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Cafe Salsa, King Street in Old Town Alexandria - Closed

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Finally got a chance to try Cafe Salsa the other day with family who are in-town for the holidays. It is a mix of Cuban, Peruvian, with some Mexican thrown in for the heck if it. Our appetizer, Chicken Quesadilla was pretty standard, but came packed with chicken that was tender with flavor. Yummy! We moved on to the mains:

- Bistec de Palomilla

- Chuletas de Puerco

- Sandwich Cubano

- Arepas

The Bistec de Palomilla came smothered with onions in a light brown sauce/gravy with a very tasty side of rice and balack beans. The chuletas de Puerco were tangy & moist . The restaurant served us quite a large portion. The Cuban Sandwich was as good as purchased in Miami - everything was right -the bread, pork, you name it. And finally, the Arepas, which came stuffed with meat that was similar to ropa vieja minus the sauce were also quite good. They offer some wines, I'd recommend to stick to the cocktails. Since it was late lunch, service was very attentive, there were only few tables in the place. Here is their website , www.cafesalsa.com Happy eating.

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I've posted a couple times about Cafe Salsa in the "Restaurants No One Talks About" thread. It's one of my GF and I's favorite restaurants, especially since it's fairly close to where we live and very close to where she works. We've never been for lunch, but have been for dinner maybe 6-10 times. We've never had alot of luck with the entrees, though some have been quite good. However, every appetizer we've tried has been wonderful. Unless there's an entree that's just really calling our name we usually just get 2-3 apps each and no appetizer. I'm sorry I can't be more descriptive, but it's been a month or so since we've been. I know the empanadas are ordered often, though they're a tad dry but have a nice jalapeno green sauce with them. The alcapurrias is ordered very often, as are the little bits of meat that are surrounded in potato (which the name of escapes me at the moment). The tres leches cake for dessert is wonderfully creamy and decadent as well.

I've never tried there wine, but have had there mojitos many times and their caipirinhas a couple times. I don't confess to be a mojito expert, but I've tried a few around town and haven't found a better one that Cafe Salsa. They don't skimp on the mint leaves which I find many places do and the whole drink just screams summer with it's wonderful minty refreshingness.

There are about 15-20 tables downstairs I'd say and there are a handful more upstairs. There's also a bar upstairs and during some evenings there is salsa dancing (which they move the tables for). The first couple times I went I wasn't certain that the upstairs was for patrons as well (mostly just saw servers bringing down drinks), but one night (Saturday maybe?) we came in with 2 friends of ours and ended up being seated upstairs. Shortly after we got up the tables were cleared and moved to have a dance floor and music started playing. We moved to the bar for a couple rounds of drinks and sure enough the upstairs started to fill up as well with people dancing or sitting by the bar.

One thing to mention, the floors are all dance floors. They look like standard hardwood floors, but evidently they keep both the upstairs (which I can understand as they actually use it as a dance floor) and the downstairs (which I don't understand) buffed highly and it can be quite slick. I've seen at least 2 servers wipe out during the times I've been there and I've almost done it as well. Walk nimbly.

Overall, I really like this place. The food is interesting and much of it is stuff I've never had before, the mojitos and caiprinhas are awesome (I'm sure they have other cocktails, I just haven't tried them), and the tres leches for dessert is creamy, just slightly cakey, and just generally wonderful. Just watch out for the floors :-)

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Treznor: I'm glad you liked the restaurant, I know I did. I was with my Mom and Dad when I went, and since my Mom is Cuban, there was quite a high expectation on taste and authenticity. And this restaurant passed the test, certainly for the dishes we tasted.

We had wine and felt we overpaid for the quality offered. So next time I'll take your sugesstion and go with the Mojito or Caparinha.

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I went to the new Cafe Salsa location on 14th st. last night. I live really close by and was looking forward to some good Latin food in my neighborhood. My guest and I both work in Latin America, so we are familiar with the region's food and were excited by the menu's promise of arepas, ropa vieja, etc.

In reality, it was just, well, kind of meh. First, the interior looks like it was built on the cheap -- cheap tile, cheap lights, etc. Still, we ordered a mojito and a margarita, and to the bar's credit they were good and authentic. The free chips and "salsa" were strange. The "salsa" was olive based -- more like a tapenade. I have been to almost every Latin American country and have never seen an olive based salsa. Just, well, strange tasting.

The mains, too, were just ok. My ropa vieja was bland, the cuban "black" beans were not black beans but pinto beans, and, all in all, it wasn't worth the $16 it cost. My guest's red snapper was no better than what you would get at TGI Friday's and was not worth the $20 it cost. We skipped dessert because the cakes at the table next to us had far too much of that raspberry white chocolate liquid stuff on the plates, and the cakes looked leaden and dry. Service was ok, they are new, so the waitress can be forgiven for responding to my request for a pisco sour with "I am new, and I have no idea what that is" but the bussers are AGRESSIVE. I had literally just put down my fork when a busser came by to sweep my plate away (while my friend was still eating his plate).

All in all, very very meh. I don't think I'll eat there again, unless I hit the bar and order an arepa as a snack or something. Really, it's a shame, as we need more neighborhood spots on that section of 14th that aren't "hotspots" like Policy or Cork. I guess it's back to Bar Pilar for me.

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I was here with a friend last night also. We sat at the bar... happy hour here runs 4-8pm and offers half-price drinks and appetizers. So we each had a couple mojitos and split veggie nachos and these veggie egg roll things. The drinks were quite good, particularly at $5 each. The food I agree was not spectacular. I'm curious to try some of the other dishes when I'm not w/ my vegetarian friend though. Service at the bar was attentative. Reasonably busy for a Wednesday night.... but still quiet enough to have a reasonably-volumed conversation.

I think it's a good addition to the 14th St neighborhood though; not quite anything else like it nearby .... now if we can get a laid-back pizza joint (think Faccia Luna-like, or maybe even Pete's Apizza) and a good bagel shop into the neighborhood.....

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I hadn't realized they had opened another one. I actually haven't made it to the one on King St in a while (living in NC will do that and even though I work in DC almost every week I'm pretty sure my wife would kill me if I went to Cafe Salsa without her).

I definitely don't remember an olive-based salsa from the King Street one. The chips and salsa was fried/baked plantains with a decent, standard tomato-based salsa.

I've always thought their mojitos were among the best in the city and haven't found one that I like hands-down better than Cafe Salsa's. The caipirinhas are pretty good too, though I have a much smaller base to compare to.

The area of Cafe Salsa that I've always thought was lacking was their entrees. After the first time or two we stopped ordering entrees altogether and almost exclusively order a couple of appetizers each as we've always thought the appetizers were pretty awesome. We've never tried any of their desserts that I remember other than the tres leches cake, which we've always thought was outstanding (though, really, how could you screw up tres leches? Even when it's bad it's still pretty good).

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