BATAVIA – The fifth location for Salsa Verde, a family-owned Mexican restaurant group, recently opened on Route 31 in downtown Batavia.
The concept for the fast-casual eatery has proved hot, with its signature bar of garnishes and salsa options to enhance recipes that celebrate favorite dishes from the state of Jalisco in Mexico.
Jalisco lies on the Pacific West Coast, which means an emphasis on seafood and traditional dishes from the city of Guadalajara, said Carlos Arechiga of Wheaton, whose family moved from there to the U.S. in 2003, and opened their first restaurant in 2012 in Yorkville.
"Everyone in our family [already had] been involved in the industry for many years," he said. "At some point, we decided to come together to do what we like doing, which is cooking. We bring in different backgrounds – my brother [Oswaldo is] in culinary arts. I come more from a marketing and public relations standpoint. My mother and father have been very involved in the recipe part of it."
His parents opened the first Salsa Verde in Yorkville where they live, and Arechiga said he focused on creating a logo and a restaurant identity a little different from everyone else. The family brand they forged now also extends to locations in St. Charles, Oswego and one operated by a brother in Indianapolis.
"Everyone brings in something to add to Salsa Verde," Arechiga said of his family.
He said his brother, Oswaldo of Aurora, and a cousin, Audel Arechiga of St. Charles, are in charge of developing recipes, creating seasonal items and maintaining consistency between the five locations.
The idea of the salsa bar was inspired by the family's own habit of placing a variety of fresh sauces and garnishes in the center of their dining table at mealtime.
"It's been such a distinctive aspect of Salsa Verde – the different [vegetable] garnishes and different salsas are all made fresh daily and all authentic," Arechiga said of the assortment that includes the restaurant's creamy salsa verde namesake. "We do have anything from mild to something on the low side of the heat scale … to really spicy ones."
One way to counter the heat is the array of bottled beers offered, both domestic and Mexican.
The sole cocktail is the margarita, available in diverse flavors either on the rocks or frozen, with a Monday night $3 special available at the Batavia location.
Among the menu's regional specialties is the torta ahogada, which features pork carnitas inside a traditional bread called birote that has a little bit of a salty flavor, according to Arechiga.
He said the word "ahogada" means "drowned," referring to the generous slathering of red sauce for the sandwich that arrives on the side.
"It's a little bit of a messy dish," he said. "You need to handle it with two hands. There's no easy way to eat this. It's very flavorful for those who like spicy sauce."
He said the restaurant's tacos are a standout, and extend beyond traditional steak and chicken to such classics as chipotle fish tacos.
"It's basically grilled fish that we top off with red cabbage and a little bit of chipotle sauce on top [with] a little heat to it," he said.
Another featured taco is the cochinita pibil, slow-roasted pork served with red onions and a bit of cilantro.
"All you need is a squeeze of lime – that would be the perfect touch to it,' Arechiga said.
The restaurant group also offers catering, and regularly provides meals at regional businesses on a large scale, generally serving 100 to 200, although they top 400 a few times a year.
"We're happy to bring in food and expand our range to other towns besides where our stores are located," he said.
After taking over the building last summer, Salsa Verde created a sleekly modern dining space with pendant incandescent bulbs, natural wood-slab style tables, and accents of bright lime in keeping with the word green – verde – in the name.
"We're really excited as a family and company with the response at our Batavia location," Arechiga said. "I think we're at a point where people know who Salsa Verde is. From the moment we applied for a permit for remodeling [the former Burger King], the word started buzzing around town. It feels good that people [here] support family-owned restaurants."
Complete with drive-thru, Salsa Verde at 107 N. Batavia Ave. in Batavia opens at 10:30 a.m. every day, and closes at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and at 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. To learn more, visit salsaverderestaurant.com or call 630-425-3521.