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Char-grilled tomatillo salsa recipe

Char-grilled tomatillo salsa recipe


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Fresh tomatillos are char-grilled till blackened, imparting a smoky flavour that you'll love in this salsa. Serve with tortilla chips, or as an accompaniment to your favourite Mexican meal.

5 people made this

IngredientsServes: 8

  • 1kg fresh tomatillos, husks removed
  • 10 dried red chillies
  • 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • salt to taste

MethodPrep:10min ›Cook:15min ›Ready in:25min

  1. Line a heavy cast-iron grill pan with aluminium foil and place over high heat. Arrange the tomatillos, chillies and garlic in a single layer on top. Char-grill until soft and darkened (or blackened, for a smokier flavour), turning as necessary. The chillies and garlic will finish before the tomatillos.
  2. Peel the garlic and place in a mortar and pestle with salt to taste (salt generously). Grind to a smooth paste, then add the chillies and grind till smooth. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Add as many tomatillos as you can fit in your mortar, and use the pestle to crush them, leaving them chunky. Work in batches as needed.
  4. Combine the crushed tomatillos with the chilli and garlic paste and serve.

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Char-grilled tomatillo salsa

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Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(3)


Grilled Mahi-Mahi With Salsa Verde

Mitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald

Confusingly enough, both Mexicans and Italians have their own salsa verde, and both are ridiculously good condiments that can be used in a staggering number of dishes. This, the Italian version, is based on parsley, anchovies, capers, and lemon juice, a bright herbal punch that pairs especially well with the smoke and char of a grill.

Like Mexico's version, this is equally good on meat as it is on fish. It's no slouch on vegetables either, so make a big batch and keep it in the fridge for instant flavor upgrades.

Nutrition: 280 calories, 15 g fat (2.5 g saturated), 390 mg sodium

Serves 4


Grilled Salsa Verde with Jalapeño & Cilantro

This zesty fresh salsa is easy, delicious, and loaded with the simple Mexican flavors that we just can’t get enough of. Green tomatillos are grilled at a high temperature to add char and flavor. A little fresh lime and onion tie everything together in this easy grilled salsa verde with jalapeño and cilantro.

Most commonly, salsa verde is usually made by boiling the tomatillos in water, but I love, love, loooooove the color and taste of a fire-roasted type salsa.

Make Grilled Salsa Verde

I love the little black flecks you get in the salsa when you roast or grill your tomatoes beforehand. To me, this is the sign of yumminess in a great salsa and it’s pretty simple to achieve…

Prep + Wash Tomatillos

Before we get our salsa on, we’ll take a quick minute to prep the tomatillos by removing their husks and washing them well.

Char / Roast Tomatillos

Next, pre-heat your grill and rub your rack or grill top with a little oil. Now place the tomatillos on top taking care to turn them on all sides with tongs so that they char and cook all around. Place your jalapeño pepper (if using) and onion on the grill at this time too.

I did this on high heat continuously turning until the tomatillos were brown all around and removed them when there were no more bright green spots left on the skin. When they were soft and slightly tender to the touch, I removed them to a separate platter and set aside until they were all done. I let everything cool for about 10 minutes before adding to the food processor.

Combine By Blending Everything Together

To mix up the salsa, add the cooked tomatillos to a food processor with the onion, jalapeño, and cilantro plus a clove of garlic. Now add in a few tablespoons of water and blend together until just combined. It should have a saucy consistency without being watery. Add a squeeze of lime and season to taste with salt.

Season & Serve Grilled Salsa Verde

Add a squeeze of lime and season to taste with salt. Serve with your favorite corn chips and dig in!

If you’re like me, a good margarita or Mexican-style beer is usually not too far out of reach. If you’re looking for a tasty drink, try this easy strawberry tequila smash!

There’s nothing better than a simple recipe with simple ingredients that ends in delicious results. This grilled salsa verde with jalapeño and cilantro is definitely one of those recipes…simple and fresh is best!


6 of the Best Salsas in America

Mexico City may have little in common with Williamsburg but thanks to La Fundidora they share sublime salsa. Founders Lorena, a Mexico City expat and her husband Vitali set out to revive the lost art of small-batch, traditional salsa making. That means ground down ripe tomatoes are combined with a hefty dose of tomatillos and select guajillo and arbor Chilies. Take a shortcut to tasty by tossing in your scrambled eggs or swipe a piece of Soberdough Green Chile Cheddar Brew Bread through it.

Shrimp Skewers With Fire Roasted Pineapple Salsa Recipe Here

Fire Roasted Pineapple Salsa // Zukali // Plano, TX

If the first cro-magnon to toss a mastodon shank on the fire thought he was smart, consider the moment of Newton-esque brilliance that brought us grilled fruit: a pineapple slice falls in the flames, and summer food is forever transformed. Inspired by the caramelized wedge atop traditional tacos al pastor, from the Texas plains comes an eminently spoonable, dippable, add-it-to-anything sauce of roasted fruit, cilantro, and mellow chilies.

Turkey Meatball Tostadas With Tomatillo Salsa Recipe Here

Tommy Tomatillo Salsa // Karma Sauce Company // Rochester, NY

Rochester. Home of the Garbage Plate and one of the preeminent sauce and salsa makers in the country. Not just our words, Karma Sauce Co. took home a staggering 24 awards from Zestfest (think Oscars for Hot Sauce). This seasonal salsa will wake up a dish of scrambled eggs, take your hot dog to new heights or make shrimp tacos sing. Tommy Tomatillo is made with 100% estate-grown heirloom chiles, tomatillos and tomatoes. Need more Karma? don’t sleep on their Funken Hot, Chipotle Mustard or Cherry Bomb Sauce.

“Karma Sauce’s founder and sauce expert Gene Olczak has expertly designed each recipe so that every bottle of Karma Sauce is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. So if you’re tired of forgettable meals and want to return to meals that matter, you’re one step closer to finding the secret sauce that gets you there.”

We don’t squawk “Award Winning” for nothing, here is some hardware for Tommy Tomatillo Salsa:

  • 2016 Fiery Food Challenge Winner — Salsa: Medium
  • 2016 Fiery Food Challenge Winner — Best New Product
  • 2018 Fiery Food Challenge Winner — Salsa: Verde/Tomatillo
  • 2019 Scovie Winner — Salsa: Verde
  • 2020 Fiery Food Challenge Winner — Salsa: Verde/Tomatillo

Turkey Meatball Tostadas With Tomatillo Salsa Recipe Here

Char Grilled Seafood with Salsa Verde Recipe Here

Fresca Salsa // La Fundidora // Brooklyn, NY

Salsa is a grill-side staple these days, but those neon red jars of store-bought extra-chunky are as authentic as your shrink-wrapped buns are bakery-fresh. Grow up, hombre. Simple and fresh and bursting with flavors bright as beachside sun, La Fundadora makes the real deal: spicy serranos and tangy tomatillos, hot as sand, cooling as the waves. Give your fresh-grilled fish the dressing it deserves.

Roasted Chili Salsa // Kitchen Garden Farm // Sunderland, MA

Fire-roasted for optimum smoky goodess, this roasted chili salsa is handcrafted from organic tomatoes, onions and chilies grown on the family farm.

Salsa Macha // Xilli // New York, NY

Slowly fried chipotles? Yes please. Toasted peanuts in a smoky “xilli” (chili) oil? Oh my. This is a big, bold, burrito upgrading salsa made by hand with an authentic, traditional recipe.


Grilled Salsa Verde

Which is made up of deliciously grilled vegetables that are pulsed together in a food processor. SO EASY! And sooooooooooooo good.

