I have this theory that if a drink menu at a restaurant is three or more times the thickness of the food menu, disaster is imminent. That doesn’t mean the drinks are a problem. It means the food is somewhat of an afterthought, although there may be some splashes of hope.
J. was in town and needed some general maintenance on the J.-mobile, so we went to the Saturn dealership in North Scottsdale to drop off the car, do a little shopping, and grab some lunch. As we were driving around trying to get back to the 101, I saw the Salty Senorita and asked J. if that would be okay for lunch. With J.’s consent, we entered into the parking lot and headed inside, deciding to take a table inside instead of at one of the tables on the patio where most of the customers were located.
We were immediately greeted by a friendly hostess and taken to a booth along the far side of the wall. Our hostess set down our food menus and then a “tequila” menu that was about a half inch thick. The tequila menu contained lots of tempting selections including pages of “margarita flights” that, for about $10, could net you three or four flavored margaritas. There were also plenty of choices for sipping tequilas, but since we were there for food, we passed on the booze.
Our server arrived and took our drink order. J. and I both opted for Iced Teas ($2.50 each) and water. Our server said she would be right back and headed into the kitchen. We reviewed the food menu and had a tough time deciding on what we would have for our entrees as well as for an appetizer.
Within a couple of minutes, our server returned with our drinks and also a big bowl of chips and a small bowl of salsa. The chips were warm to the touch and were a bit thicker than most chips. I liked the chips as they were hearty and heated as well as having a good amount of salt on them. The salsa was also a hit with J. and me. It had a strong chipotle overtone that really hit home with us. It wasn’t overly spicy, but it did make the lips and tongue tingle a bit. We gobbled up a couple of bowls of the salsa over the course of lunch. Sadly, the chip quality deteriorated quickly as they cooled and became chewy and greasy. Luckily, we had no problems getting a fresh basket upon request.
With chips, salsa and drinks in hand, we placed our order. We decided to start with the Fundido with Chorizo ($7.50). This would be followed by the Shrimp Shack Tacos ($9.50) for J. and Maria’s Enchilada Combo ($9.75) for myself. J. also got the Ensalada De La Casa ($4.00). Our server made sure we had plenty of everything before departing to place our order.
As we waited, J. and I talked about the interior. We loved the booth as it was elevated and comfortable. The decorations screamed “Mexican seaside resort” and the showcase of the restaurant was the large bar in the center of the action and the spacious patio outside. Since it was a warm February afternoon, it was no surprise the patio was overflowing with people. J. was also keeping busy reading every page of the tequila menu.
The Fundido with Chorizo was brought to our table in a little cauldron that was searing hot and the cheese was bubbling from the heat. Our server was profusely apologetic that the fundido arrived while we had an empty bowl of chips on the table. In just a few seconds, she returned with a big bowl of fresh chips. A great save on her part and wonderful care for her customers.
J. and I dipped a fresh, hot chip into the fundido and took a bite. It was excellent. The appetizer was very cheesy and bits of chorizo were scattered throughout the mix. I also appreciated that the chorizo had been drained so that the grease from it didn’t overpower the cheese. What really made the dip stand out, however, was a dab of the chipotle salsa I added to my chip and fundido combo. The contrast in flavors was outstanding. This was a delicious appetizer and I am sure would have been a great food item to eat while working one’s way through a margarita flight.
J.’s Ensalada De La Casa arrived and J. only took two bites before blurting out, “Wow! The vegetables in the salad are roasted.” Indeed they were. Mixed greens, onions and the roasted vegetables had been mixed and served with a tangy house vinaigrette. J. loved every bite. Without the roasted veggies, this would have just been another salad, but J. thought the surprise addition of the vegetables made this a standout.
About 10 minutes passed before our entrees arrived. Our runner brought J.’s Shrimp Shack tacos and in what can only be described as “ridiculous” dropped J.’s plate of tacos onto the menu that J. was clearly reading. J. was holding one page up with one hand skimming the other. The runner simply plopped the plate into the middle of the menu and it made a dull thud when it hit the menu and the table. No apology. No recognition. Nothing. I very loudly said, “Here, honey, let me move the menu you were reading” so the runner could here me. His reaction was to shrug and slink back to the kitchen. I sure hope he won’t get any infection on his knuckles from them dragging on the ground so much.
The tacos were three soft, corn tortillas filled with medium-sized shrimp that had been sauteed with garlic, peppers and tomatoes. They were then topped with a mole verde sauce. J. liked the tacos but I think would have preferred hard shells with these tacos. Still, J. loved the heavy garlic taste and found the tacos to be satisfying. Unfortunately, J. hated the rice and the beans. Both were cold and lacking flavor.
Maria’s Enchilada Combo consisted of a chicken enchilada and a beef enchilada covered with mole verde sauce and queso fresco. This was served with a side of rice. My entire meal was tepid in temperature. It would have been ice cold if it wasn’t for the hot plate the food was served on. The enchiladas were okay in taste, but the temperature factor turned me right off. It was very clear that things were cold as the cheese had gone from melted to congealed in somewhere between plating and serving. I also didn’t know what to make of the sour aftertaste in the beef enchilada. It was striking and very unpleasant.
As uninspired as my enchiladas were, I, for the life of me, could not figure out what was going on with the rice. It was undercooked, loaded with shriveled pieces of peas, corn and carrots, and had a green color that was puzzling. I swear I tasted sage, which would explain the color, but just was so oddly out of place. I had no idea how this disaster of a side dish ever got out of the kitchen.
The other part of the entree equation that really bothered me was the portion size. The amount of food for the price charged was meager at best. Even if the rice and beans had been phenomenal, it wouldn’t have satisfied most appetites. Since J. and I spared our stomachs from the rice and beans, we filled up on another bowl of chips and salsa, longing for another cauldron of fundido.
We requested our bill and the total was $38.62 which included tax. Our server was fantastic and did a great job of keeping our drinks filled, chips and salsa flowing and just had a friendly and bubbly personality that softened the blow of our grunting runner and the disappointing entrees. We didn’t consider the food to be of any great value because of the portion size.
I really wish that we had had a better experience at Salty Senorita. If I was looking for a place for drinks and appetizers, I would recommend the place in a heart beat. But for a full meal experience, you can find much, much better and a significantly cheaper price.
14950 North Northsight Boulevard
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Hours: Lunch Everyday - 11 AM to 3 PM; Dinner Everyday - 3 PM to 11 PM; Sunday Brunch - 11 AM to 3 PM; Late Night Dining - Thursday, Friday, Saturday - 11 PM to 1 AM.
Notes: Patio dining available. Other locations in Old Town Scottsdale and Mesa.
Additional photos can be found at www.feastinginphoenix.com