When dining at most Mexican restaurants, at least those in the Midwest, you expect a few things to come with the territory: cheerful colors that adorn your plate and table, plastic salt and pepper shakers that look like bottles of Corona, and someone reminding you that "guacamole costs extra." But of all these familiar things, the most important and the most universally constant are complimentary chips and salsa. Even if you are smart enough to exercise restraint, you can expect that your basket will be bottomless and that your plastic molcajete of salsa will always be replenished. What's unexpected is for those chips to arrive at the table hot and still glistening from their recent dip in the deep fryer, and that the thoroughly blended salsa, though presented in lidded condiment containers, is punchy, stunningly fresh, and comes in two equally but contrastingly spicy variations. Thankfully, this is the case at Catalina's, a no-frills Mexican and Latin American restaurant in the middle of a Columbia Heights strip mall that contains a tanning salon and a store called Plum's Plus Size Fashions. With makeshift signage and a nearly empty parking lot, Catalina's outward appearance doesn't exactly have the effect of a tractor beam, but once you're greeted, seated, and get a taste of the far-from-ordinary salsa in the little plastic to-go cups, you'll understand everything you need to know about the carefully prepared and very wallet-friendly food you're... More >>>