Hello there fresh vegetables. You are about to be charred and blended into the most heavenly bowl of food in my refrigerator. Or America. Or the world.

Okay but seriously. This salsa is delicious. You know that green salsa they have at Chipotle? AKA my obsession. That was the inspiration for this. You can see little charred pieces of…charredness…in their salsa, so I don’t know if they roasted the veggies or grilled them but we obviously (if you have been reading this blog and know how obsessed I am with our grill) grilled them.

I know. I know. Those cross hatched grill marks. Just call me the grill master. Even though Seth mostly did this…shhhhh…

This really is such a ridiculously easy recipe. Especially if your husband is a griller, because then all you have to do is throw the vegetables that he grilled into a food processor with a few other things, turn it on, and you end with a perfect salsa verde!

Okay so lets talk about the jalapenos for a minute.

You really, really, really should remove the ribs and seeds after you grill them. We removed the ribs and seeds and threw the entire jalapeno in our salsa, and it was spiiiii-ccaaayyyyy. It mellows out once you let it sit in the fridge for a few hours, but I can’t imagine how spicy it would be with the ribs and seeds too. You can always set them aside and blend them in at the end if you taste it and it’s still not spicy enough for you – which, if so….you be cray cray.

So the spice levels are as follows:

1/4 to 1/2 jalapeno = medium

1 jalapeno (ribs and seeds removed) = spicy

1 jalapeno with ribs and seeds kept in = respect.

This salsa is the perfect balance of flavors. It has delicious depth from grilling the vegetables, tang from the lime, brightness from the cilantro, a bite from the red onion, a little extra flavor from the garlic clove, and a perfect undertone of tomatillos that is behind everything.

And the best part? This delicious salsa goes perfectly slathered on top of some delicious Huevos Rancheros, which I will be posting in a few days ).

Woop woop! Yay Mexican food!

Random side note….Boone is absolutely, insanely, ridiculously afraid of the vet. He is totally fine until we are actually in the room and the vet techs try to do something to him (give him a shot, look at his eyes, etc…) and then all puppy hell breaks loose. It is actually pretty stressful and in the weeks leading up to a vet appointment I am just dreaaaaaading dreading dreading. Apparently this is really, really common with German Shepherds.

So anyway, since we just moved here we needed to get a new vet and a new heartworm prescription. So yesterday we went into the vet and the usual happened. Freaking out to the millionth degree.

So the lady (super SUPER nice, by the way), told us that we needed to reschedule for another day and she gave us these sedatives called “Aces” (I think?) that we are supposed to give him 2 hours before his appointment. So I gave it to him an hour ago….and this dude is OUT.

I hateeee itttttt…..he is totally not himself and I am worried that he is feeling uncomfortable or queasy or sad or…or…or…I DON’T KNOW BUT I JUST DON’T LIKE IT.

Ugh. Poor Boonie. He is acting super drunk.

Anyway…our appointment is in an hour…I’ll let you know how it goes.


Houston's best restaurant salsas

2 of 47 Hot or mild, salsa generally incorporates garlic, tomato and peppers. Houston restaurants can rise and fall by the quality of their versions. The following are ones the Chronicle food team has tasted over the past several months. Michael Ciaglo/Staff Show More Show Less

3 of 47 El Tiempo Cantina Greg Morago Show More Show Less

4 of 47 Ninfa's on Navigation began the tradition of serving both a creamy green and red salsa in the 1970s. The green is a Houston classic and then some. Courtesy photo/Freelance Show More Show Less

5 of 47 Spanish Flowers Mexican Restaurant Greg Morago Show More Show Less

6 of 47 Teotihuacan Mexican Cafe Greg Morago Show More Show Less

7 of 47 Chiloso's Taco House Greg Morago Show More Show Less

8 of 47 La Tapatia Greg Morago Show More Show Less

9 of 47 Chapultepec Lupita Greg Morago Show More Show Less

10 of 47 Goode Co. Taqueria Greg Morago Show More Show Less

11 of 47 Last Concert Cafe Greg Morago Show More Show Less

12 of 47 Cyclone Anaya Greg Morago Show More Show Less

13 of 47 El Patio Mexican Restaurant Greg Morago Show More Show Less

14 of 47 The Pastry War Julie Soefer Show More Show Less

15 of 47 100% Taquito Greg Morago Show More Show Less

16 of 47 Sylvia'?’s Greg Morago Show More Show Less

17 of 47 Eight Row Flint Greg Morago Show More Show Less

18 of 47 Armandos Greg Morago Show More Show Less

19 of 47 Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurant Greg Morago Show More Show Less

20 of 47 Cuchara's three salsas alone are reason enough to love the restaurant. Staff photo/Staff Show More Show Less

21 of 47 El Big Bad Greg Morago Show More Show Less

22 of 47 Saltillo Mexican Kitchen serves four different salsas with house-fried totopos. Melissa Phillip/Staff Show More Show Less

23 of 47 Table salsas with a margarita at Gringo's Mexican Kitchen Alison Cook Show More Show Less

24 of 47 Red and green salsa at Los Tios Mexican Restaurant Jody Schmal Show More Show Less

25 of 47 Tacos A Go Go salsas, clockwise from top: Verde, Fuego, Diablo and Roja Jody Schmal Show More Show Less

26 of 47 Taco Palenque Alison Cook Show More Show Less

27 of 47 Spanish Village Alison Cook Show More Show Less

28 of 47 Green and red table salsas at El Pueblito Patio Alison Cook Show More Show Less

29 of 47 Doneraki Alison Cook Show More Show Less

30 of 47 Macha salsa at Hugo's Alison Cook Show More Show Less

31 of 47 Avocado/tomatillo salsa at Hugo's Alison Cook Show More Show Less

32 of 47 Red and green salsa at Pico's Mex-Mex Alison Cook Show More Show Less

33 of 47 Habanera and the Gringo Alison Cook Show More Show Less

34 of 47 El Jardin Alison Cook Show More Show Less

35 of 47 Ula's Mexican Restaurant & Cantina Show More Show Less

36 of 47 Guadalajara Hacienda Show More Show Less

40 of 47 Los Cucos Mexican Cafe Show More Show Less

44 of 47 Lopez Mexican Restaurant Show More Show Less

47 of 47 Salsa as served at Berryhill Baja Grill. Syd Kearney / Chronicle Show More Show Less

Try to imagine Houston without salsa.

This city would be but a pale shadow of itself without our birthright Mexican condiment in all its manifold forms: the raw and the cooked the red and the green the gold and the blackened the toasted and the charred the chopped and the puréed the fiery and the mild.

Salsas are nothing less than the spice of our civic life. They are there for us at the end of a trying day, an impossible week: poised to inject a thrilling dose of capsaicin into our systems, to make our palates come to attention and our flagging nervous systems come alive.

Not only are these many-hued, invigorating elixirs therapeutic, they are redemptive as well.

Even an average Mexican restaurant can be redeemed by a superior salsa, and who among us has not made a favorite out of a workaday neighborhood joint purely for the joy of scarfing its table salsa with as many tortilla chips as it is humanly possible to ingest?

In fact, we would suggest that if you do not have two or three regular salsa fueling stations scoped out within, say, a three-mile radius of your home, you cannot truly call yourself a Houstonian.

OUR RATINGS

Extraordinary: The ultimate Houston salsa

Excellent: Among the very best Houston salsa

Very Good: Must-do Houston salsa

Good: Dependable salsa

Just OK: Average salsa

So we're telling you about ours, with the caveat that salsas are, in the end, highly personal affairs.

