Chips and Salsa: a double, a triple and a strikeout

With Cinco de Mayo this week, its the perfect time to check out the chips and salsa at some of our local restaurants — kind of a little guide for our readers that are hitting the town on Thursday.   Our members suggested several places, and we chose three of those suggestions.

At all locations, the chips and salsa were brought quickly after we were seated.    We didn’t cheap out and eat the chips and salsa and leave; we also ordered food, and sometimes margaritas, which didn’t always work out…

Coming in at No. 3

Samano’s Mexican Restaurant, 3431 East Plankinton Avenue, Cudahy. Wisconsin.

Samanos exterior two

Samano’s prides itself on serving Milwaukee Mexican food for over forty years.   The location is a historic building that has been completely rehabbed on the outside and the interior has an old-fashioned intricate wooden bar.  According to Samano’s website, this historic building was originally a Miller Brewery Tavern in 1894 and the Samano family took it over in 1967.   I love everything about the history of this place.

The chips were warm flour tortilla chips which is not common to my observations and not my preference, but they were fine flour tortilla chips.   The salsa was chunky, had some spice and was very flavorful, however I think this salsa was homemade but not fresh-made.   It seemed to have the texture of salsas that you buy in the store – but more flavorful.   If you are looking for a fresh chopped or blended salsa, (we were) then this may not be your cup of tea.

samanos chips and salsa

The bigger problem was the margaritas – they were simply undrinkable and had a chemical- like flavor.   Three of us ordered margaritas and not one of us drank more than a few sips.   We struggled with how to convey this opinion — this is not a margarita take-three after all.  However, you really can’t just show up and order chips and salsa and leave — and most of us like a margarita when we go to a Mexican restaurant.   Here is your warning – don’t order the original margarita on the rocks at Samano’s – I can’t speak for any of the other 200 flavors.

Coming in at No. 2  – Javier’s Cuisine, 2011 Lathrop Avenue. Racine, Wisconsin, Facebook page:

Javier's Sign

This place doesn’t look like much from the outside but the inside is good-sized, tastefully decorated, with playful touches.  I especially love the print of Guanajuato, Mexico (a city I have always wanted to visit) with the note that this is Javier’s hometown.   Certainly tells us a little about our chef and his roots in Mexico.

Many of us think of “Mexican food” as being just a singular type of food but certainly “grits” are an American food that not many of us in Wisconsin eat or know how to cook.   Don’t even think of asking for a brandy old-fashioned outside of Wisconsin.   My point is that Mexico is a very large country with regional specialties.   Many times this is evidenced by the naming on Mexican restaurants in the area.   (Guanajuato is the name of one of the highest-rated restaurants in Milwaukee as well as Guadalajara (large Mexican city), Jalisco Restaurant, Rivieria Maya, Mazatlan, etc.)

On to the chips and salsa – of which Javier’s hit a solid double.

Javier's Chips and Salsa

The chips were corn, warm and crispy.   The salsa was fresh, with a definite chipotle flavor.  We would have either (a) liked a little more heat or (b) liked second “hot” option.   Regardless, we bottomed out the chips and the salsa, as well as a frozen sangria.  I would also love if Javier’s opened for lunch or on Sundays.   Nothing like a margarita-Sunday type of day.

And the best of the chips and salsa we tried was at:

Mi Jacalito, 1318 Douglas Avenue, Racine, Wisconsin..

Best I can gather, Mi Jacalito mean “my little place” and this Mexican restaurant is deep on Douglas Avenue and (as of now) looks like the type of restaurant you may see in Mexico.   This is going to change as the owners have requested a grant to modernize the exterior which in my opinion will definitely bring in more diners.  Excellent job also on the helpful website – websites can be made at a relatively low cost and its hard to understand restaurants that don’t have one.

Mi Jacalito exterior

People want authentic Mexican food but sometimes these little places are intimidating — maybe they only speak Spanish and I won’t be able to order or the menu will be all in Spanish.   The new exterior that Mi Jacalito is planning will help break down that fear people have of trying something different because it looks so inviting  — at least according to the plans.

Ok, so on to the salsa and chips.   The chips were warm and crispy.   Mi Jacalito served three salsas.  One was pico de gallo – fresh chopped.  Another was a blended spicier salsa and the third was, well, best i could tell not much more than a slightly thicker tomato juice.   We like having a choice, and other than the tomato juice one, both of the salsas were pretty good, not mind-blowing, but solid salsas.   In baseball, this salsa offering is like a triple, not a home run.

Mi Jacalito salsas two.jpg

I hope that along with the exterior update, a little money is spent on the interior – it could use a fresh look as it feels cluttered.   Also, although the Mexican TV shows added to that authentic feel, the TV was loud making it hard to talk at times.

Mi Jacalito Interior

Bonus is that Mi Jacalito is opens for breakfast at 8am and is open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.  They also deliver – not sure of the boundary though.

No chips and salsa home run but its all about the on-base percentage anyway, so we will just keep stepping up to the plates.


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