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Friday, July 27, 2012

La Salsa: A Solid Neighborhood Restaurant

Authentic Mexican food in family-friendly setting

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The spot at the corner of Oklahoma and Chase, which formerly housed the Mexican restaurant Taqueria Azteca, had remained vacant for several years. Recently, however, a new tenant took over. It, too, is a Mexican restaurant, called La Salsa.

Even after so many years, the interior seems familiar. The bar remains where it had been, the tile floors are the same, and the décor features Mexican serapes, sombreros and ceramics. All of this helps to create a casual mood at La Salsa.

Given the name of the restaurant, expectations are high for the salsa. The version that arrives with the chips is chunky with tomato and has hints of cilantro and hot pepper. It's a standard Mexican restaurant salsa. Order some guacamole ($5.50) for those chips. The fresh guacamole contains bits of tomato and a touch of cilantro.

The good-sized menu offers Mexican standards along with several soups, seafood cocktails and entrees, as well as the house specialty: the parrillada. Many items are served on cast-iron skillets. You will also find a few fajita options and the costillas de res a la plancha ($9.25). Costillas are beef ribs; here, they are cut into thin slices, in the manner of Korean food, allowing a few small pieces of bone. The meat is served over a bed of thinly sliced potatoes. There are plenty of grilled onions, and a grilled jalapeno pepper tops everything.

Hungry appetites might opt for the parrillada, available for one person ($13.95) or two ($24.95). A tabletop grill arrives heaped with food. There are thinly sliced potatoes, a chorizo patty, costillas and boneless chicken, topped with a grilled banana pepper. A side plate offers rice, beans, pico de gallo and guacamole. The chorizo is lean, not greasy; the marinated beef is flavorful; the sliced onions are ever so sweet; and the pepper is mildly hot, approximately the intensity of an Anaheim pepper. The pico de gallo also has a bit of heat, thanks to minced fresh green chiles.

The seafood entrees are mainly shrimp, with tilapia and a mixed seafood soup thrown in for variety. Camarones a la diabla ($10.50) are shrimp in a chile pepper that at times can be quite fiery. The peppers used here are chipotles, much tamer than the arbol chiles found at other local places, but there is still enough kick. And the chipotles add a bit of sweetness to the shrimp and sliced onions. Caldo de 4 mares ($8.95) is the mixed seafood soup. The seafood consists of shrimp, octopus, imitation crab and mussels (an acceptable substitute for the promised fish). The soup also has carrots and potato. There is a side plate with chopped onion, cilantro and lime wedges to be added to the soup. Also add bottled hot pepper sauce to taste.

Other options include Oaxacan tamales, chile rellenos and combination plates. The cheese enchiladas and the tortillas served with the entrees are above average.

It is good to see Mexican food return to this location, as there are no nearby competitors. La Salsa has a sound, reliable menu that offers enough authenticity to satisfy. This family-friendly place, which serves beer and margaritas, is a good neighborhood restaurant.

La Salsa

119 E. Oklahoma Ave.

(414) 483-0522

$

Handicap Accessible

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