How much chile heat, how much salt, whether to add cilantro or garlic, to roast or not to roast the raw ingredients, to toast the dried chiles or not: these are the myriad quirks each salsa lover must decide for her- or himself. Ask any home cook about his or her special salsa recipe and you'll quickly find out how individualized our taste for these life-giving potions can be.

Houston's salsa methodology and repertoire has evolved over the decades, too. In this age of electric blenders and food processors, few cooks take the trouble to achieve the kind of variegated textures that result from blending the raw or cooked ingredients with a traditional mortar and pestle.

Some of chef Hugo Ortega's salsa recipes in his cookbook "Street Food of Mexico" (Bright Sky Press) call for very specific food-processor pulse counts to get the salsa consistency right. Houston's Adán Medrano, author of the recently published "Truly Texas Mexican" (Texas Tech University Press), offers some salsa recipes made in the blender. But for an elemental salsa featuring his favorite serrano chiles, with their straightforward vegetal heat, he advises readers to put a sliced serrano pod into a molcajete along with 1&frasl8 teaspoon of salt and ¼ cup of water, "and have fun!"

As recently as the 1970s, cilantro was not a widely used ingredient in Houston the flowering of New Southwestern Cuisine, advanced by Houstonian Robert Del Grande, helped earn this distinctive, piercing herb the publicity that has helped make it nearly ubiquitous today in green salsas, enchiladas, pico de gallo and more.

Even green salsas were once much rarer than red versions, until restaurateur Ninfa Laurenzo introduced the city to her wildly popular, creamy green avocado salsa. From its advent at the original Ninfa's restaurant on Navigation, the world of Houston salsa has been a binary system. Her tradition of putting a red and a green salsa on the table with a basket of chips lives on in many restaurants.

The chiles we use in our salsa have evolved, too. The mid-20th-century days of fresh jalapeño and serrano-gigged salsas, many of them tomato-based, have been supplanted by an era in which all kinds of dried red chiles are prized for the different levels of heat and earthy flavors they provide. Anchos, pasillas, guajillos and murderously hot little chiles de arbol now make our salsas sing, and the smoke-dried, ripe jalapeños known as chipotles are widely used.

Gabriela Santamaria, a server at Hugo's restaurant, recalls a Houston where she pined for the habanero chile salsa she grew up with in the Yucatán - and her happiness when she finally found some, in 1988, at Merida restaurant. The fact that she had to ask for it did not lessen her pleasure. Today, the fierce fruity sear of the golden habanero pod is second nature here. At Sanatamaria's place of employment the habanero salsa is a popular sidekick to Hugo's lechon, pulled pork barbecued in a banana leaf.

Sunset orange, Hugo's habanero salsa slaps you with its bright lightning, a high-pitched heat that quickly moves across lips and tongue until it moves in to stay on the back of the palate. Thirty years ago, it might have been considered too extreme for most Houstonians' comfort. Today, diners dab it onto a tangle of pork shreds folded into little blue-corn tortillas, to be strewn with raw onion and cilantro cut into the tiniest mince.

Each bite of the ad hoc taco seems to call for more and more of the salsa, until you're finally spooning it on willy nilly and weeping the happy capsaicin-induced tears that mean, as a Houstonian, you're having a really good time.

That's the enduring beauty of salsa in all its guises, and why we'll keeping cherishing it. Salsa lets you know, in no uncertain terms, that you're alive.

Salsa reviews by Alison Cook, Syd Kearney, Greg Morago and Jody Schmal

100% TAQUITO

3245 Southwest Freeway, 713-665-2900 100taquito.com

Salsafication: Served piping hot, the tomato salsa is hearty with a well-rounded flavor. With each dip you wanted more.

Multiple salsas? Yes. The second salsa is a bright, vivid green charmer that's tangy and heat-forward. There's also a third: a straightforward, unexciting pico de gallo.

Free: No $2.29 for an order of chips and salsa.

Chips: Unsalted chips kept warm until you order.

Grade: Good.

Other: We love the refried black beans here as well as the use of fresco cheese on the addictive tostadas, sopes, and banderitas (crisp beef or chicken flautas sauced to resemble the flag of Mexico).

Salsafication: The red salsa is a soupy concoction almost like a stewed tomato sauce. It's got body but not a lot of flavor depth. But Armandos regulars crave it let's call it a sentimental salsa (if you grew up with it, it's what you want).

Multiple salsas? Yes, and the house tomatillo is a winner &mdash verdant, fragrant, delicious.

Chips: Nice, and served in a cone we always end up wanting more.

Grade: Good (red) very good (green).

Other: Even when it's going full tilt (especially on Thursday nights when it brings out River Oaks' dancing fools), Armandos servers manage to take good care. There's always another cocktail heading your way almost before you ask for it. Love the cheese enchiladas.

BERRYHILL BAJA GRILL

Salsafication: A self-ser salsa bar is one of the signature features of this Houston-born chain. The bar offers an option not available at table-service restaurants. Using the ladle you can decide how saucy or chunky you want your salsa. The large-diced veg in this tomato-forward salsa tastes super fresh and complements an order of Berryhill's famous tamales. But those looking for heat will be disappointed.

Chips: Thick cut and probably tasty if they didn't spend so much of the time under a heat lamp.

Grade: Good.

Other: The salsa may lack heat but not so the Killer B cookies, one of the chain's dessert options. The chili-flecked cookies - a take on a pecan sandie - are delicious and deceptively spicy.

7620 I-10 at MarqE Center, 713-688-1700 2329 Texas 6, Sugar Land, 281-277-1700 cafeadobe.com

Salsafication: What has happened to our favorite party palace Cafe Adobe? The red salsa recently presented looked familiar, but had zero flavor.

Multiple salsas? Yes, a verde version that is pleasantly tart but otherwise unremarkable.

Chips: Medium thickness. On our most recent visit, the chips could have been fresher.

Grade: Just OK (red and green).

Other: The "Perfect" Margarita &mdash a best frozen blend of Sauza Conmemorativo, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, orange juice and freshly squeezed lime juice &mdash remains perfect and potent.

CHAPULTEPEC LUPITA

Salsafication: This no-frills, combo-plate joint offers some darn tasty salsa. It's the kind of personal, familial elixir your favorite tia might have made - a brilliant kitchen salsa with vivid, satisfying flavors. Plenty of chile sting, tomato and fresh cilantro brightness, and a slightly rough, scoopable texture that have you consuming a bowl even before your second beer arrives.

Multiple salsas? No.

Chips: Fine chips, but they could have served us cardboard we'd use whatever vehicle to attack this hot, homespun charmer.

Grade: Excellent.

Other: Chapultepec is open 24 hours, so you can get this wonderful salsa whenever the craving hits you.

CHILOSO'S TACO HOUSE

Salsafication: The red is a wow: an honest, homey sauce sporting intense chile flavor. A loose brew, its components are obvious: discernible, real tomato, onion and chile seeds. We had to ask for squeeze bottles of the green and one taste assured us that this is fiery fuel of the salsa gods. It's incendiary, intense stuff that will blow you away if you're not using it sparingly. But for those who crave the zenith of salsa heat, this green is chile heat heaven.

Multiple salsas? Yes, the delicious red and powerful green.

Free: No, $2 for basket of chips and salsa.

Chips: Warm, and house made. Slightly greasy but we appreciated the fresh, hot chips effort.

Grade: Excellent (red and green).

Other: A popular spot for obvious reasons: fresh flour tortilla tacos, abundant portions, fresh ingredients and Mexican realness in the kitchen.

