You’ll be glad that each table at Sin-a-loa in Salisbury has a dispenser full of napkins. Nearly the entire menu, devoted to scratch-made Mexican street food, is meant to be consume with your hands, from the street corn dripping with crema and cheese to the overstuffed burritos.
The inspiration for the menu comes from Austin, Texas, a hotbed of south-of-the-border cuisine, from white tablecloth to food truck. Reza Rahmani—who brought Persian street food to Newburyport at Bar 25—explored the city on a tasting tour with his executive chef, Joe Messina, to develop unique combinations. So, while the menu of tacos, quesadillas, and burritos at Sin-a-loa, named for the coastal Mexican state of Sinaloa, may look familiar, the flavors offer a fresh burst of culinary prowess.
The menu is small but carefully thought out, covering everyone from carnivores to vegetarians. Ponder your cravings with a drink. The menu has all your tequila- and rum-based favorites, from margaritas to mojitos, along with some surprise house drinks dreamed up by beverage director Peter Petropoulos. But for celebrating the arrival of spring, it’s hard to beat the Sin-a-loa Sangria. Available by the glass or the pitcher, it combines a good quality Spanish red wine with fresh orange juice, Grand Marnier, and brandy for a drink that is perfectly balanced and very food friendly.
Then grab a couple of napkins and order the elotes—chunks of grilled corn on the cob coated with a crema spiked with lime juice, jalapeño, and a surprise: Japanese chili-pepper-spiked spice blend togarashi, which adds extra heat and depth. It’s messy, but worth every bite. Need more cheese? Order the Queso Fondito, a melty fondue of mozzarella and aged provolone mixed with spicy chorizo. It comes with tortilla chips, and we’d suggest adding a side of the chef’s addictive salsa as well. The blended mix of roasted tomatoes and onions with a house-secret mix of Mexican spices is scratch-made in small batches, with careful attention to everything from how spicy each jalapeño is to how firm the tomatoes are, achieving a lovely balance and consistency.
You can’t go wrong with any of the main dishes. Most meats or veggies are available to mix and match with different preparations. For example, the smoky chicken tinga—a Mexican street-food staple made with tomato, chipotle chilis in adobo, and sliced onions—can top nachos, arrive in a burrito stuffed with beans and rice, or dress up a taco. Same with the long-cooked barbacoa pork, which is treated to a house-blend dry rub then cooked for six hours at low heat, until the meat is so tender and moist it’s falling apart.
However, the Baja fish tacos are served only one way to keep the focus on the fresh, hand-breaded haddock, topped with napa slaw, pico de gallo, guacamole, and a spicy Sin-a-loa sauce with togarashi.
For pure indulgence, it’s hard to beat the Short Rib Quesadillas, slow-cooked beef and plenty of cheese grilled between two tortillas, served with rice and beans and pico de gallo.
Scratch-made finger food continues to the dessert course. There’s only one, but it’s a total crowd pleaser: house-made churros with a dark bittersweet chocolate sauce. The two churros are served halved, making a great dessert for sharing.
The open, airy space itself is built for fun, with a front-row seat to the newly rejuvenated Salisbury Beach Visitor Center and forthcoming carousel. Vibrant wall murals, inspired by the state of Sinaloa (located in the northwest of the country, just across the water from Baja California) were painted by local gallery owner Markus Sebastiano, and the restaurant’s décor is anchored by a lovingly restored bright-red 1948 Dodge pickup truck that will be the star of many a social media post. We denizens of the North Shore should get in there now, before the summer season. There’s no doubt this restaurant, with its gentle prices and fresh food, will be wildly popular with the sun-and-fun crowd. But crowds won’t keep us away: Patio seating will be perfect for people-watching. And that’s where you’ll find us, with sangria in one hand and a fistful of napkins in the other.
3 Broadway, Salisbury, 978-961-7310, sin-a-loa.com