and sweet. The iced-coffee we got as a drink was full-bodied.
The vibe: Pleasant and quiet in a clean and colorful setting.
Cool factor No. 1: The staff are dedicated to their establishment -- and dedication is always cool.
Cool factor No. 2: All-day breakfast.