Eight Houston-area restaurants chuys.com

Salsafication: The chunky concoction that Austin-born Chuy's delivers with its chips is related more to pico de gallo than salsa. The color may be anemic, but those peppers sure aren't. The burn just builds, in a good way.

Multiple salsas? Sort of - there is second condiment that often comes to the table automatically. The jalapeño ranch dip is addictive and soothes any residual burn from the salsa. If it doesn't appear, just ask.

Chips: So light and thin that they often make the chunky salsa a challenge to eat.

Grade: Good.

Other: The complimentary fully loaded nacho bar at happy hour is one of the best deals in town.

Salsafication: A grand, verging-on-baroque salsa presentation of ridiculously delicious salsa flavors you won't find anywhere else in Houston. The salsa trio features Salsa Tia Martha (a green tomatillo version sporting an unexpected undertow of crushed peanut) Salsa de 5 Chiles (toasted chile heat enriched with porky chicharrones) and Salsa Quemada (a bold, fragrant stunner boasting "burnt" arbol chile skin).

Multiple salsas? Yes, three, and they're all fabulous.

Chips: They call them tortilla "fritters" we call them tortilla chips.

Grade: Extraordinary.

Other: Last year, Cuchara had an in-house salsa competition, La Mejor Salsa de Mi Mama, among six mothers who cook at the restaurant. They were all salsas the cooks had learned from their mothers and grandmothers. It was magisterial stuff. The salsa program alone is reason enough to love Cuchara.

CYCLONE ANAYA'S

Six Houston area locations cycloneanaya.com

Salsafication: Tomato bomb. And we mean that in a good way. The salsa here is so tomato forward it almost feels like an Italian marinara. It's got great body and mild heat but it's darn tasty, addictive even. Delivering Roma Red respect for Houston's salsa hounds.

Multiple salsas? If they have a green, we don't know about it.

Chips: Nice, crispy, plentiful.

Grade: Very good.

Other: We love the wrestler story at the heart of Cyclone Anaya (and the Midtown store is one of our favorite places to spend a chips and salsa afternoon).

Salsafication: The red sauce here is so good it's an attraction in and of itself. Served warm, the salsa roja has a runny, pureed texture amplified by dried red chile seeds, dark flecks of toasted chile skin and spindles of roasted tomato skin. It sings with roastiness and plenty of chile heat that blooms on the lips and the tongue. One bowlful is never enough.

Multiple salsas? No.

Chips: Thin, delicate, lots of crunch.

Grade: Excellent.

Other: The salsa roja is particularly good on the Fajitadillas, one of Doneraki's better dishes.

EIGHT ROW FLINT

Salsafication: Chunky, vegetal and well-balanced, this good fresh salsa does this contemporary Heights icehouse proud. Mix some into the pure avocado-mash guacamole and you have yourself a treat you might find hard to share.

Multiple salsas? No.

Free: No, $5 for chips and salsa.

Chips: The star of the show, these hot fresh chips are fashioned from house-made tortillas prepared with heirloom corn. Thick and substantial, they deliver excellent corn flavor.

Grade: Very good.

Other: This new, always-packed icehouse is from the partners of Revival Market and Coltivare, Morgan Weber and chef Ryan Pera. There's an almost overwhelming bourbon menu here that might take you a year to get through. But isn't that the point?

Salsafication: El Big Bad goes El Big when it comes to salsa. Four imaginative, chef-driven salsas grace the menu. Each brings something unique to the table. There's a satisfying charred tomato salsa shot through with onion, serrano chile, garlic, lime and cilantro a vibrant salsa verde (tomatillo and serrano) with just the right amount of fresh green flash Jalisco Vinegar (a tangy wallop of tart heat laced with subtle flavors of toasted seeds, baking spices and chile de arbol potency) and Cranberry Picosa (fruit forward sweetness slammed by a habanero scorching).

Multiple salsas? Yes, four.

Free: $3 for one $8 for three $10 for all four.

Chips: Made in-house they're warm, satisfying corny comfort.

Grade: Excellent.

Other: A great place to drink, but don't confuse this gastro-cantina with a margarita mill El Big Bad has some wonderfully rich, satisfying, true-flavors cooking going on.

EL HIDALGUENSE

Salsafication: Chiles rayados, the dried and wood-smoked pods of an heirloom jalapeño unique to Mexico's Hidalgo state, are the key to the deep, dark, thrillingly intense table salsa at this family-run regional spot. The salsa made from these chiles is so dusky it can appear almost black, and the varietal is hotter than your average jalapeño by a good bit.

Mutiple salsas? No.

Chips: Do the job.

Grade: Extraordinary.

Other: The house salsa is a serious enhancement to the Hidalguense specialties of lamb barbacoa cooked in maguey leaves and whole cabrito al pastor. Just add corn tortillas.

Salsafication: The warm red table salsa here is not fooling around. A good tart tomato bite and an edge of cliantro leaves and stems are backed up by a deep dried red-chile burn (we're guessing guajillos) that spreads slowly and doesn't quit. The closer to prime tomato season, the better it gets, but it is formidable even in mid-winter.

Mutiple salsas? No.

Chips: Medium-thick with a bubbly crunch, with a few red and green ones scattered through the basket for color.

Grade: Excellent.

Other: This family-owned East End staple makes a mean enchilada verde de pollo, and mariachis make it festive on weekends.

EL PATIO MEXICAN RESTAURANT

6444 Westheimer, 713-780-0410 elpatio.com

Salsafication: The salsa set before us looks on the thin side, innocuous even. But that bowl of red has some welcome heat and packs a lot of flavor. Served cold, it's a great condiment for El Patio's classic Tex-Mex menu.

Multiple salsas? No.

Chips: Incredibly thin and crispy. Light vehicles for the house's spicy tonic.

Grade: Very good.

Other: Club No Minors memories are plentiful (or are they?). Blame the blue margaritas everyone swears have to be the most potent in town. Great happy hour prices make El Patio a perfect day to smash the afternoon into a million golden pieces.

EL PUEBLITO PATIO

Salsafication: That pale green potion on your table looks like a regular old salsa verde. But surprise: The base is roughly puréed pineapple, and the salsa comes on all innocent sweetness, followed by sneaky green chile heat, an edge of cilantro and a savory note of onion. It seems odd and insipid at first blush, until the heat kicks in. Then, despite your better judgment, you're hooked.

Multiple salsas? Yes. Pueblito made its name originally with that pineapple salsa, which caused a stir when the restaurant opened as El Pueblito Place in 1997. But the red table salsa is even better. A cool, rough tomato purée that creeps up on you with a big front-of-the palate sear that migrates to the back of the throat as the heat subsides, it has a nice balance of salt, tartness, cilantro and onion flavors.

Chips: Deep-gold, medium-thick, slightly bubbled surface. They're decent-quality commercial specimens but nothing special.

Grade: Good (pineapple) very good (red salsa).

Other: Despite the outrageous charms of the big Las Vegas pool-club-style patio - complete with draped semi-private dining pavilions, huge palms and a waterfall - the vaguely coastal Mexican food here is so-so at best. You're safest scarfing the salsas while sipping one of the surprisingly good, tart frozen margaritas at the bar.

Salsafication: Red comes to the table warm and redolent. Its toasted red chilies are pleasant but lacking the bold heat that some Houstonians crave.

Multiple salsas? Yes. Want more heat? Ask for the "other" sauce. It is green and garish. You're welcome.

Chips: Arguably the best in town. Freshly fried, expertly salted and feather light.

Grade: Very good.

Other: El Real is one of the neighborhood's best traditions. If you live in one of three ZIP codes (77006, 019 or 098) or dine with a friend who does, you get 50 percent off your food purchase open to close on "Montrose Mondays."

