Riverside Mexican restaurant does not impress…
By Brian P. Sharp
In a quiet shopping center on Airway Road there is a restaurant that wants to follow in the footsteps of the past. Salsa’s – run by relatives of the original owners of Pepito’s (one of the Miami Valley’s original Mexican restaurants) delivers some food successes, but that is where it ends. Salsa’s seems to be where Chuck E. Cheese meets Mexico. I took a group of friends with me to enjoy what was recommended to me as a great Mexican restaurant.
We walked in to a karaoke event/birthday party that was so loud we took seats in the back of the restaurant near the kitchen just so we could talk to each other. We were greeted by a cheerful server that was trying to speak over the volume of the karaoke, when she said, “I have been here too many hours – I am just over it.”
We were brought chips and salsa (two kinds – one in a condiment sized lidded carry out container – too small to dip chips into — and the other in a small dish). For the life of me I could not tell a difference – so, I asked our server if there was a difference – after careful examination – she said, “No, there is no difference – let me bring you another one.”
She also said that things were happening differently in the kitchen – though she said the salsa is housemade – she wasn’t sure if they had a hot sauce or not. The new salsa did have a bit more of a kick. The salsas seemed fresh and lightly seasoned. While these salsas are bit more like pureed tomatoes than pico de gallo, they are a nice complement to the housemade tortilla chips.
We placed our orders. Some of our selections included Super Burritos, Nachos, Chimichangas, an enchilada special called Tri-Color and Pork Carnitas. The chips and salsa continued to arrive – and we also added Choriqueso listed on the menu as a house specialty.
The Choriqueso arrived with the overcooked chorizo floating in its own grease on top of the queso blanco. Once stirred up, the flavor was fine and most of the grease was mixed into the cheese sauce.
The Super Burrito and Chimichanga seemed ordinary at best … exactly what you would experience at any Mexican restaurant. The Nachos filled the plate – topped with lettuce, cheese, chopped beef, guacamole and sour cream. The Tri-Color Special was a combination of three enchiladas, each with a different filling and topped with a different sauce. It gives the impression of the Mexican flag – a red sauce, a white sauce and a green sauce. Each enchilada had a distinct taste and was seasoned appropriately.
The Pork Carnitas were served with warm tortillas, rice and beans. The pork was overcooked and dry, though nicely seasoned. I am sure, when freshly prepared, the carnitas would be an excellent choice. Our server did manage to find a salsa verde that was brought to the table with dinner – again, it was not hot! The margaritas seemed to be the best choice of the night for some members of our group – served with a salted rim – they are just one of the offerings of the full bar.
The menu is full of options. There is a long list of appetizers, traditional Mexican dishes and some Latin American options that, according to the website, distinguishes them from the other Mexican eateries in the area … I would beg to differ. Salsa’s also has Venezuelan dishes on their menu. The prices are reasonable ranging from $2-$7 for appetizers, $7-$10 for entrées.
Salsa’s website shows a lovely restaurant with white tablecloths covering the tables. There were no tablecloths when I dined in, and the restaurant seemed cluttered and dirty. There is salsa dancing one night a week, karaoke and a weekend buffet.
My experience was not one that I would recommend for others … but you be the judge. If nothing else it’s a place for margaritas, chips and salsa (though not hot!).
Salsa’s is located at 4904 Airway Road in the Airway Shopping Center, close to the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
Here’s hoping my friends will go out with me again! So sorry Adrienne, Steve, Bob, Nick, Marco and Jim…
Reach DCP food critic Brian P. Sharp at Theatre@DaytonCityPaper.com.