Wild Salsa 300 Throckmorton St, Ste 180. 682-316-3230. Closed Sun. 11am-10pm Mon-Thu. 11-12am Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Does Fort Worth need another business-casual Mexican chain eatery? We already have Chuy’s and Uncle Julio’s and more than a dozen other local favorites. Wild Salsa’s Day of the Dead shtick helps it stand out. The interior of the new downtown location of the Dallas-based chain is pleasant and colorful and the gorgeous patio is plush with tableside gas fire pits and a walk-up bar. The menu broadly touches on many aspects of Mexican cuisine, from street tacos and posole to lamb shanks, spicy fish, and more tequila varieties than you could drink in a month.
My guests and I visited during late-afternoon happy hour, when there were significant discounts on the margaritas and several appetizers, including the Gulf shrimp taquitos: two whole shrimp taquitos sliced and presented with a delicious chipotle-sour cream dipping sauce. The finely ground shrimp mixture was complemented by mild Monterrey jack cheese in the crunchy, fried corn tortillas, and the happy hour portion was just enough for everyone to have a decent nibble.
The appetizer salsa trio was a mixed bag. The fire-roasted poblano pecan pesto was a winner –– thicker than a traditional salsa, the mix of pesto-like olive oil and piquant pepper had a nice crunch courtesy of ground pecans. The wild habanero salsa’s brilliant orange hue came from the carrot base, but the hot mess was so spicy that we could handle only a single eye-dropper-sized dab of the unreasonably zesty offering. Unfortunately, I discovered this after shoveling a healthy sized scoop in my mouth. There was a tiny hint of sweetness to the salsa, but that was obscured by the after-burn of the pepper.
The mocaljete red salsa with serrano peppers and roasted tomatoes was fairly underwhelming, but it was the closest to proper red salsa on the menu. None of the three specialty salsas was as good as the chunky green version served gratis with chips at the beginning of the meal.
The barbacoa torta proved to be one of the standouts of the meal. A huge grilled bollilo bun came stuffed with an ample amount of tender pulled beef and caramelized onions. The inside of the top bun was slathered with guacamole, and the sandwich was accompanied by a slightly tart, cumin-spiced coleslaw –– a refreshing change from the standard-issue cabbage slathered in mayonnaise you get at most places.
There are nine taco offerings on the menu, and you get three full-size corn-wrapped tacos along with rice and beans per order. If you can’t decide on one, the Wild taco sampler offers diners a choice to mix and match. The chorizo y papas taco’s subtle, earthy spice from the savory housemade chorizo melded well with the potato-and-jalapeño stuffing and the cotija cheese.
The shrimp taco was loaded with chipotle-kissed crustaceans fried in a light, tempura-like batter. The hint of spice was pleasant and not overwhelming.
The fish taco was filled with grilled catfish –– which surprised everyone at the table because the white fish didn’t have that muddy flavor most of us associated with the lake-fish bottom-feeders. More of that yummy pesto salsa rode shotgun on the dish, and the cilantro rice and robust black beans accompanying the tacos were fabulously tasty in their own right. Sometimes rice becomes a wasted side item –– don’t skip Wild Salsa’s version.
The Azteca verde soup had a mild tomatillo base that verged on bland. A scoop of the excellent green salsa livened up the comforting, thick stew, which was loaded with chicken, whole hominy kernels, tortillas, and cilantro.
One minor complaint: The late afternoon mood lighting at Wild Salsa made it difficult to read the tiny print on the menu. Sadly, the chile relleno isn’t available during the late afternoon (something that my myopic eyes and the server’s relatively young eyes both missed).
Wild Salsa is in the part of downtown where restaurants are either fancy (Avanti, Reata, Texas de Brazil) or fast food (Jimmy John’s). The street parking was a little challenging due to construction. Still, Wild Salsa deserves props for its published commitment to using local ingredients in its mostly scratch-made dishes when possible –– many of the flavors come from Fort Worth’s Pendery’s Spices, and the bollilo bread and white corn tortillas come from bakeries in Dallas.
Salsa trio w/chips $6
Barbacoa torta $9
Wild tacos $13
Azteca verde soup $7