EL TIEMPO CANTINA

Salsafication: The fact that this brand comes from Mama Ninfa's talented clan is assurance enough that you're getting authentic Houston salsa at the many El Tiempo outposts. The green seems more emulsified than the original Ninfa's on Navigation but no less crave-inducing. The red, though, is a thing of beauty - a vivid, tomato-forward sauce that is visibly potent and full of flavor. It's not terribly chile hot, but it is as well rounded a red as you can get.

Multiple salsas? Yes, both green and red served automatically.

Chips: Abundant crunch replaced automatically and often.

Grade: Excellent (red and green).

Other: It's hard to believe that the restaurant's enormous menu is delivered in such top-notch fashion. But it is, and that's why El Tiempo, for many, is the ultimate go-to Tex-Mex.

Six Houston-area restaurants escalantes.net

Salsafication: How does such a high-end Tex-Mex chain get by with such a lowly salsa? On the day we visited the red potion was wimpy and watery.

Multiple salsas? No.

Chips: Pedestrian and crying out for salt.

Grade: Just OK.

Other: The newest location is lakeside at Hughes Landing in the Woodlands. It really is lovely on a sunny Sunday afternoon when the lake is dotted with paddlers and your only big decision is Mimosa or Margarita.

GOODE CO. TAQUERIA

Salsafication: We might wish for more capsaicin sting from this loose-textured red salsa but it's the kind of sauce you want to pour every everything &mdash your taco and fajita dinners, midges and all the other huevo-based day-starter options. With its discernible roasted bits and mild tomato goodness, this is a serviceable salsa that aims to please all palates. Want more chile kick? Load up on the free pickled jalapeños.

Multiple salsas? No.

Chips: Nice, friendly chips.

Grade: Very good.

Other: The Goode quality stamp is at play here as it is throughout the Goode family brands. You might be paying a bit more for your Tex-Mex than at other joints, but the food and service are hard to beat.

GRINGO'S MEXICAN KITCHEN

Salsafication: The red table salsa from this suburban chain is a fairly pureed, cool fresca version that packs some very pleasant heat. It hits the front of the palate and the tongue, and flecks of cilantro give it an herbal bite. It's not complex, but it's lively.

Multiple salsas? Yes. A creamy green salsa that's very mild, without much going on other than a tiny hint of cilantro and a mere touch of heat on the finish.

Chips: Standard issue.

Grade: Good (red).

Other: These popular suburban Tex-Mex spots give you a lot of serviceable food for the money, and the happy-hour margarita prices ensure that they're busy even in mid-afternoon.

GUADALAJARA HACIENDA

Salsafication: Served icy cold, the tomato-forward red salsa has a pleasant pulpy texture and vinegary bite.

Multiple salsas? No, but Guadalajara does serve alongside their salsa a fairly forgettable creamy cilantro sauce.

Chips: See-through thin and well-salted.

Grade: Good.

Other: This locally owned chain recently renovated its Southwest Freeway location and gave it a spiffy new name. It is Guad Texas Chef-Mex.

HABANERA & THE GRINGO

Salsification: Brightened with both lemon and lime and rounded with garlic, the red table salsa resembles a marvelous, slightly soupy pico de gallo. Meticulously chopped tomato, onion and jalapeño impart a fine fresh texture, and cilantro adds an herbal twinge.

Multiple salsas? No.

Chips: Sturdy and house-fried, they snap, crackle and pop.

Grade: Extraordinary.

Other: The food at this southeast Houston newcomer near Hobby Airport is personal and frisky the salsa's just the beginning. Don't miss the frozen margaritas with hand-muddled tropical fruits and seasonings mixed in.

Salsafication: The sole table salsa, meant to accompany the house-fried totopos, is a salsa Mexicana so lively and fresh tasting and soft that it fools you into thinking it will be mild before socking you with its green-chile heat. Chef Hugo Ortega uses the chile pods with seeds and veins intact for more capsaicin oomph. A pulpy room-temperature mince, it's flecked with green chile and cilantro bits, deepened by onion and the garlic that is one of Ortega's favorite salsa touches. Those spindles of tomato skin bristling here and there? Proof that fresh tomatoes have been roasted to make the salsa, which intensifies the flavors.

Multiple salsas? Yes, many and varied, made to go with specific dishes. One of Ortega's newest potions is the salsa macha, an evil-looking blackish sludge gritty with solids: garlic shards, sesame seeds, cilantro seeds, dried red chiles. This specialty of Veracruz hits with a toastiness followed by a note of sweetness and then bam! Sudden, throat-catching heat that hurts so good. The avocado-tomatillo green salsa is killer stuff, beautifully coarse and bright with hunks of tart tomatillo and a controlled flare of green chile heat that lingers on the tongue. The avocado component subtly mellows the effect.

Free: No. Order the salsa Mexicana for $7 with totopos and guacamole. Salsa macha comes with roasted cauliflower salad avocado-tomatillo salsa comes with Tacos Dorados, soft little folds of puffy fried potato.

Chips: Sturdy house-fried totopos that emit a sharp crack with each bite.

Grade: Extraordinary (Mexicana, macha and avocado-tomatillo).

IRMA'S ORIGINAL

Salsafication: The only trouble with Irma Galvan's salsa is that we can't stop eating it. Served warm, the dark cherry-colored salsa tastes fresh and made with love. A sweet little heat just tickles the tongue.

Multiple salsas? No.

Chips: Perfection, crisped.

Grade: Excellent.

Other: This downtown Tex-Mex restaurant, as famous for its lack of menus as its food, was honored as an "American Classic" in 2008 by the James Beard Foundation.

Multiple locations in Houston latapatiahouston.com

Salsafication: Within seconds of sitting down you're met with a big, welcoming bowl of chips and both red and green salsa. The red sits nicely on chips and sports an almost perfect body and texture. It's textbook red that effortlessly balances the tomato/chile equation. The tomatillo green also nails the texture department flavor-wise it's got it all going on: tang, just the right amount of heat and easy likability.

Multiple salsas? Yes, red and green.

Chips: Solid, standard chomps.

Grade: Very good.

Other: Unfussy go-to Tex-Mex doesn't aim to outperform in the standard repertoire. And that's probably part of its easygoing charm.

LAST CONCERT CAFE

Salsafication: It might not be the first place that comes to mind when you're craving Tex-Mex (and that's your own fault), but you'll have a rewarding experience when you want to get on with a chips-and-salsa throwdown. The salsa is good-natured: bright-red tomato flavor churned with abundant cilantro and serrano chile. It's made daily, and you can tell from its direct, clean, fresh impact. It's the kind of salsa you wish you could make at home and would taste just as good.

Mutiple salsas? No.

Chips: Good, workmanlike chips.

Grade: Very good.

Other: You'll have to knock at the red door to gain entrance, but Last Concert is as unpretentious and welcoming as they come. In a city that has a high tolerance for artifice, this hippie, be-yourself cafe puts on zero airs, making it a true come-as-you-are social hall for dependable Tex-Mex and uncontrived atmosphere.

LOPEZ MEXICAN RESTAURANT

11606 Wilcrest, 281-495-2436 vivalopez.com

Salsafication: A mild tasting salsa fresca that has been served by this southwest Houston since 1978. More of a seasoning for topping tacos and nachos than a stand-alone salsa.

Multiple salsas? No.

Chips: Medium thick and pleasantly golden.

Grade: Just OK.

Other: The signature drink is the Dos Piñas. A summery drink whose base in pineapple-infused tequila.

