New place, new taste: Baja is best

By David Talley | Published Saturday, April 30, 2016

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Salsa Map

This is what I was called to do.

I’ve been training for this since I gave up ordering chicken strips at every Mexican restaurant at age 11.

David Talley

You may think salsa sampling is easy work. I can assure you it was. I sat at a desk and filled my stomach with the best dish in the Southwest – journalism at its finest.

The hardest part was not eating everything from the previous restaurant on the way to the next one as Racey and I made our pilgrimage across the county.

We set out to visit every homegrown Mexican restaurant in Wise County, based on our working knowledge and recommendations from coworkers, locals and Google. Our trip took us from Decatur to Paradise, Bridgeport and Chico. You can see our journey on the included map.

No restaurants were told we’d be comparing their products, and Racey and I paid for the food ourselves.

With our car loaded up with six bags of chips and nearly a gallon of salsa, we returned to the Messenger office, ready to compare.

Note: here I’m comparing chips and salsa, not full dishes.

I started with Jorge’s. After trying each and returning, I noticed a hint of citrus in the salsa. The tomato taste was rich, and I would rate it at just the right amount of spicy. It had a lot of flavors, but I kept coming back to that citrus. No other salsa had an appreciable amount of that flavor and, while maybe it wasn’t my favorite, I appreciated the originality.

I opened the Julio’s bag next. Before today, I’d never been to the restaurant, but I’d been told it’s similar to Casa Torres. Initially, I thought the salsa would be indistinguishable also, but after a few chips of each, I noticed more cilantro in the Julio’s sauce and appreciated the distinction.

Baja Street Mexican Grill, which is actually located on Halsell Street in Bridgeport, was new for both of us. Their dark red salsa was similar to Frilly’s, but had a stronger garlic flavor. It proved an office favorite, and we all agreed we’d like to try it on other dishes, as well. After a period of reflection, this was my favorite. Whoa, dark horse.

My next sample was Casa Torres. I’ll admit, before today, I definitely leaned this direction. I mean, I live in Lipsey Addition, located right behind Casa T. I still remember riding my bike there as a kid. Indeed, Casa proved to be my favorite standby. I’d rank it No. 1 for shovel-ability (that’s the ability to eat so much that you forget you actually have food coming later).

Dos Chiles came next. They presented two salsa offerings, hot and mild. The hot was a little too spicy for my taste, and the mild was a little too sweet. Like Goldilocks, I need something in between. Mixing the two together was just right.

I tried Little Frilly’s Tex Mex last. It’s another restaurant I’d never stepped foot in before, but will likely go back. It had the most even consistency and stayed on the chip best with a strong, earthy flavor.

To wrap things up, my new favorite was Baja Street. It wasn’t an easy decision. It may not be the prevailing opinion, but if we learned anything on this drive, it’s that sometimes the narrow, winding and slightly flooded path leads to the best salsa.

David Talley is a reporter for the Messenger, and he did not fall out of the car.

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