When four mothers ditch the kids and meet up for dinner on a Tuesday night, there are usually cellphones on the table.
Mine was right beside my margarita the other night at Salsa's, the nearly year-old restaurant owned by Fenway Park's famed Sausage Guy, David Littlefield. Unfortunately, I left it on the table when we left the restaurant after a fine meal and a fun dining experience.
I mention my phone because it helps illustrate the good service we received from our waitress, who not only delivered our appetizers, entrees, and drinks in an efficient and friendly style but was resourceful enough to scroll through my contact list, locate HOME, and call to tell me that I'd left the precious device behind. Her message was waiting when I got home, which meant I suffered only a few moments' panic when I couldn't find the thing.
''It's tricky to keep things casual and still emphasize good service, but that's what we try to do," said Littlefield, who also owns Three Clover Pizza and the flagship Salsa's, both in South Boston, and a Sausage Guy restaurant on Beacon Hill. That's in addition to his Sausage Guy cart, which is a fixture at Red Sox home games.
But how did he get from sausage to salsa?
''I've always associated Mexican food with going out with friends and having a good time," said Littlefield, who freely admits that he knew nothing about Mexican cooking when he opened the South Boston Salsa's seven years ago. He hired chef Maria Cadillo, who was born and raised in Mexico, to supply authenticity and recipes she learned at her grandmother's knee. These days, he said, Cadillo goes back and forth between the two Salsa's locations.
Littlefield opened the Hingham restaurant because he and his family live in the town and he saw a niche for good Mexican fare on the South Shore.
From our experience, I'd say he's filling that niche and then some. We started our evening with a round of margaritas ($5.75 each), made at our request with Grand Marnier instead of triple sec. They were delicious, as were the chips and the namesake salsa, which was spicy and chock-full of fresh vegetables. (In recent years, I've noticed that some Mexican restaurants charge extra for chips and salsa. Salsa's, I'm happy to say, does not.)
We shared an order of guacamole ($5.75), which we found creamy, rich, and tangy with cilantro. We also ordered something called the Grande Sampler for Two ($8.75), which included cheese quesadillas, chicken flutes, and tinga (shredded pork) and tuna appetizers. All were hits with our group except for the cheese quesadillas, which we agreed were strikingly similar to the quesadillas we all make for our children -- cheddar cheese on a tortilla, zapped in the microwave. But that was a minor quibble, and we conceded that it's good to know there's something on the menu that will please the kids, should we ever bring them along.
Salsa's customers will quickly find that you can order standard Mexican dishes -- tacos, burritos, fajitas, etc. -- or the restaurant's unusual specialties. We opted for a combination of the two.
Our steak fajitas ($12.75) were satisfactory. One friend found them a ''little tough" but much better when they were rolled up in tortillas with the accompanying cheese, guacamole, and sour cream. (But what wouldn't be?) Perhaps we should have gone for the more exotic choices, which included Tropical Fajitas (with chicken and pineapple, $13.95) and Alambre Fajitas (with chicken, steak, chorizo, and bacon, $17.95).
But we saved the experimentation for our next two entrees, both chosen from Salsa's specialty menu. The Mole Poblano ($19.95), known as ''the pride of Salsa's," is available in chicken and pork versions and comes with an array of sauteed vegetables. Served in an Aztec mole sauce that they say contains 25 ingredients, including five types of chilies, dark chocolate, peanuts, and bananas, it was as distinctive and delicious as its reputation suggests -- but might not go over with diners who prefer to stick with what's familiar.
We also loved the Camorones a la Veracruz ($17.95) -- grilled and marinated shrimp, sauteed in a white-wine salsa that also has unexpected ingredients, such as olives, almonds, and raisins. The menu says the dish comes with rice or mashed potatoes. We couldn't recall being asked which we'd prefer, but we enjoyed the mashed potatoes, which were light and fluffy and perfectly seasoned.
We had plenty of food left to take home, and were too full from Salsa's ample portions and several rounds of margaritas to order desserts, which was a good thing, since there weren't any. Littlefield said he and his staff were in the process of adding coffee and desserts -- probably flan and sorbet, as well as other choices -- to the menu, and would be serving them by late December.
The next day, when I returned around noon to pick up my cellphone, I watched people eating lunch and was tempted to order takeout. But I reminded myself that I still had last night's leftovers in the fridge. So I retrieved my phone, drove home, and enjoyed the meal all over again.
Salsa's Mexican Grill
211 Lincoln St. (Route 3A), Hingham
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m.- 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.
Bar open until 12:30 a.m. every night
All major credit cards accepted
Reservations accepted for parties of six or more