LOS CUCOS MEXICAN CAFE

17 Houston-area restaurants loscucos.com

Salsafication: The red salsa at this Houston-born chain is served warm in a cup with a pouring lip. It's as pretty to look at as it is good to eat, with roasted bits of red chiles and tomato. Pleasant vinegar finish.

Multiple salsas? Yes. There's pale-green cream sauce perked up with fresh cilantro.

Chips: They are lighter than they look, and that's a good thing.

Grade: Very good.

Other: For a decadent lunch or afternoon snack, try the seafood nachos. A small order is plenty as this is one rich dish, topped with crab, shrimp, Monterey Jack, sour cream and guacamole. And it goes down swell with a pucker-inducing margarita.

LOS TIOS MEXICAN RESTAURANT

4840 Beechnut, 9527 Westheimer, 14006 Memorial, 3308 Highway 6 S. (in Sugar Land) lostiosrestaurant.com

Salsafication: The old-school Tex-Mex chain's duo of table salsas does the job, and certainly have their legion of fans. We give a slight edge to the sprightly red, a puréed blend that doesn't overwhelm the flavor of its fried-corn vessel. It has an occasional bite of spice, but for the most part you'll wonder how you polished off the bowl so quickly.

Multiple salsas? Yes. The sour-creamy tomatillo/avocado green sauce also is imminently devourable.

Chips: On the thin side but sturdy enough.

Salsa grade: Excellent (red) very good (green).

Other: The Adair Family Restaurants Group (Skeeter's, Adair Kitchen) acquired the Los Tios chain, which has been around for decades, in 2000.

LUPE TORTILLA

Salsafication: Not really a traditional table salsa at all, Lupe's chip dipper is really more a pico de gallo a chunky salsa fresca with a predominant tomato flavor and not much else. It doesn't carry a lot of heat it's watery too, which may be a let down to those who like to drown their tacos with a traditional blended salsa.

Multiple salsas? Not really. Instead of offering a second salsa, Lupe serves a bowl of charro beans. Warm, satisfying and a nice, unexpected touch. If you want extra heat with your food ask for a mess of the restaurant's delicious pickled jalapeños.

Chips: Light as air and addictive. They'll bring you as much as you can crunch down.

Grade: Just OK.

Other: Lupe's fajitas, which sport a special taste, have earned legions of fans.

MARIA SELMA

Salsafication: The cool, soupy red salsa here shows virtually no solids, but its hauntingly smoky and earthy red-chile quality gives it authority, as does a small but distinct afterburn.

Multiple salsas? No.

Chips: Smooth, thinnish commercial chips of absolutely no interest.

Grade: Good.

Other: Forget the chips and use the salsa on Maria Selma's competent Mex-Mex botanas.

MOLINA'S CANTINA

7901 Westheimer 4720 Washington 3801 Bellaire molinascantina.com

Salsafication: The "original" salsa - the recipe is more than 70 years old, just like the family-owned chain - is an acquired taste. It is super tart and vinegary, and you're likely to get tripped up by some of those finely chopped fresh jalapeños.

Multiple salsas? Yes. Molina's other red sauce is a less brash, toastier concoction with roasted jalapeño, arbol and pasilla peppers. It grows on you. Both red salsas are served automatically. If you'd prefer a salsa verde, request the Michael sauce that accompanies the popular chicken enchiladas.

Chips: Fresh and fragile (in a good way).

Grade: Excellent (both reds and green).

Other: One of Molina's best "para acompañar" is its mango pico de gallo. The warm salad accompanies a terrific sautéed camarones dish known as Raulito's Shrimp Special.

NINFA'S ON NAVIGATION

Salsafication: Ninfa Laurenzo's green avocado/tomatillo salsa caused a sensation when she introduced it back in the 1970s. Miraculously, it's as good as it ever was, perhaps even better. This cool, roughly puréed salsa fools you with its avocado suavity and sour-creamy dairy innocence, sharpened by a quiet tartness from its tomatillo component. Then its green-chile heat lights a little burn on the roof of your mouth and keeps it going. This salsa is not just a Houston classic - it's an American landmark.

Multiple salsas? Yes, green and red. The cool, roughly puréed red salsa doesn't have quite the roasty complexity it once did, nor the invigorating chile heat. But there's a nice balance of tomato tartness and salt, and chile seeds and blackened bits impart a pleasant, spreading warmth. Upend a chip, and the salsa clings - always a plus. The pickled vegetables with their tangy heat are a nice touch. Ask for them.

Chips: Great thin, crackly chips with small bubbles across a surface glossed with the lightest sheen of oil. Easy to consume a half basketful without thinking about it.

Salsa grade: Extraordinary (green) very good (red).

Other: Wallow in chips and salsa with one of the house frozen or specialty margaritas at the bar or apply liberally to everything from the mighty, served-here-first fajitas to anything else on this reliable Tex-Mex menu.

More than a dozen Houston-area restaurants pappasitos.com

Salsafication: Served warm, this light but spicy salsa is reason alone to visit this Houston-based, family-owned chain. The roasted vegetables and pepper always taste super fresh. If we had any complaint, it is that the salsa vessels just get smaller and smaller.

Multiple salsas? Yes. The creamy avocado dip is a pleasant accessory.

Chips: See-through-thin chips are served warm and satisfyingly salty.

Grade: Very good.

Other: Here's the way to do Pappasito's: Show up at 3 o'clock and order the addictive, butter-drenched Chipotle Shrimp that are available only at lunch, which is served until 4. The genius is that you've timed it just right for happy-hour pricing on your margarita.

PICO'S MEX-MEX

Salsafication: There's red table salsa and green, in the binary tradition Ninfa's made famous, but the green salsa is all tart tomatillo zip instead of avocado creaminess, which makes it wonderfully bright and memorable. There's just enough grippy green-chile heat to expand the tart-fruit, onion and cilantro flavors and keep them going.

Mutiple salsas? Yes. The red salsa has enough roastiness of tomato, onion and chiles to give it depth and complexity.

Chips: Well-made skinny totopos.

Grade: Extraordinary (green) excellent (red).

Other: The shaker margaritas, served straight up, have set the premium standards for this iconic Houston cocktail for three decades now. Order one with any of the well-made regional Mexican dishes.

SALTILLO MEXICAN KITCHEN

Salsafication: You get four-count-'em-four table salsas to play with, each one formidable in its own right. The champion? An unusual minced-red-onion salsa that's almost a relish, lit up by fruity habanero chile and twinged with fragrant Mexican oregano. A touch of olive oil and orange rounds out the flavors and textures. Brilliant on everything from chips to the mesquite-grilled, Norteño-style beef that's a specialty here.

Multiple salsas? Yes. The tomatillo salsa, the mildest of the four, is a tart, spring-green purée. The perfectly calibrated red salsa, slightly pulpy and flecked with chile seeds, gets an intriguing umami note from chicken broth, and it bursts with front-of-the-mouth heat that spreads and fades to a lingering warmth. Fourth comes a bright, sunny habanero/papaya purée in which the papaya's fruitiness tempers the distinctive habanero sear while salt sharpens it.

Chips: Sturdy, fried-in-house totopos with a layer-y effect.

Grade: Extraordinary (red onion red salsa) excellent (tomatillo, habanero).

Other: Though the salsas merit a trip in themselves, the Norteño-style food at this upscale, dining-clubby Bellaire spot is terrific, and the house margarita, shaken and served straight up, is one of the city's best.

SKINNY RITA'S

607 W. Gray, 832-834-4430 4002 N. Main, 832-831-6895 srgrille.com

Salsafication: A chunky roasted veg salsa without much heat but solid flavor.

