Salsas Grill features outstanding cuisine served with a Guatemalan flair, style, grace and hospitality. Affable proprietors Olga and Sigfrido Paz and their daughter Angie have decorated the restaurant with colorful nick knacks (mostly bowls and plates adorned with fruits and vegetables) from their native Guatemala. They have decorated the menu with Mexican, Guatemalan and New Mexican favorites prepared exceptionally well and served with class. Sigrido attends to his customers with a polite demeanor and genuine warmth while Olga crafts her culinary creations.
Salsas Grill is nestled on the west mesa, offering a spectacular romantic view overlooking the city of Albuquerque and the spectacular Sandia Mountain range to the east. Its address is Coors, N.W., but that’s only because it’s most visible storefront faces Coors. Visitors coming in from the west will generally exit off Coors and head west on Dellynne. You’ll want to make an almost immediate left onto Mirador into what appears to be a residential enclave. Salsas Grill is next door to a Domino’s Pizza store.
Mexican muzak is piped through the restaurant’s sound system, helping to create a relaxing milieu in which hushed tones are appropriate for the close proximity of tables in the smallish mom and pop restaurant. This is most definitely a sit and stay restaurant in which nothing is rushed and your food is prepared to order. As good as it is, however, it remains a surprisingly well kept secret. Even some people who live on the west side have never visited and some haven’t even heard of it.
True to the restaurant’s name, salsa is a highlighted item served complementarily with crisp, fresh chips. Our favorite, courtesy of a pronounced cilantro and lime aftertaste, is a red salsa whose piquant basis comes from incendiary jalapeno. It is rich red in color and served in a small ramekin, but will be replenished should (when) you run out. The guacamole is also delicious albeit not nearly as lively as the salsa. Perhaps the best condiment is the pico de gallo, a raw salsa made with onions, cilantro, tomatoes, bell peppers and Serrano chiles. At Salsas Grill, pico de gallo earns its name as it truly does have the bite of a rooster’s beak.
The menu is replete with surprises beginning with a beverage section that includes not only fountain drinks (Coke products), but iced tea, Snapple, SoBe drinks, fresh fruit smoothies and some of the very best horchata in the Duke City. An array of gourmet coffees and blended drinks (including a wonderful cookies and creme frappe) are also available. Salsas Grill is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11AM to 9PM. Despite being open only during lunch and dinner hours, the menu serves what might be considered breakfast items all day long. From fajitas and eggs to huevos rancheros, there’s an eye-opening, appetite sating treat for early and late risers alike.
The chef leaves nothing to chance when it comes to her cuisine and doesn’t rely solely on very good chile to season each dish. At Salsas Grill, entrees are invariably well seasoned and not necessarily with the traditional spices New Mexican diners are used to. With the red chile enchiladas, for example, you can discern a variety of subtle seasonings (such as invigorating Mexican oregano), not just chile.
The enchiladas rancheras with chicken, topped with a fried egg and served Christmas style (Sigfrido’s choice with red and green chile) are one of the restaurant’s very best entrees. The all white meat chicken is cut up into tiny chunks and seasoned to perfection. A house specialty is the carne adovada which is as tender as a bird’s heart; you can easily cut it with a spoon. With this entree, the Mexican oregano is especially easy to discern.
The carne asada plate (pictured below) which includes beans and rice is also quite good–and it looks like a delicious picture on a plate. It features the wonderful marriage of perfectly grilled meat; sauteed red and white onions; red, yellow and green peppers and mushrooms. It arrives at your table sizzling hot. The vegetables have the snap of freshness and thankfully the peppers are always the right balance of tenderness and crispness, not always an easy thing to do. This entree is served with pan-roasted potatoes seasoned with rosemary and with light, buttery and fluffy rice.
There are serveral Guatemalan entrees on the menu, including a Guatemalan breakfast with eggs any way you want them, fried plantains and grilled vegetables. Another fabulous option is the Tamal de Guatemala. Unlike traditional New Mexican tamales, this one is steamed in banana leaves instead of corn husks. Instead of corn masa, the tamal is crafted of a rice and corn meal amalgam. There is absolutely no chile on this dish, but there is unbelievably tender pork and a deep, sweet, smoky flavor that you’ll want to enjoy time and again. This entree is served with black beans atop of which is melted shredded Cheddar cheese. Sigfrido believes black beans, the choice of southern Mexico and Guatemala, are much more intensely flavored than the pinto beans preferred in northern Mexico and the Land of Enchantment. He may be right.
Several superb panini sandwiches served with chips are a restaurant mainstay and all are served on fresh Parisian style baguettes. These sandwiches are somewhat reminiscent of tortas, the incomparable Mexican sandwich, but are better than any tortas we’ve had in Albuquerque. The baguettes make them so. They are fresh and warm, hard-crusted on the outside and silky tender on the inside.
- A Miami worthy Cuban sandwich featuring pork cutlet, ham, Swiss cheese, mayonnaise, pickles, mustard, tomatoes and lettuce is truly mouth-watering, a must have and among the best of its genre in the Duke City. It is the most popular sandwich served at Salsas. Grilled in a panini press, it is served warm with the tomatoes, pickles and lettuce added after the grilling is done so they’re not mushy.
- Parisian style bread also houses the contents of Salsas Grill’s chile relleno sandwich, a two-fisted creation which includes Swiss cheese, lettuce, mayonnaise, mustard and red tomato. It’s a healthy sandwich bursting with flavor and big enough to share (not that you’ll want to, it’s so good). The chile relleno isn’t particularly piquant so you might want to add salsa. A Guatemalan chile relleno sandwich also includes meat.
- The Fajita sandwich features sizzling grilled strips of steak, onions and green peppers with mustard, mayonnaise, lettuce and tomatoes. It truly is like eating bread enrobed fajitas.
In the spirit of full disclosure, there is one Salsas Grill entree which disappointed tremendously. Worse, Murphy’s Law, that humorous axiom stating that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, was in play because I had bragged about that entree to my good friend Ruben whose quest for the ultimate carne adovada has been chronicled on this blog. This Murphy’s Law posits that the more you brag about carne adovada (or any other dish), the more likely it will be it will be subpar or worse.
Not only was the pork neither moist nor tender as we’ve come to expect, the marinade looked as if it had been smeared on and it was so tasteless, we wondered if the chef was having an uncharacteristic bad day. Leave it to Mr. Murphy to pull his mischief when I was trying to impress a friend whose own carne adovada recipe is several orders of magnitude better. Fortunately, the Cuban sandwich we split was a saving grace. Ruben was amazed at just how good it was, indicating he would make a return trip to Salsas Grill for this sensational sandwich, but not the carne adovada. Me, I’m convinced it was an anomaly and will try it again someday.
For dessert, the bananas tempura and ice cream for two is a savory concoction of fried bananas and premium ice cream. Even better are the natillas–rich and creamy without being cloying. Still another sweet offering is a lemon cooler cake (pictured below) with equal flavor pronouncements of sweet and sour. It is dense, delicious and utterly fresh with a light lemony frosting crowning this masterpiece.
Salsas Grill lives up to its motto of “Serving Your Good Taste!” It is a delightful restaurant serving some of the best food in town and an establishment in which you’ll be treated like a visiting dignitary.
5109 Coors, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 28 January 2011
# OF VISITS: 11
BEST BET: Cuban sandwich, Salsa, Chile Relleno Sandwich, Carne Adovada, Enchiladas Rancheras, Horchata, Tres Leches Cake, Natillas