Salem’s New Mexican Choices a Let Down

Posted: October 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Comida, Howling Wolf, Mexican, Salem | Tags: , , | 18 Comments »

With so few choices for Mexican food on the North Shore, we were thrilled that two such places were opening in Salem within weeks of each other. In fact, we were so excited that we didn’t wait long before trying them and were disappointed. We had mediocre meals at both, although Comida’s food was overall better than Howling Wolf’s.

Howling Wolf is a large restaurant with an industrial feel. The decor is interesting, but the space felt uncomfortable to us, with the exception of a lively bar at one end serving beer, wine, and sangria.

The chips and guacamole ($4.50) were very good, with a nice kick to the guac. The shrimp quesadillas ($8.25) was also tasty, and we enjoyed the posole ($6.50) even though it wasn’t hot enough temperature-wise. But the burritos were very disappointing, with flavorless rice, watery tomatoes, and dry meat in the shredded beef ($6.25) and not much more appeal in the steak version ($7). The two tacos we tried also let us down; the fish was just okay ($3.25), and the pork with red chile marinade was too spicy for our palates ($2.50).

Chips and guacamole, pork taco and burrito from Howling Wolf

Comida is take-out rather than a restaurant, although it has a few counter stools and a cheery, appealing interior. The pork taco ($3.25) and the pork carnitas and steak burritos were very good (both $6.75). The burritos were large and included quality ingredients, and we’d definitely return for them.

One nice feature is a large list of burrito fillings that includes mole, pico de gallo, mango-corn salsa, guacamole, and queso sauce, among others. However, we had a bit of an ordering mix up–two of our party wanted their burritos without beans and assumed if they didn’t list beans among their desired fillings that the burritos would be bean-free. This was not the case; the steak burrito came with unrequested black beans, and the chicken burrito came with pinto beans ($6.50).

The quesadillas were similarly very heavy on black beans, and they were not the style we are used to: soft tortillas folded around ingredients rather than flat, crisp ones. We were also surprised by the chips and guacamole; the chips were stale and the guacamole portion was tiny. So was the side of mango-corn salsa, although for only .50, we shouldn’t complain. But the same can’t be said for the ensalda de comida ($4.50), which had lettuce, avocado, and queso fresco, tortilla strips that turned out to be crushed chips, avocado lime dressing that somehow managed to be without flavor, and a few steamed vegetables, similarly flavorless ($4.50).

We’re assuming that at least some of these missteps are due to the newness of both places. We plan to return at some point to test our theory, and we welcome comments about readers’ experiences in the meantime.

Chips and guacamole, pork taco and burrito from Comida

Comida
131 Essex St., Salem
(978) 594-8220
www.comidasalem.com

Comida on Urbanspoon

Howling Wolf
76 Lafayette St, Salem
(978) 744-WOLF
www.feedyourwolf.com

Howling Wolf on Urbanspoon

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North Shore Food Finds

Posted: October 2nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Asian, Bakery, Beverly, Bistro, Deli, Gloucester, Marblehead, Marketplace, Peabody, Revere, Rockport, Salem, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Everyone has their favorite restaurants, from the one you look forward to visiting on special occasions to the one you turn to when you can’t even think about cooking. But what about those favorite dishes and treats you’ve discovered in your neighborhood or on your travels? We’ve put together a list of ours in the hopes that readers will be inspired to respond in kind. If you’ve got a North Shore food find to add to the list, let us know in the comments, and we’ll be sure to check it out.

Bouchon, A&J King
Talk about addictive. This little cake looks simple, but it’s not. It’s rich and not too sweet with a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a wonderful hint of almond. One of the best chocolate experiences on the North Shore. Oh, and they have great bread, too. ($2.25)

House Dumplings, Sugar Cane
We love dumplings of all sizes and shapes, but these are our favorite. The dough is thin and wonderfully crispy, the inside is flavorful, and the accompanying ginger soy sauce puts these little gems over the top. ($6)

Tiger’s Tears, Floating Rock
This dish has it all: spice, citrus, and crunch. Thin slices of marinated beef are served cold and paired with sliced red and green bell peppers, onion, basil, red pepper flakes, and ground roasted rice. If you like spicy food, you will love this—but don’t be scared off, we found the balance of heat and citrus just right.