Multiple salsas? Yes, a creamy and fragrant avocado/tomatilla salsa.

Chips: Sturdy but flavorful.

Grade: Good red very good green.

Other: This small chain puts a lot of emphasis on its hormone-free meats and its abundant vegetarian and gluten-free options.

SPANISH FLOWERS MEXICAN RESTAURANT

Salsafication: Spanish Flower is a Houston institution but its salsa is bewilderingly weak. Chunky, yes, but bland and watery. There is practically no chile flavor in this soupy, almost tinny tomato brew that does little to please die-hard salsa fans.

Multiple salsas? Only red is served to us. It's a disappointing chips and salsa encounter.

Chips: Flavorless.

Grade: Just OK.

Other: Open 24 hours. According to website the restaurant takes a break on Tuesday nights when it closes at 10 p.m. (reopening Wednesday at 9 a.m.).

SPANISH VILLAGE

Salsafication: The fierce red table salsa here has hardly changed a jot over the 50 years we've been scarfing it down with chips and more chips. It's thin and soupy, shot through with onion and a sudden wall of jalapeño heat strong enough to clear sinuses. It's not about depth or nuance it's about feeling the elemental burn. Food photographer Penny de los Santos says it's a dead ringer for the salsa she grew up with in the Rio Grande Valley.

Multiple salsas? No.

Chips: Thin, crackly, salty.

Grade: Good.

Other: This quirky Tex-Mex mainstay dishes out classic cheese-and-onion enchiladas, cult fried chicken (!) and amazing margaritas bristling with slivers of frozen lime juice.

6401 Woodway, 1140 Eldridge Parkway, 12637 Westheimer sylviasenchiladas.com

Salsafication: The red salsa is served so hot the bowl was steaming at the table. There must be a cauldron in the kitchen gurgling with this humble brew that sports visible feathers of tomato skin and roasted flecks. This is a loving, mama-style salsa that isn't chile hot but pleases with its homey, flavorful goodness.

Multiple salsas? Not advertised but there's a habanero version of this table salsa ask for it if you need the heat.

Chips: Hot, thin yumminess.

Grade: Very good.

Other: Owner Sylvia Casares &mdash known as Houston's Queen of Tex-Mex Cuisine and/or Houston's Enchilada Queen &mdash is a born educator. Her cooking school classes help preserve Tex-Mex culinary traditions.

TACOS A GO GO

3704 Main and 2941 White Oak tacosagogo.com

Salsafication: The colorful, locally-owned fast-casual joint offers four varieties at its serve-yourself salsa bar. All are meant to complement the menu's taco variety just ladle your choice(s) into tiny plastic ramekins to pour and dip as you please. Our go-to? The green Diablo, the hottest of the bunch, is all juicy-fresh with raw serrano peppers tempered slightly by a bit of tomatillo, lime juice, cilantro and onion.

Multiple salsas? Yes, four. The sweet/medium-spicy traditional Roja blends roasted tomatoes with plentiful garlic, cilantro, chopped onion and chile de arbol specks. The smooth, mostly-mild Verde stars roasted tomatillos with a kick of serrano, while the deep, rust-red Fuego sauce is all smoke with dry-roasted chipotle chiles.

Chips: Medium-thick housemade chips come with orders of guacamole ($4.59), queso ($3.99) and salsa Roja ($2.99, a larger portion).

Salsa grade: Excellent (Diablo), very good (Roja, Verde), good (Fuego)

Other: The oft-overlooked nachos here &mdash a heaping pile of queso-laden chips topped with black or refried beans, crisp shreds of lettuce, tomatoes, pickled jalapenos and any taco meat &mdash are arguably among the city's best.

TACO PALENQUE

Salsafication: The standout on the serve-yourself salsa bar is the deep-red Salsa Picosa, which hits the palate with a profound sun-baked roastiness and spreading heat. Flecks of charred chile and plenty of seeds keep the slightly puréed texture real. Salty, tart and dusky, it's hard to stop eating.

Mutiple salsas? Yes, three. The good basic tomatillo green salsa hits with a quick flare of green-chile heat and the dark, blackened Salsa Tatemada strikes with a major delayed sear that can make your nose run.

Chips: Thinny-thin and brittle.

Grade: Excellent (Picosa) good (tomatillo and Tatemada).

Other: The meats from the Rio Grande Valley-based chain are merely serviceable, but the earthy bean-and-cheese tacos wrapped in flour tortillas are primal, the salsa bar's fun, and the agua fresca jamaica is wonderful in its refusal to cloy.

TEOTIHUACAN MEXICAN CAFE

Three locations in Houston teomexicancafe.com

Salsafication: The red is a warm, flavorful mash with specs of roasted tomato. It separates a bit if left alone but there's no threat of that because it sports a nice chile kick you want to keep eating. The green is better &mdash a deceptive pale-colored sauce that offers clean flavors of lime, cilantro and green chile brightness.

Multiple salsas? Yes. Both red and green are distinguished salsas that makes Teotihuacan an inviting chips and salsa experience.

Chips: Light, warm and crispy but we added some salt.

Grade: Very good.

Other: The restaurant has a great atmosphere where family gatherings and obvious regulars are happy to call home. The nachos are great and the guacamole fantastic.

THE PASTRY WAR

Salsafication: Swamp creature. The boggy chile stew served at this serious downtown mezcal bar takes no prisoners. It is unapologetically combustible with ferocious chile heat. A red, tomato-based salsa, it almost tips to green in color for all its nearly flammable chile glory. We've asked what's in it they won't tell. Whoever is making this fierce, verdant sludge is a salsa master.

Multiple salsas? Nope, but this one practically straddles two worlds.

Free: No. $5.99 for chips and salsa.

Chips: Get rid of them. The awful, red/white/blue supermarket tortilla chips are unworthy of such glorious salsa.

Grade: Extraordinary.

Other: The chicken and pork tamales are dreamy. We also like the queso. And that's it for food at this bar that boasts what is surely the state's most intelligent agave spirits program.

ULA'S MEXICAN RESTAURANT & CANTINA

5555 Washington, 832-491-0510 9009 Sienna Christus, Missouri City, 281-778-9345 texmexicanfood.com

Salsafication: Served warm, this brick-colored salsa suffers from a lack of heat and depth. Thanks to a heavy hand with the onion, it recalls a slightly sweet marinara.

Multiple salsas? No, but the chips do come with a bowl of thickened, bacon-flecked charro beans.

Chips: Medium thick, which is a requirement if you're using them as a vessel for the bean "dip."

Grade: Just OK.

Other: Try the Mexican smoked ribs, which are char-grilled and basted with chef/owner Ulises Gonzalez's spicy barbecue sauce.

UNCLE JULIO'S

20526 Interstate 10, in Katy unclejulios.com

Salsafication: Roasted onions, jalapeños and tomatoes give this salsa a pleasantly smoky flavor the little bits of cilantro provide a fresh touch. Served warm, the thin salsa is a perfect match for Uncle Julio's ethereal chips.

Multiple salsas? No.

Chips: Deftly salted and whisper thin.

Grade: Very good.

Other: Make it a celebration with this Dallas-based chain's Chocolate Pinata. Diners use a small hammer to crack the egg-shaped chocolate, and out pour mini churros and fresh fruit.


Cubano Pork Chops with Pickle-and-Pepper Relish and Char-Grilled Corn

Preheat a grill or a grill pan to medium-high. In a shallow dish, combine the lime zest, brown sugar, grill seasoning, cumin, coriander and allspice and 3 tablespoons of the EVOO. Add the pork chops to the dish and turn to coat evenly. Let the chops hang out for 5 minutes, then grill until the meat feels firm and the juices run clear, 6 to 8 minutes on each side with the grill top closed. If using a grill pan, tent the pan with aluminum foil and adjust the heat to prevent scorching.

