On Sunday mornings, Taqueria el Barrio at 1022 Commonwealth Avenue hums with activity. Customers chat with Chef Luis Figueroa in rapid-fire Spanish while ordering beef tongue tacos and horchata. Figueroa is from Mexico, and it’s on these days when he feels most at home, with the Latino community filling up the intimate restaurant with laughter and big appetites.

Figueroa opened Taqueria el Barrio (which loosely translates to Neighborhood Taqueria) with restaurateurs Servio García and Alex Sáenz about a month ago. The timing couldn’t have been better. Not long ago Dorado Tacos on Harvard Ave closed their doors after a ten-year run serving up Southern California Mexican food to the neighborhood. Brookline was due for another infusion of carnitas and tortillas.

“We tried to bring the more traditional Mexican food to Boston,” says Figueroa. “Mexican people in Boston are happy now that they have Taqueria el Barrio and they can get good tacos,” he jokes. Because Taqueria el Barrio keeps things traditional, they don’t offer burritos. Although burritos are served in Mexico, they are different than what we know here in the United States. A Mexican burrito consists of meat, cheese, and condiments with no rice. In fact, Figueroa says they don’t serve rice at all in the restaurant.

This has been a surprise for diners. But Figueroa holds firm to his principles, insisting that if he does add a burrito to the menu, it will be in the traditional Mexican style. Customers, however, have no lack of delectable options to choose from on the menu. Most popular is the carnitas tortas; a torta is a type of sandwich. “My favorite torta is the carnitas torta,” says Figueroa.

The new neighborhood hot spot also offers house-made agua frescas including a rotating seasonal flavor and a daily salsa bar with varying degrees of heat. The flour tortillas are made in-house every morning. As fall approaches, Figueroa says he’s hoping to add a few warm soups to the menu as well as a build-your-own salad option with a selection of proteins and add-ons. He’s even considering adding the wildly popular beef tongue tacos to the permanent weekly menu.

Figueroa first learned to cook from his mother in Mexico. Now he keeps her memory active by sharing his traditional recipes with the Brookline neighborhood. “I have a customer who comes in to eat two times a day for lunch and dinner,” he says proudly. And every Sunday, when the Latino community floods in for a collective meal, Taqueria el Barrio feels like mama’s kitchen in Mexico, serving love in equal portion to quesadillas.

By Celina Colby