Chicken Salad, Henry’s Market
We’re picky when it comes to chicken salad—no large chunks or odd ingredients, thanks. Henry’s makes it just the way we like it: finely ground, super fresh, and perfectly seasoned. We like it made into mini-sandwiches on the top-knot rolls baked fresh in the store daily.

Guacamole, Cielito Lindo
Made fresh and served in a molcajete (a stone bowl for grinding), this guac is the perfect antidote to a long day and just one of the things we love about this often-overlooked Mexican restaurant in Beverly. Grab a tortilla chip and dive in—you’ll be amazed at how quickly the generous serving will disappear. ($8)

Fresh-Baked Cookies, Shubie’s
These are the kind of cookies you could easily pass off as homemade (not that we would ever do that, of course). They’re baked fresh in the store every day, and while the peanut butter and oatmeal raisin ($8/pound) are terrific, the larger kitchen-sink cookies are the stuff of dreams, packed with dark and white chocolate and cranberries ($1.75 each).

While you’re in the store, be sure to check out the cheese counter, which has one of the largest selections of New England cheeses we’ve seen. Selections include several from Vermont Butter & Cheese, Cabot clothbound cheddar, Jasper Hill blue, Blue Ledge Farm crottini, Ploughgate Creamery willoughby, Spring Brook Farm tarentaise, Maplebrook Farm mozzarella, Shy Brothers Farm Hannabells, and cheddars from Shelburne and Grafton Farms.

Strudel, Helmut’s Strudel
What is it about apples and pastry that makes us swoon? We don’t know, but this place is the gold standard for the combination. Sweet, gooey apple filling and a crunchy, flaky not-too-sweet shell come together for the perfect mouthful. Folks, there’s a reason this tiny Bearskin Neck shop stays in business selling nothing but strudel and croissants. ($4 per slice)

Hot Cookie Dough Topping, Terry’s Ice Cream
If you like your cookies just barely cooked and hot from the oven, you get the idea here. Even better than hot fudge on top of ice cream, this is decadence in a cup. Go ahead, indulge; we’ll never tell.

Toasted Iggy’s Bagel, Foodie’s Feast
If you’re a fan of Montreal-style bagels (thinner and more flavorful than New York style), you’ve got to try Iggy’s, which are very similar. Our favorite way to enjoy them is to let the nice counter folks at Foodie’s toast one up and serve it alongside a steaming mug of joe. They’re also available at Whole Foods in Swampscott.

Truffle Paté, Crosby’s
This mousse-like spread is the perfect addition to your holiday cheese platter. We like to serve it on lightly toasted baguette slices or water crackers. It’s so good, you may want to buy two for your next cocktail party and forget to put the second one out.

Ribs, Smokin’ Jims
If you’ve never heard of Smokin’ Jim, you might be tempted to drive right by his parking-lot location on East Main in Gloucester. But these ribs are the real deal: smoked on oil-drum cooker until they just about fall off the bone. Side dishes like cole slaw, beans, and corn bread are available, too. There are picnic tables nearby, or you may want to drive over to Stage Fort Park. Hours vary seasonally, so check the Web site before visiting.

Marissa’s Salsa, Whole Foods
You’ll never want to go back to that stuff in the jar once you try this fresh version, packed in ice in the produce section and featuring a heavenly balance of heat and cilantro. Even better, it’s made in small batches by Nahant resident Marissa Salomon.

Potato Chips, Mandrake
We like the well-built drinks, reasonably priced food, and friendly bartenders at this downtown Beverly spot. Add the freshly made potato chips served as bar snacks, and you’ve got the start of a beautiful relationship.

We had a lot of fun putting this post together, and we look forward to hearing from readers who try one of our “finds” and those with a special treat to contribute…

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