Saturday, June 08, 2013

Salsa Rios Grill brings fast-casual Mexican food to Etowah, TN

For months, people have been wondering what the remodel in front of Michael's might bring. Our wait is over. The new Salsa Rios Grill brings fast-casual Mexican dining to Etowah. It's on Highway 411 in the shopping center in front of Michael's and BenchMark Physical Therapy. You can't miss it.

Hubby and I tried Salsa Rios for lunch just a few days after Salsa Rios opened. The concept is sort of a Panera Bread meets Moes. The restaurant is Mexican-style food that's served in a welcoming atmosphere. I was surprised to hear U2 playing in the background. "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" turned out to be fitting for our visit.

Place your order at the counter, fill your drink and listen for your number. Grab napkins while you're there. Flatware and condiments are on the counter behind you. The process is all pretty straightforward and streamlined. A friendly counter employee took our order and gave back accurate change. Coke products... Our experience didn't start to go south at Salsa Rios until we received our food.

You always hope that a locally owned eatery does well. Unfortunately, all that Salsa Rios may have is hope.
Our lunch was a disappointment.

My burrito was below temperature when it was served. The outside was a tad warmer than room temp but the inside was cool to the touch. It was as though the ingredients were wrapped in a room temp tortilla shell which broke open easily.

There wasn't a description on the menu so I figured that the burrito would be along the lines of a traditional fajita dish. Not even close. The usual fajita  tomatoes, peppers, onions and slices of meat were replaced with black beans and rice and a tiny bit of meat.

It was so different than my expectations that I returned to the counter.  The Salsa Rios exployee helped me find the meat (no kidding) and explained that this is a new concept for Etowah. Here's a photo so you can see the burrito for yourself. 

I returned to my seat, took a couple of bites and dumped it into the trash. There was almost no flavor and what there was tasted canned. Staff must have seen me dump it (or my reaction at having to do so) and a manager came over in a few minutes. She too explained that Salsa Rios is a new concept in Etwoah. offered another fajita but no way was I willing to do that again. Instead, we settled on a carnita burrito. Let's say that it was also underwhelming.

Roasted  corn was a bright spot in the meal. It was made from what looked to be canned corn. A bowl of individual kernels was sprinkled with Mexican cheese, cilantro and other flavorings. This was the most flavorful of the dishes and we liked it pretty well.

We also ordered nachos and cheese at Salsa Rios. The bowl of melted nacho cheese was flavored and garnished with cilantro. It came with a good sized portion of white chips. It was flavorful but wasn't very warm.

Salsa Rios was only open for a few days before we visited. I'm excited about the concept and think that it's a plus for Etowah. Food that is served below temp isn't acceptable. However; the staff was nice. I'll probably visit again in a few weeks in hopes of being able to improve the review.