Sometimes, Taco Hell just isn’t what you’re after, and you don’t have enough time for sit-down with wait staff whose tenuous command of English only includes the phrase, “hot plate.” So to fill this mid-level fast-food niche, several new chains of pseudo-Mexican have popped up. Here’s a quick rundown of three in our area…
Senor Wraps is truly local, owned and operated by Ruben and Rosalinda Montalvo, who also own Cantinflas and Salsatique. I visited the first one on Main Street, and it’s still my favorite. SW features savory wraps with grilled chicken, steak, shrimp, or fish, and a large array of salsas with which to top your wrap. The menu also features a nice variety of vegetarian options. The meat and other fillings seem to be of high quality – you can tell that it’s real chicken and steak, and not some preprocessed bastardization thereof. In addition to the Main Street location, there is a restaurant on Haywood Road. However, it seems almost deserted at dinner time, and I can’t help but wonder how long it will last in that location.
Moe’s is a national chain based in Atlanta. Their restaurants are starting to pop up all over the place, and the new one on Haywood Road may be the reason for the nearby Senor Wrap’s sparse dinner crowd. You enter the restaurant to the servers’ trademark shouts of “Welcome to Moe’s!”, which can get very annoying while dining. Immediately you are confronted with a menu board with cutesy but confusing menu item names taken from sitcom TV culture. I wonder about the staying power of their menu after Friends and Seinfeld references lose relevance. I don’t see any WKRP or Taxi items. Hmmm. Anyway, back to the food. In a typical burrito, you have your choice of meat, then can add toppings. The basic starts with meat, rice, and beans, and for an additional cost you can add guacamole and other things. The burrito is rolled into something resembling a ball, which can be a challenge to eat. Like Senor Wraps, they offer a variety of salsas, but not quite as extensive.
Salsaritas is the third to make a foray into this market. They are owned by the same folks that brought you Fuddrucker’s Hamburgers, and their first restaurant was actually a location on Main Street that started as a Fuddruckers and got converted to a Salsaritas. That location has now closed and/or relocated to a new place in Lewis Plaza on Augusta Road. I like the new place – a former bank building with classic architecture – but I wish they could have kept both locations open. I understand there is a location on Woodruff Road, but I don’t venture down that way due to traffic. Salsaritas is more like Moe’s than Senor Wraps. You start with a basic burrito, choose your meat, then add your toppings. The nice thing about Salsaritas is that there is no additional charge for toppings – you can be as gluttonous as will fit into the tortilla.
If I had to pick, I’d put Salsaritas at the top of the list as the best of the three, with Senor Wraps coming in a close second, and Moes taking third place. All three are a very good value – providing excellent food at a reasonable price. While the quality Senor Wraps’ meat is outstanding, their wraps tend to be smaller, and Laura says that she always leaves there hungry. If I had never had Salsaritas or Senor Wraps, I’d probably think Moe’s was one of the best fast food places around. However, they seem to use lesser quality ingredients – subtle things such as the amount and type of spices and seasonings on the meat, which place Salsaritas far ahead. Regardless, I’m glad to see all three of these options to Taco Hell do well in our area. I just wish one would open in Duncan…