Mexican Revolution

Pre-Columbian, super-authentic Mexican where eat street meets downtown

That's why the restaurant does things like their excellent orange-jicama salad ($6.99 for an entrée size, $3.50 for an appetizer). Order the salad and you get a bounty of fresh romaine topped with a delicate julienne of jicama and orange sections, tossed in a distinctive sweet and dusky vinaigrette. An orange and garlic marinated salmon filet ($9.50) with papaya chutney is likewise fresh and beach-simple--and for all you readers writing me with Zone diet boredom, I think you would do pretty well here.

Then again, for anyone wishing to torture Zone dieters, the desserts are easily the best in any Mexican restaurant in town. A pineapple-filled tamale with vanilla ice cream and cranberry chutney is better than I can probably ever convince you: The tamale itself has all the minor-note sharp and sweet of a pineapple upside-down cake, while the chutney and ice cream broaden the experience. Rice pudding ($3.99) is full of cinnamon and nutmeg, and utterly memorable.

The restaurant's other strong suit is any savory dish that would be found on any home family table: The chicken chilaquiles ($9.99) here are fantastic, the tortillas piquant from stewing with tomatillos, the fried egg giving a comforting edge of bland, the accompanying oregano- and thyme-bedecked, marinated, and quite bold chicken breast reminding one that chicken breasts are not always pallid.

More than than the whole enchilada: Elvia and Lorenzo Azria
Michael Dvorak
More than than the whole enchilada: Elvia and Lorenzo Azria

Location Info

Map

Salsa A La Salsa Mexican Grill

1420 Nicollet Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

The carnitas plate ($10.25) offered fried bits of browned pork that were meltingly tender and terrifically charming. Nearly every entrée comes with rice, refried or black beans, and tortillas. And as most things clock in around $10, this place isn't just good, it's one of the cheapest good dinners in the notoriously overpriced Holidazzle/Loring Park/Orchestra Hall/Convention Center zone. In fact, with a full beer program and very nice real tequila margaritas made from scratch, it's hard to find anything to complain about.

So watch me go. The one problem with Salsa a la Salsa is that the menu is actually likely to prevent you from having a good meal. Not only are all the Minnesota Mexican clichés on it--taco salads, southwest Caesars, chimichangas, and the dreaded combination plate!--it's also studded with dishes that fill any experienced Minnesota Mexican restaurant-goer with fear and alarm. Dishes like "Three Amigos Enchiladas," or shrimp scampi. Just as bad, a few sauces star in half a dozen dishes (for example, Chicken Chiltepin, Shrimp Chiltepin, Carne Asada Chiltepin), which almost guarantees diners will have a bad meal, since all sauces don't really go with all things. Indeed, the two things I didn't like at Salsa a la Salsa were the tough carne asada with the inappropriate chiltepin sauce, and the shrimp cocktail, in which a sweet tomato sauce and chunks of fresh avocado were marred by some non-thrilling, almost-defrosted shrimp.

All of this means that diners without a road map like this one, or the patience to try every darn thing on the endless menu, might never stumble upon the various works of genius. Which, to recap, are anything with cactus, anything very home-style, or anything you would eat on your agent's lawn if you were Julia Roberts. I guess I'm so worked up about this because after four visits I never managed to try the chile relleno ($5), and now I've learned it's painstakingly made by hand, the pepper roasted, then dredged in batter, then fried, then stuffed....

I mean, like so many of you, I've stopped ordering chiles rellenos in Minnesota, because they tend to come out of the same freezer bag the jalapeño poppers do, and life is short. How could I have known they were homemade?

Though of course I certainly understand why the Salsa menu is so inclined to hide its stars behind a curtain of conventional--they're hedging their bets when looking at us, and our dicey regional history, and we too hedge our bets, by staying home. Truthfully, we all have reasons to be nervous. Old traumas run deep. And who among us really feels completely safe from the days of mayonnaise and onion salt? But I say the time is now: Let us declare an end to our long, regional nightmare.

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