While the chops are working, mix together the pickles and peppers and reserve. In a small bowl, stir together the softened butter and tomatillo salsa until combined. Drizzle a touch of EVOO onto the corn and rub it over the corn. (Wait until you turn those chops before you add the corn to the fire.) Grill the corn with the grill lid closed until charred and cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes, or cook the corn in the tented grill pan.

Serve the chops with the pickle-and-pepper relish on top and the grilled corn alongside. Slather the corn with the tomatillo butter.


Coarsely chop half of onion and 2 pineapple rounds. Reserve and chill remaining pineapple.

Place chopped onion and pineapple in blender, and add lime juice, vinegar, Guajillo Chile Powder, garlic, salt, Mexican oregano and cumin. Purée until smooth.

Place pork slices into re-sealable plastic bag. Pour in marinade and seal. Turn and massage lightly to coat meat. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 1 day.

Prepare medium-high-heat grill. Slightly char remaining pineapple rounds reserve. Grill pork slices until lightly charred and cooked through, about 2 to 4 minutes per side.

Chop pineapple rounds and pork into bite-sized pieces. Transfer to serving platter, and toss to combine.

Finely chop remaining half of onion, and toss with cilantro.

Serve pork-pineapple mixture with warm tortillas, cilantro-onion relish and lime wedges for making tacos.


The Char Grilled Steak Taco debate continues.

While I don't claim to be an expert in the char-grilled steak taco arena, my family background gives me a very good basis for debating this topic. My parents were born and raised in Mexico but most importantly, I spent many summers as a child in Monterrey, Mexico where char-grilling and the steak taco is king. at least back then. My first cousin ended up selling a few thousand tacos daily at his Monterrey, Mexico Taqueria. he was known to serve up some of Monterrey's very best tacos. I think you probably understand now why my family and I are obsessed with food and of course char grilled steak tacos. I like to bring a sack of steak tacos to parties and barbacues just so my friends can share in the joy.

After much recent chow-debate about the best char-grilled steak tacos, I just couldn't help myself, I day dreamed all last Friday afternoon about steak tacos from Taqueria El Asadero-Chicago(my old standard), Indio Restaurant-Cicero, and La Pasadita East-Chicago. I stumbled accross Taqueria El Asadero several years ago after a tennis game in Welles Park at Montrose and Lincoln. My friend and I rejoiced after tasting in my opinion, the very best steak tacos in the entire Chicago area. It had been years since my last visit to La Pasadita East and the name just kept popping up in the steak taco postings. I found out about Indio Restaurant in Cicero from a former Berwyn-Cicero hispanic resident. She claimed that they served the best steak tacos so I had to find out for myself.

La Pasadita East serves up some very tasty steak tacos and frankly some of the very best out there. The steak was juicy, tender, perfectly cooked, lightly seasoned, and served with a bit of cilantro and onion on two white corn (I think they were white corn). The meat-to-tortilla-to-fillings ratio was just right. The tomatillo salsa was fine.

In conclusion, TAQUERIA EL ASADERO IS STILL KING! The fresh right off the grill steak is perfectly seasoned, tender, juicy, and nearly twice the steak than La Pasadita East. Although La Pasadita East's steak tacos are excellent, Asadero's are a bit more flavorful, juicier, a bit more tender, and a better value for the quantity of steak.

Oh, as for Indio Restaurant? The verdict is still out on this one. Sorry, I didn't find the address during my initial search so I must have driven by it without knowing. I'll be back there soon. Here are the addresses

Taqueria el Asadero
2213 W. Montrose Ave.
Chicago

La Pasadita East: There are three of them (yes 3) on Ashland Avenue just south of Division within 100 feet of eachother. Go to the one on the east side of the street.

Indio Restaurant
6037 W Cermak Rd ,
Cicero, IL Phone - (708) 863-5714


To begin making the Mexican Salsa Verde, first remove the husk from the tomatillo and wash them thoroughly and we will roast them in the oven.

Preheat your oven at 200 C for 15 minutes while you prepare the tomatillo for roasting.

Next, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminium foil. Place tomatillo and green chilies on it. Place the baking tray into the oven and let the tomatillo and green chillies roast for 5-10 minutes on high heat till the tops are char grilled.

Once the tomatoes are grilled, allow it to cool a little and remove the skin of the tomatoes.

Place the tomatoes along with along with chilies, sugar, salt , fresh coriander, olive oil, lemon juice into a blender jar and pulse a couple of times till the tomatillo breaks down. Take care not to over blend it to a puree. Instead leave some chunky pieces of tomatillo.

Check the seasoning, adjust if required and transfer the Green Tomato Salsa to a glass jar and refrigerate until ready to serve.


The Char Grilled Steak Taco debate continues.

While I don't claim to be an expert in the char-grilled steak taco arena, my family background gives me a very good basis for debating this topic. My parents were born and raised in Mexico but most importantly, I spent many summers as a child in Monterrey, Mexico where char-grilling and the steak taco is king. at least back then. My first cousin ended up selling a few thousand tacos daily at his Monterrey, Mexico Taqueria. he was known to serve up some of Monterrey's very best tacos. I think you probably understand now why my family and I are obsessed with food and of course char grilled steak tacos. I like to bring a sack of steak tacos to parties and barbacues just so my friends can share in the joy.

After much recent chow-debate about the best char-grilled steak tacos, I just couldn't help myself, I day dreamed all last Friday afternoon about steak tacos from Taqueria El Asadero-Chicago(my old standard), Indio Restaurant-Cicero, and La Pasadita East-Chicago. I stumbled accross Taqueria El Asadero several years ago after a tennis game in Welles Park at Montrose and Lincoln. My friend and I rejoiced after tasting in my opinion, the very best steak tacos in the entire Chicago area. It had been years since my last visit to La Pasadita East and the name just kept popping up in the steak taco postings. I found out about Indio Restaurant in Cicero from a former Berwyn-Cicero hispanic resident. She claimed that they served the best steak tacos so I had to find out for myself.

La Pasadita East serves up some very tasty steak tacos and frankly some of the very best out there. The steak was juicy, tender, perfectly cooked, lightly seasoned, and served with a bit of cilantro and onion on two white corn (I think they were white corn). The meat-to-tortilla-to-fillings ratio was just right. The tomatillo salsa was fine.

In conclusion, TAQUERIA EL ASADERO IS STILL KING! The fresh right off the grill steak is perfectly seasoned, tender, juicy, and nearly twice the steak than La Pasadita East. Although La Pasadita East's steak tacos are excellent, Asadero's are a bit more flavorful, juicier, a bit more tender, and a better value for the quantity of steak.

Oh, as for Indio Restaurant? The verdict is still out on this one. Sorry, I didn't find the address during my initial search so I must have driven by it without knowing. I'll be back there soon. Here are the addresses

Taqueria el Asadero
2213 W. Montrose Ave.
Chicago

La Pasadita East: There are three of them (yes 3) on Ashland Avenue just south of Division within 100 feet of eachother. Go to the one on the east side of the street.

Indio Restaurant
6037 W Cermak Rd ,
Cicero, IL Phone - (708) 863-5714



Comments:

  1. Makinos

    Fascinating question

  2. Ealdian

    I would write you a couple of gentle ones here, but I will refrain. Education does not allow)))

  3. Ladon

    wonderfully valuable information

  4. Moogumuro

    It's obvious, you weren't wrong



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