Salsa Brava Mexican Grill has been the insider's top choice for Authentic Mexican cuisines in SW Florida for over 5 years. Yes, not many mom and pop places last that long unless they have a faithful following. How do I know it's authentic AND delicious? Besides going on my experiences, I talk to the other patrons dining there and others who have recommended it to me. Many have been to various regions of Mexico. Through trial and error, they determined that only Salsa Brava, (and the late La Pinata), serve dishes that can be found in Mexican traditional family kitchens. Salsa Brava is Zagat rated "Very Good to Excellent", and won the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.
The restaurant is a true hidden delight; a transplanted Mexican cantina, seating 20 people inside, and room for perhaps a dozen more seated under the stars on the patio. There's room for 6 at the open kitchen. It's not visible from US 41, as it's nicely hidden behind a Kwik Pick store on 103nd Street, just off US 41, and south of Sushi Thai which is on the other side of 103rd Ave.
The key to dining at Salsa Brava is to ask Owner Jose Myers for the traditional specials of the day, or for his chef to cook up traditional dishes that have been previous daily specials. Jose was born in Guanjuato, and he is quite partial to the Oaxaca cuisines.
While Salsa Brava serves a variety of burritos, chimichangas, quesadillas, and enchiladas, they differ from those at other restaurants because the corn and wheat tortillas are freshly made in house, and the cheeses are high quality Mexican, and not from Wisconsin (sorry Cheese heads!) Traditional dishes are serves with red Mexican rice and pureed pintonbeans spriked with quesco fresca and a choice of flour or corn tortillas. Try the traditional specialties- Camarones al chipotle ($15) with jumbo shrimp served i a smoky chipotle cream sauce, or pescado frito-whole red snapper golden fried with a touch of lime and garlic ($15). Ceviche mixto offers chilled mahi mahi and shrimp with sliced avocado for $12.
Start with freshly made guacamole, and pico de gallo with its mix of slightly sweet and smoky flavors. The corn tortilla chips are hot and fresh, -you'll know from these alone that you're in for a taste treat as you order further!
Queso Fundido ($6) (molten, or melted cheese ) is the epitome of perfection via simplicity.
This is an oval dish filled with melted Oaxaca cheese, topped with tender roasted Poblano pepper strips, with a hint of chorizo, onion, garlic and maybe lime. It melts and strings like a melted mozzarella, however the taste is completely different and much more flavorful! Highly recommended.
There's a good variety of beer and wine, I went for the Bohemia Classica brand, rather than Corona, dos XX, Heineken, Pacifico or Modelo, or a wine. Come for Happy Hour food and more-beer is $2, imported beers are $2.50, and all wine is $2.75. You can't top that in Naples! Check out the beautiful hand blown margarita glasses with swirls of color. For fun, Jose added a lime and tiny umbrella. Their Jamaica tea and various fresh juices are popular, with horchata, tamarindo, mango and melon.
Chicken Mole Negro has rich layers of flavor, with Mexican chocolate, several different dried chiles, cinnamon, often various nuts, and herbs bathing tender chicken. This 1,000 years recipe comes from the Mayans. For some it's an acquired taste, for others, it's chile and chocolate manna from heaven! This is the real mole sauce that's moderately spicy-not for wimps. Highly Recommended.
Elotitos are a Grilled Mexican corn dish that's served as often as, say , burgers or hot dogs are in the USA.
Young fresh sweet corn on cob is briefly boiled, basted with a touch of sour cream or mayo, and sprinkled with cheese, ground mild chile pepper and other subtle seasoning. It's juicy and delicous! Recommended.
Taco Al Pastor has tender shredded pork marinated in the al pastor roasted pineapple sauce with sliced onions and cilantro, topped and shredded cheese. A shpritz of lime, and you're good to go!
I really enjoyed the chicken tinga sope. with chunks of chicken in a smoky, spicy chipotle pepper Mexican crema sauce, with rich cheese, beans, tomato, onion and cilantro, topped with a mini-mountain of melted cheese, and served atop a sope-a specially made, briefly fried thick corn tortilla with raised curved edges. Highly Recommended.
Other specials on my visit included caldo de res-hearty beef rib and vegetable stew with tortillas; menudo soup, chile relleno, and various tamales.
Riblette costillas de cerdo are baby pork ribs, served with sliced napolitos (baby cactus) in a light green sauce.
What's for dessert? Order the sopapias/sopapillas= huge puffed globes of sweet goodness for $4.95.. You can't go wrong with fried ice cream, churros or apple cinnamon chimichanga.
Jose is a great host, and the servers are friendly and knowledgeable. Prices are wallet friendly for the generous quantity as well.
Salsa Brava Mexican Grill, 239-254-0222, 10265 Tamiami Trail North, Naples, http://www.salsabravanaples.com