Salsa Salsa

PORT JEFFERSON, N.Y.

The recovery room nurse at the John T. Mather Memorial Hospital was insistent about me leaving and going to get some food. My sister was out of surgery and had been in the PACU for about an hour when I got called back. They estimated another couple of hours until her release to a tonsil-free world.

I wandered back into Port Jefferson, a village my sister inhabited during her two years at Stony Brook, and found a restaurant she had raved about on multiple occasions. Salsa Salsa is a local chain with locations in Smithtown, Bay Port and Port Jeff, and has earned praise from both the local press and Zagat for its menu. Nestled between a bar and mini-mall on Main Street, Salsa Salsa features bar seating for about 15 people. On Thursday, the lunch crowd was surprisingly strong for 1:45 p.m.

Today’s special was a layered chili, featuring pork in a green chili sauce. The dish was layered with soft corn tortillas and topped with queso blanco, lime crema, cilantro and avocado. The fork-tender pork chunks were nothing short of delicious, clearly the product of slow-cooking and careful seasoning. The chili verde married tomatillo, onion, jalepeño and cilantro nicely and served as the perfect base for the meat, flavoring one another evenly. The added lime crema and queso blano added a creamy, salty finish that complemented the overall picture. The blend of flavors were subtle, down to the heat factor. The dish reminded you very gently that it was a Mexican dish, but refrained from blasting you out of the front door. The homemade hot sauce along the corrugated steel bar tables helped you achieve that goal. A 75-cent small order of homemade chips was deceptively large.

The heart of the Salsa Salsa is the burrito menu. The standard burrito brings together brown rice, a jack/cheddar mix, black beans along with any of seven stuffings. Fajita and breakfast burritos offer a break from the ordinary, as do the nachacha — mesquite grilled steak, scrambled eggs, salsa, peppers, onions, garlic & blended cheeses — and spinach — spinach, black beans, blended cheeses and salsa — burritos. The Wife would have approved.

Salsa Salsa’s menu varies by location, with most items priced at $9 or less.

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