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Back and Rarin’ to Rant

August 9, 2010

What can I say?

Nothing gets the creative fires burning quite like a despicable, horrible, terrible, no good very bad restaurant experience.  So I’m back, for one reason and one reason only.

It’s time for a good ole’ therapeutic rant.

I refer to therapy because I might go looking for one to recover from the most horrible night out to dinner in years.  One caveat to this is that the company could not have been more wonderful.

Hear ye, hear ye.  I am instituting a house-wide boycott of Salsa’s.  I take back every complimentary, kind, overexcited word I ever wrote about Salsa’s.  I went to Salsa’s on Friday, for the first time in over a year, and I will NEVER go back.  Not as long as I’m paying, anyway.

Caipirinhas and mojitos looked pretty, but no one in our party detected rum within the sugary cocktails.  With a hefty charge of $7 for the former and $8 for the latter, this sober diner remained nonplussed.

We order a salsa trio, at $9 for 3 options, to share between four people.  The trio arrived, a pineapple, a guacamole, and a roasted tomato and almond sauce.   Back in happier times, Salsa’s used to offer a hefty number of chips and separate their salsas with ramekins.  Last Friday, the salsas came smushed together in a nebulous mass, with a meager ring of oversized, not-for-dipping chips.  The salsas all tasted just fine, but were quickly pushed towards one another until rendered indefinable.

I have sung the praises and glories of Salsa’s inventive menu for years.  How many tourists have I pointed toward their overly-hyped direction?  There was a time when one could open a giant empanada and find a treasure box of sweet pumpkin, velvety goat cheese, rainbow chard, wild boar, pungent mushroom, all delicately spiced with an inspired, fruity salsa.   The tastes seemed worlds apart, but came together in the mouth like a boys choir of chaotic perfection.   That was then.

On this fateful night, I ordered the molcajete.  What came to the table was a gargantuan stone bowl of thin soup.  Tossed into the soup were some random squash, a carrot slice or two, and some other stock soup vegetables.  Plus, slices of taut, underspiced steak.  I was unable to find any of the mole sauce that the menu had advertised.  Their side of rice proved equally as bland, and as I chewed painfully, I recalled a past meals, when the rice burst forth flavors of the carribean, and beans, redolent of cumin and tradition, came alongside a few pert plaintain slices.

All this might, maybe, perhaps have been forgiven, but to top it all off, our table service lacked a sense of order.  During the 55 minute wait which we were told would be 20-25, we tried to order drinks.  My partner-in-dine was repeatedly ignored, then told our drink order had been lost 3 times.  By the time we were seated, we were thirsty, hungry, hot, and ready for some apologies.  This is no way to start a meal.  Not to mention (but let’s mention it) standing water in the bathroom begs an inquiry into their most recent health inspection.

I know I won’t win any popularity points with this rant, but after a stomachache and $70 I won’t ever get back, it had to be said.  Salsa’s ain’t what it used to be, and though business was obviously booming all weekend, this is one customer who won’t be back.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. thedj permalink
    August 9, 2010 6:56 pm

    SNAAAPPP!!! Gourmetgrrll is back with a vengeance.

  2. mar-mar permalink
    August 9, 2010 7:48 pm

    Zoinks! Was this the *authentic* place you took us to last year? That’s really too bad. Few things are sadder than a once-good non-chain restaurant in bad decline.

  3. Pixiedyke permalink
    August 9, 2010 8:52 pm

    Yay! Glad you’re back. We never go to Salsa’s because it takes forever to get a table unless it’s 10 below freezing, so I was unaware of the horrendous situation. I did hear someone complain about it being bland recently, and thought, “Bland? Is this the restaurant of which I have known? Cause bland was never the word that I would use.”

  4. Pam permalink
    August 10, 2010 11:51 am

    My main problem with Salsa’s has always been that every dish is a giant pile of food all mixed together. Just like your most recent salsa trio experience, actually. The first couple of bites are good but it’s hard to pick out different flavors in each dish. By the end it’s just a big mash of food, bland because of repetition, and it’s hard to remember what all the different ingredients were supposed to be anyway.

  5. August 10, 2010 4:00 pm

    SO GLAD you’re back!!! Please stay!

