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Salsa: Howell Mill's spicy secret 

Latin bistro offers authentic cuisine

Two small girls in pink sundresses sit astride their parents' laps at a tall iron table outside the walkway of camera stores, pharmacies and sub shops off Collier Road. They're waiting for a table at Salsa, a colorful secret Howell Millers have been harboring for years. Inside this newly renovated Latin bistro is a myriad of authentic cuisine -- prepared from scratch and easy on the wallet. Cumin and fresh tomatoes fill the air of the vibrant family atmosphere, which still retains enough character to keep adults conscious of one another. A recent addition to the space, the bar area, hosts two women in jogging shorts. They sip mojitos as post-workout treats and graze on a basket of chips and salsa. In fact, Salsa's salsa is one of the main reasons people keep coming back.

Flavor trifecta: Chips and salsa are a staple in many restaurants, yet it's safe to say few offer three different types made fresh daily. Order the bottomless "salsa trio and chips" to start your meal for only $2.95. This includes an all-you-can-eat portion of warm tortilla chips and three signature salsas: fresco, tomatillo and roasted tomato. For $1 more, homemade corn tortillas can be substituted. If you are looking for a little more heat in your dip, the servers will customize the spiciness to suit your salsa standards.

Let's meat for lunch: Check out Salsa midday for one of its $6.95 lunch specials. In particular, the Mojo chicken and roast pork (served with rice and black beans) should not be missed. Both dishes have a loyal fan base, drawing diners from all over the city who swear by Salsa's perfectly cooked meat dishes. It's best to beat the crowd, because these succulent, slow-cooked favorites are gone when the last order is accounted for. Lunch specials are available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. during business hours.

Taco abundance: Variety is definitely the spice in Salsa's taco life. In fact, there's an entire section of the menu dedicated to creating the perfect combination of fillings, sauces and sides. Be sure to check out the BBQ pork taco complemented by a cool and spicy jalapeño slaw. Another noteworthy selection is the corn-crusted salmon taco with aji salsa. It's a lighter, flavorful twist on a traditional favorite. Plates are served with two tacos and your side of choice for around $7. Mixing and sharing is encouraged. As an added bonus, patient diners can order freshly pressed corn tortillas in lieu of Salsa's flour variety for $1 and a few extra minutes. Can't decide? Order the "trilogy," which allows a selection of three tacos instead.

For such a small, off-the-radar restaurant, Salsa's menu is an impressive mix of traditional favorites and creative new dishes built from the ground up. This labor-intensive, homemade menu could easily cost a fortune somewhere else in Atlanta. Needless to say, Salsa has maintained the quality without destroying the budget of its many regular customers. Places such as this are few and far between.

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  • Salsa Havana (closed)

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