Salsa Fiesta

The goods: Midtown Miami is now destination for “fast casual” Mexican food via Venezuela with the first stateside outpost of Salsa Fiesta. Owners Cesar Olivo and Adriana Perez Benatar own a handful of the eateries in mall food courts in their native Caracas. This is the first of what they hope will be multiple outlets in America. While this spot is a notch above food court ambience, it’s still informal – place your order at the stainless steel counter that offers views to the open kitchen where a fresh-faced staff eagerly churns out plastic trays arrayed with platters of colorful eats.

Ambiance: The Biscayne Blvd spot’s muted color scheme is a welcome contrast to overly kitschy Sombrero-themed fast-food joints. The loft-like space features polished cement floors, exposed filament lightbulbs, mod white chairs and laminate wood tables. There’s plenty of free parking too, a boon for business lunchers who brave the congested boulevard.

The grub: Assembled-to-order Mexican food with Latin influences. You’ll find fajitas and nachos on the menu alongside South American classics like tostones (fried mashed plantains). Service is almost instantaneous with food arriving swiftly after you’ve placed your order and grabbed a table number. Prices are in line with other burrito joints – tacos go for $3 each, burritos are $6.50-$8 and salads and platters are $7-$11.

Start things off with a $3 order of the homemade guacamole, a creamy mix of haas avaocados spiked with cilantro, cumin and sea salt presented in a crispy taco bowl served with warm home made corn chips. From there you could dabble in the taco offerings – the fish taco “Guerro” style is a refreshing mix of grilled grouper, mango relish, shredded cabbage and cilantro salsa. The belly-filling “Tostada Fiesta” is a crispy corn tortilla layered with black beans, a choice of grilled chicken or beef, shaved iceberg lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese accompanied by tostones, a crispy taquito and a small side salad served in a tortilla cup. When given a choice go for the chicken – marinated in lemon juice, orange juice, and chipotle. And if you’re in the mood for a light meal, the tortilla soup with a side of guacamole ought to satisfy.

Verdict:  Fast, colorful, casual Mexican with Latin influences make this a solid lunch spot (with free parking!) in midtown.