  6. August 11, 2010 1:01 pm

    my experience with salsa’s is hit and miss…when it’s good, it’s great, but when it’s bad, it’s horrid. i will keep going back, but tread lightly. hector has always somehow been able to get away with serving an entree that may bear no resemblance to the menu description–he/the kitchen often throw in whatever is around and improvise. i can appreciate that if it’s done well, but sometimes you order or avoid something based on certain ingredients. i will sometimes check when ordering…”Will it really have shitakes and goat cheese tonight…? Cause if not, I’ll probably order something else…”

  7. cvalentino permalink
    August 13, 2010 1:03 pm

    I’ve been to Salsas twice. The first time was at lunch and it was good. The second time it was dinnertime and it wasn’t that impressive. That place is so jam packed with tables it was a bit claustrophobic, and my food was meh. I think everyone in our party was less than excited about it, particularly when we saw the check and realized we could’ve had much better food for the price.

  8. September 1, 2010 12:58 pm

    Glad you’re back. Keep writing. Wondering if you have tried the new Southern on Lex? I did last week, and was extremely disappointed! Pork loin over succotash: Succotash was VERY yummy, pork loin was dry, bland and had no flavor. Pulled pork over blue cheese grits: All we taste was blue cheese, period. Would love to hear what you think.

  9. potpie permalink
    September 2, 2010 8:52 am

    last time i was there the chicken was obviously microwaved with fake grill marks, horrible…

  10. September 19, 2010 8:17 pm

    This is a sad report, but not a surprise. I left them behind over a year ago as ‘long ago it was the best’. Your experience was my sentiment exactly, and oh what a loss!

  11. burnsey permalink
    September 21, 2010 12:45 am

    My feelings exactly. Gave it up about two years ago after more than one very unsatisfactory experience. One involved a waiter who had no business being in the business, along with mediocre food, the second was getting all of our courses at once, the third was just plain blah food for way too much money. It is no longer on my recommendation list.

  12. October 25, 2010 12:41 pm

    Agreed. Salsa’s used to be my favorite restaurant in town, but it’s gone so far downhill. The last time I went there several months ago, the waiter asked if we wanted to see a trick when he brought our food over after an already long wait. This guy has worked all over town for years and has been doing this ‘trick’ where he spins the plate of food around in a full circle before he serves it-he’s double jointed. Having seen this stupid trick at least a dozen times over the years and being hungry and just wanting our food, my husband said “no,” very matter-of-factly. He never came back. Not once. Not to see how the food was, get us more water, or even bring the check. We had to flag down someone else for the bill.

    Oh, and did I mention that the overpriced food wasn’t very good, and some salmon was in my friend’s vegetarian meal and it made him violently ill that night (he was raised vegetarian). It’s such a shame. We’ve been going there for years but it’s not what it used to be.

  13. John Anderson permalink
    November 3, 2010 4:16 pm

    We had a bad experience there recently. Sanitation from the servers is bad, they had both of my reviews erased … Won’t go back even if someone else pays. It’s too bad.

  14. ashevillain permalink
    November 10, 2010 5:25 pm

    I stopped going to Salsa’s years ago (and then went back a few times unfortunately…I think I’m done with them now).

    Why I stopped initially: I bit into a large chunk of wood w/ blue paint on one side. This chunk was about as big as 2 toothpicks side by side. It looked like it had been chipped off an edge of a table or something. Anyway, I mentioned this finding to the waiter (he was professional about it…comped my meal) who then told Hector. Well, Hector blew up about it! He said that there was no way I was getting my meal for free and said that the food “is organic” so it’s not a big deal that there is a piece of wood in it. Yes…he called a piece of painted wood “organic.” He did not say any of this directly to me, but to the waiter who was standing 5′ away. Hector then walked out the door, slamming it on his way out and got into his minivan parked across by the BB&T building. To get out of the parallel parking space he put it in reverse about as fast as you could and backed into/hit the car parked behind him and then sped off screeching his tires.

    I didn’t much enjoy his little tantrum and I think Soup Nazi-esque behavior should remain in Seinfeld episodes and not be acted out in real life, by real chefs who want to maintain dignity and professionalism.

    It’s too bad because the food does have alot of potential (although it is rarely is lived up to.) I’ve had some of the best meals of my life at Salsa’s as well as some of the worst.

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