Only a crazy chili-head would think of eating Mexican food when the thermometer is topping 100°F, as it was early this week. Guilty as charged, but in my defense, I was hotter than a Mexican jumping bean and spicy Mexican cuisine sounded just right. Besides, my brain was addled by the unrelenting heat.
—located at 20 Clarkson Wilson Center, off Clarkson Road—looked inviting. The welcoming entrance is flanked by a wraparound porch with hanging plants and flowers, and I imagine it would be very pleasant if the weather were kinder.
The interior—with its gray chairs and red tabletops—was less gaudy than some Mexican joints but had enough of the typical flair to let you know the kind of food you'll be eating. A painted mural featuring a desert scene circles the dining room.
I asked the waiter if beer is part of the happy hour special. No, I'm told, it's only margaritas and appetizers. I order a beer anyway and look at the menu. I don't know why I bother, though. I always get a combo platter featuring at least one of the following: burrito, enchilada, chimichanga and taco. In this case, I go with a chicken burrito and beef taco.
Right away, chips, salsa and refried beans are served. Salina's serves sonoran-style food, Mexico style cuisine popular in Arizona. In sonoran style, the beans are cooked so long they break down and can be soupy at times. These were. The salsa—made fresh every day—was a little on the soupy side also as opposed to chunky. They both looked very appealing but lacked the punch and deep flavor I was hoping for.
A restaurant doesn't stay in business for more than 15 years without pleasing a lot of people, and the mildness of the food probably appeals to lots of folks who might be digestionally challenged by spice, or families with kids whose little tummies might be easily upset. The food wasn't bad; just not what I was hoping for.
I tried them both with a little of the Cholula hot sauce on the table, and it wasn't that spicy either, but it did add some great flavor.
The burrito and taco redeemed the place a bit. The shredded chicken in the burrito was moist, and the flavors were heightened some, but still no punch. The chicken was on the chewy side. The shredded beef taco stepped up and fared a little better. The flavor was good, but it was also chewy and just a tad greasy, as real fried taco shells tend to be. I will say that it looked great with finely diced tomatoes on top.
The beans on the plate were the same from the appetizer serving, and the rice was inexcusable—dry and flavorless and impossible to eat by itself. I ended up showering everything in the mild hot sauce.
In the interest of full disclosure, I ate all my main dishes. As I said, it wasn't bad, just not what I was hoping for. My hunger may have been satisfied, but the chili-head was disappointed.
A bigger disappointment was still to come. When I went to the Salina's restaurant website, I found a surprise. There it was: “Come and join us for Margaritas, Mexican Beer and Appetizers at happy hour for half Price!” Half-price Mexican beer you say? Now I'm really hot under the collar.