Hot Eats: Rosalita’s

A new Downtown cantina effortlessly combines a cozy, urban atmosphere with classic Tex-Mex fare.

 

When a new restaurant hits all the right notes—a well thought-out menu, aptly designed space for the neighborhood and killer creative drinks—I call it restaurant magic. You notice it on your first visit and it just instantly feels like the place has always been there. I experienced such a reaction recently at Rosalita’s Cantina, the new Tex-Mex restaurant that opened Downtown in late November.

The Cantina
Located in what was once a deserted corner in the 1235 Washington Avenue building at 13th Street, Rosalita’s is more than a spot that serves expected Southwestern fare. The atmosphere pulls you in and a plate of sizzling steak fajitas and a pomegranate margarita—or two—keep you there. What I like most about Rosalita’s is the large, loft-like interior; soft wood tones surround the 200-seat space and exposed brick walls lend an organic coziness with an urban vibe. A handful of table tops, roomy booths and a main bar dominate the front area and the back room features a few more spacious elongated booths and a second floor seating area. As with any good cantina, the drinks are almost as equally as important as the food. And Rosalita’s make a stiff house margarita, most with Don Julio, like the El Presidente, with Anejo and Grand Marnier—I liked the nice peppery edge to it. Rose’s favorite is also recommended; it combines Cuervo Gold with Triple Sec and a house mix. The specialty margaritas include interesting variations like a Creamsicle with vanilla ice cream and orange juice and a Vegas margarita with Red Bull, peach Schnapps and peach purée.

The Cuisine
If you’re looking for an authentic Mexican cuisine experience, this isn’t it. But, then again, Rosalita’s isn’t trying to be. Expect twists on Tex-Mex favorites that are generous in size, starting with the stuffed jalapeños appetizer. Five large jalapeños are stuffed with a blend of shrimp, garlic and Oaxaca cheese and served roasted. The heat of the jalapeños balances nicely with the shrimp and cheese. Salads are served extra large with a bounty of toppings and ingredients in any one you order—whether it’s the sweet and spicy red pepper jicama salad with mandarin oranges, diced jicama and light lemon honey vinaigrette; or the avocado salad with oranges, sliced cucumber and avocado and an excellent jalapeño and basil vinaigrette.

Tacos, burritos, enchiladas and fajitas allow for choice of protein, from chicken to beef to shrimp or pork. I liked the choice of sauces for the burritos, with a spicy Jalapeño Ranchero blend standing out among the rancherito, tomatillo and chile con queso options. Among the specialty platters, the Tinga chicken trumped all other options, including lime-marinated mahi mahi baked in a banana leaf, extremely spicy poblano peppers and jumbo shrimp with chile and onions. The shredded white meat chicken is braised in a chipotle tomato broth that is both light and flavorful and then sprinkled with cilantro.

 

1205_480.jpgSpicy flat iron steak with jalapeno ranch sauce.

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Photo credit: Photos by Jennifer Silverberg

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